Room on the Garden Side: First time in print: Ernest Hemingway
A story that needed to be told and one that many veterans or soldiers can relate to today and empathize with as you go back in time months before the Allied troops liberated Paris from the Nazis. Hemingway tells the story through the voice of a narrator called Robert/AKA/Pop, which, is how he was referred to in the past. Surrounded by American soldiers in France, this story centers on the liberation but written in 1956 although the time period is during the Second World War. It is at this point it is noted in the afterward that the style of his writing changed and it seemed and was not as vibrant, descriptive or exacting. It seemed that he was writing like other authors and his specific style was no longer indicative of Hemingway. Five short stories about the War were what he told his publisher he would write and I quote what he said: You can always publish them after I’m dead. But, it took 60 years to get A Room on the Garden Side published as stated told by a narrator in the first person named Robert in 1944 after the Allied soldiers freed Paris from the Nazis.
As you learn more about the story you enter the world of those visiting the Ritz and beauty hotel in Paris that the author had a special affinity for and loved staying there. The soldiers in this short story refer to the narrator as Robert or as he’s called Papa. The author was revered and considered special by those working in the hotel by the extra champagne and the outstanding service her received. Talking about books, writers and his celebrity comes through but there is much more to this story that has been published in The Strand Magazine for the first time. Paris was his favorite and most cherished place to be but the story focuses on the soldiers that came to this hotel during a particular evening in this hotel. French soldiers were seen taking apart and cleaning their weapons but yet they knew they would be leaving the next morning to fight again. Yet, our narrator embraced many books on fishing, Les Fleurs du Mal an edition Charley gave him with the Bautie preface and then turned to others while in the hotel and drinking from expensive glassware and the garden outside of his window with the sun shining down off the trees. Gardens have flowers that flourish and grow but this story is about soldiers that are fighting, seem misplaced almost like weeds in the garden that are wilting after fighting to stay alive for so long.
Hemingway’s true life and portrait comes through as the war ended it seemed that his writing, flow and style changed after writing “ For Whom the Bell Tolls and later a Farewell to Arms. Other writings followed in the 1950’s as cited in the afterward. After completing “The Old Man and the Sea, he published this short story: A Room on the Garden Side, a solid departure from his previous work. Quoted from the afterward his exact feelings. “Probably I would do better never to publish anything else,” Hemingway wrote to his friend Harvey Breit, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. “Simpler to leave stuff for when I am dead.”
The narrator and the other soldiers feel like they have no real place to belong almost like soldiers coming back from the Viet Nam War, Korea or even today from Afghanistan or Iran. Many soldiers give their service and when returning feel lost and have no services and no place to go. So, to reflect or deal with life they all drink and they are not exactly what you would call a well groomed or good looking group. Unkempt and definitely not what the Ritz would want as guest yet they took it over. The hotelier did not look upon them with the proper regard as with today they appear ill-mannered, not well behaved and are working as garage mechanics. Hemingway’s life was spending roaming around from country to country and as with war chaos within himself and his actions.
The author even refers to the Colonel and praises him as if it would have been,” A privilege to have you and your two thousand brave troops with us when we entered this hamlet and took this insignificant inn.
Hemingway loved the private song: Dix bis Avenue des Gobelins. Part of the poem is in the article as the author tried to translate it but could not. Letters came and there is a girl that wrote daily and she was sort of an oriental dancer. But, the story leaves us wondering what happens next to our narrator and what about catching up with the Division beyond Viller-Cotterets and telling the men that they would be moving at first light in front of the hotel on Place Vendome. But, the ending leaves us wondering where the narrator would be next and what would happen to the men as he expounds that he loved the infantry, division and wished to serve it in any way he could and that he loved France and Spain next to his own country. A story that is a total departure from Hemingway’s style but one which leave the reader wanting more. As the theme that I seemed to be the most pronounced is Hope for not only our narrator but for those that served in the armed services as well as hoping to survive and for their lives and mortality.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ network/MJ Magazine
The Afterword: is written by Kirk Curnutt a member of the Hemingway Society and a board member stating in the afterward that the “Story contains all the trademark elements readers love in Hemingway. He begins the Afterword stating that fans of Hemingway will know the importance of Paris to his work. Hadley Richardson, was his new bride and they arrived their together as he was an aspiring writing in the Left Bank’s expatriate community of artists and wordsmiths intent on reinventing literature.
He continues with references to the Sun Also Rises and then 30 years later after his divorce from Hadley and three wives after her, he comes back to Paris to explore its influence on his artistry. But, he was an alcoholic we learn and had physical injury and two plane crashes in Africa and in effect as many of us do as he did searching for the moment what went wrong. HE also is known for other unpublished works as stated in the Afterword “ A Moveable Feast, The Garden of Eden, Islands in the Stream and the Dangerous Summer. A Room on the Garden Side, as stated in the Afterword was published with the permission of the Hemingway estate and as of publication of this issue of Strand Magazine 500 hundred members of the Hemingway Society are in Paris to celebrate the relationship between the place and the author. It is their first official Hemingway Society conference in Paris in 25 years and the largest ever in their 38 year history. Historic!
The author tells the areas of expertise of those that attended the conference and The Strand and the Society are commemorating their return to these “intoxicating, inspiring, arrondissements and quarters.”
This story and the Afterword are a tribute to the writing and history of a great city, Paris and the author who brought it to life: Ernest Hemingway.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ network