Read Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties by Noël Riley Fitch Free Online
Book Title: Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties|
The author of the book: Noël Riley Fitch
Date of issue: May 17th 1985
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Reader ratings: 7.3
ISBN 13: 9780393302318
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.27 MB
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Read full description of the books:
I have always been fascinated by those episodes in history during which a very particularly fertile and creative environment develops for the production of outstanding works of art and literature. The circumstances vary with the times and with the places. There is always an interaction between imaginative and skilled individuals and their patrons. The location of where this interaction takes place is also determinant, and it can be more or less openly physical or instrumental or virtual.
Several instances come to my mind. There is the Florence of the 1420s-30s; the theatres by the Thames in the London of the 1590s; the commercial Delft of the 1660s; the palaces of nobles in the musical Vienna of the 1790s; the alternative Salons or Art Dealers in the Paris of the 1860s and 1870s; the Dada magazines and cafés around WW1. And there was also Sylvia Beach’s Bookstore in Paris in the 1920s and 30s.
Shakesperare and Company acted like a magnet for that other phenomenon that also had a sustained and forceful effect in both European and American culture. Americans had been on a cultural quest and peregrinating to Paris from the mid 19C onwards, but a simple commercial decision in the part of the liners in the mid 1920s, when a group of steamship companies from the US created the Tourist Third, game it a new and strong impetus. Thousands of young students joined the pilgrimage that until then could be undertaken only by the likes of Henry James and Edith Wharton. I can imagine that this cheap way of broadening one’s mind by traveling had had a similar effect to the Europeanization that the InteRail had on the youth of the 1970s preparing them for embracing later the EEC.
Sylvia Beach (1887-1962) must have been quite an exceptional woman. As the daughter of an American parson, she kept a devoted and ardent attitude towards her creed: Literature and Art. From her mother she inherited the passion for travel and her affinity for European settings. As an insistent reader from early age she developed her own personal and independent literary tastes. It was her acute eye, together with her curious mixture of stamina, conviction, and self-denial that converted her in the engine behind the publication of Ulysses, the event for which she is mostly known today. And indeed it could be argued that to give physical presence to Ulysses and to make it known to the world had become the sort of Corporate Mission for her, often non-profit, business.
Her S&Co was a strange combination of a bookstore, a library, a publishing house, a refuge, a social club, a 'pension', a post office, a political hideaway, a cultural repository, a literary family in which mostly Anglo and French artistic circles could exchange their views and works. It also functioned as the rival of the other American center, on the other side of the river, and under the aegis of the formidable Gertrude Stein. Fitch traces all these roles of S&Co very vividly, following a chronological structure but identifying the shining tones along its development. Her research is so meticulous that one feels at times somewhat overwhelmed with the names of innumerable figures who circulated in Beach’s store. She also keeps his equanimity in his presentation of the rich gallery of personalities, although eventually she sides with Sylvia and her patience and benevolence versus the more manipulative Joyce with his Gargantuan appetite for digesting money (his and other people’s).
I particularly enjoyed following the changes from the more idyllic 1920s to the more somber 1930s, because even if the situation with the ghosts of totalitarian politics tints the reading of those years, this was also the period when Sylvia could turn more to take care of herself and relax somewhat her magnanimity.
This book can now become a beacon in my library. If I ever feel I do not know what to read next, I can always open it on any of its pages, and pick one of the many authors who visited Sylvia Beach in her extraordinary bookstore.
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Read information about the authorNoël Riley Fitch is a biographer and historian of expatriate intellectuals in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. Every book Fitch has written has some connection with Paris and the artists who lived and worked there, including her biographies of Sylvia Beach, Anaïs Nin, and Julia Child.
In June 2011 Noël was awarded the prestigious Prix de la Tour Montparnasse literary award in France for the French translation of hers widely acclaimed 1983 book ‘Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation’. Her book Appetite for Life The Biography of Julia Child was written with Mrs. Child’s full cooperation and exclusive authorization. Publishers Weekly said the book is written 'warmly and compellingly’, and Kirkus Reviews called its details “exquisite” and the story “exhaustively researched, and charming.” Entertainment Weekly also named it number five of the ten best books of the year.
Noël recently retired from teaching writing and literature courses for the University of Southern California and the American University in Paris. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, Paris, and New York City.