In Paris, when the cold rains 'killed the spring'


“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.” 

This quotation, from A Moveable Feast,  Ernest Hemingway's  memoir of his life in Paris in the Twenties  and published in 1964 -- may seem fitting  to New Englanders in the next few days. But spring weather will return in force later next week.

Knowing that A Moveable Feast was published in 1964, after Hemingway's suicide, in 1961, may add extra emotion to the experience of reading this lovely if sometimes cruel book. Having lived in Paris myself, I can attest to the sadness produced by the cold rains that would fall in early spring there after a few days of warm, sweet weather. Maybe the beauty of the city makes the melancholy all the deeper.

Hemingway seems a much smaller figure now than when I was reading him starting around 1960, when he was probably the world's most famous writer, in part because of his life of dangerous adventure. But his  early-career stripped-down style  and his sort of proto-existentialism still haunt American and English literature.

Of course, he was considered a member of "The Lost Generation'' said to have been disillusioned by the horrors of World War I. But then everyone is a member of such a generation, all "damned from here to eternity.''

-- Robert Whitcomb