Journal of Modern Literature 26.2 (2003) 160-163
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Who Was With Pascin at the Dôme?
Readers of Hemingway's Paris memoir have focused on the sections that concern Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. They have paid less attention to figures such as Jules Pascin and Evan Shipman. Lewis Galantiere calls Pascin "a flashy nonentity" whose appearance "serves no literary purpose" and to a casual reader Galantiere seems right.1 On the surface, "With Pascin at the Dôme" is a banal piece of writing. One evening Hemingway takes a walk along the Boulevard du Montparnasse. He describes the sights and sounds of the quarter at the end of the day. The cafés are full of people. Some he knows, others he does not, and some of those whom he knows he deliberately avoids. Eventually he stops at the Dôme and has a beer with the painter Jules Pascin.2 On the surface nothing much happens, and the objective of the sketch seems to be to relive an event that took place years earlier. However a close scrutiny will show that many of the details do not fit and that the resulting combination is a product of Hemingway's imagination that dramatizes the most important themes of the book: industry and idleness, poverty and affluence, innocence and corruption.
Hemingway states that he is twenty-five years old, which would set the events in the sketch in the spring of 1925. This was an auspicious time in his life. Boni and Liveright had recently accepted In Our Time, and that summer he would begin The Sun Also Rises. Despite his poverty, he works hard at his writing and remains loyal to his wife and family. He spends his mornings working at a table in the Closerie des Lilas.3 The proprietor of the Negre de Toulouse restaurant, Monsieur Lavigne, saw him there and says that he looked like a man alone in the jungle. "In the bush," Hemingway corrects him. This sounds like a reference to "Big Two-Hearted River," which [End Page 160] was begun in the spring and finished in November of the previous year.4 Either Hemingway's memory has betrayed him or he has deliberately transposed his material.
Hemingway leaves his apartment, crosses the rue Notre Dame des Champs, goes through the back door of the bakery across the street, and emerges on the Boulevard du Montparnasse at number 151 bis. He turns left and walks east a few steps to the Negre de Toulouse at numbers 157-159, where he reads the menu in the window. The plat du jour is cassoulet, a stew of beans and leftover meat, perhaps pork or mutton. Reading the name of the dish makes him hungry. After speaking to the proprietor, Hemingway turns and continues his walk westward in the direction of the three principal cafés of the quarter. The Rotonde and the Select are on the north side of the boulevard, as is Lavigne's restaurant; the Dôme is across from them on the south side. However, Hemingway does not mention the fact that he has turned around. An incautious reader who follows his movements exactly would be going in the wrong direction. Although Hemingway usually describes people and places with great accuracy, he arranges material in his own way.
After a short walk, Hemingway passes the café de la Rotonde at number 105, but he does not mention it. He does mention Le Select at 99 and the fact that he avoided Harold Stearns, who appears in The Sun Also Rises as Harvey Stone.5 Stearns had graduated from Harvard and moved to Greenwich Village, where he achieved critical success with his essays. In Paris he wrote a newspaper column on horse racing under the pseudonym "Peter Pickem" and drank heavily. Hemingway, who has resisted the temptation to go to the races and has instead worked all day, wants nothing to do with Stearns and his conversation. However, something is wrong here. Stearns did not start...