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Nov 25, 1996
Hemingway's Apartment: The Price Also Rises - Forbes

"Home in the rue Cardinal Lemoine was a two-room flat that had no hot water and no inside toilet facilities except an anti-septic container, not uncomfortable to anyone who was used to a Michigan outhouse."

Ernest Hemingway, “ A Moveable Feast”


Like devout Buddhists going from shrine to shrine, Hemingway fans make pilgrimages to some of the world's most exotic locales to drink in the footsteps of Papa.  One of the major stops, number 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine in Paris, is now for sale.

From January 1922 to August 1923, the 24 year old Hemingway lived here with his first wife Hadley while writing his Nick Adams stories "one true sentence at a time" and squeezing rent money out of articles he wrote for stateside newspapers. The success of his first collection of stories ensured that Hemingway would never need to count his change as carefully again; he moved in an obscure Midwestern writer and moved out with the seeds of his eventual fame and fortune firmly planted. He was to immortalize the apartment 30 years later in his collection of Parisian vignettes,  A Moveable Feast.
Ernest Hemingway 74 Rue Du Cardinal Lemoine

The French expression “la simplicité très chère” never held truer than for this sale. A potential buyer would have to be fanatical enough to crawl up the five flights of stairs on his knees to be willing to fork out the $200,000 the owner is demanding for this miniscule bohemian dorm room.

 Though I approached the owner on my feet, she was kind enough to show me around. Leaving the bright street of broad white buildings I entered into a narrow, dark hallway, passed the matronly concierge who still receives Hemingway's flowers and mail sent by devoted fans, and trudged up the ancient stairway that had probably been just as creaky in Hemingway's time.

Squeezing myself through the fifth floor doorway I found myself in a cramped and squalid studio. Not gratifyingly squalid in a bohemian sense, but squalid in a US trailer park sense. A worn plywood bed/shelf/closet unit presided over the room. Simulated DIY wood paneling lined the walls. The ceiling was a sky of gray stucco that hung gloomily over the premises like dried toothpaste. Overall, the place had the air of a dingy motel room with a shag rug and an hourly rate.

 Where was the fireplace where Hemingway and wife sparingly burnt their precious firewood? Where was the plank floor where Gertrude Stein used to crouch for impromptu tea parties? The owner assured me that everything was still there hidden behind the paneling and shag.   But, try as I did, I could not find a resonance of the young writer and his eloquent compatriots, despite rather forced attempts to resuscitate them with framed photographs of Hemingway along the walls.

Two Swedish women who obviously did not suffer from claustrophobia were currently renting the place for $1000/month or about twice the local market rate. "We never have a problem getting renters" The owner told me. "We once even had a whole Japanese television crew living here for a month while doing a story on Hemingway.”

A visit to the real estate office across the street revealed that similarly sized studios in that area, including other apartments in Hemingway’s building, are currently selling for between $40,000-$120,000. That makes the "Hemingway Premium" worth as much as 400%!

So many things Hemingway touched in this city have turned to gold, and the "Hemingway Premium" exists everywhere from his favorite "secret" cafe for writing, La Closerie De Lilas (a literary hangout for nearly a decade before Hemingway "discovered" it, it is now a haven for Americans brave enough to face the Great Black Bull that is Paris without an expense account) to his beloved watering hole, Les Deux Magots, where a Perrier costs more than a full-blown feast in the McDonald's around the corner.

This gives pause to contemplate a spoilsport question: In which of these establishments, La Closerie De Lilas, Les Deux Magots, or McDonalds, is one most likely to rub shoulders with Paris' impoverished bohemians? Hmmmm. Do you want fries with that?
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