The Hindu Business Line

How Ernest Hem­ing­way lib­er­ated the Ritz’s bar

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Ernest Hemingway · Belarus · Paris · Alfred Nobel · Belgium · F. Scott Fitzgerald · George S. Patton · Austria · Joseph Goebbels · United States of America · Charles Baudelaire · General Purpose · Hermann Göring

Even for Ernest Hem­ing­way, a man whose bravado was matched only by his thirst, his lib­er­a­tion of the Ritz Ho­tel’s bar in Paris was the stuff of leg­end.

Of­fi­cially the No­bel prize-win­ning author of A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises was sup­posed to be a war cor­re­spon­dent for the Amer­i­can mag­a­zine Col­lier’s when he en­tered the French cap­i­tal on Au­gust 25, 1944.

In re­al­ity, the ma­cho nov­el­ist, who strode from a com­man­deered Jeep with all the swag­ger of a gen­eral to take over the city’s most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel, was wag­ing his own swash­buck­ling pri­vate war against the Third Re­ich. One of those Re­sis­tance fighters later re­mem­bered Hem­ing­way’s ob­ses­sion with the lux­ury Paris ho­tel, say­ing he talked of little else but “be­ing the first Amer­i­can in Paris and lib­er­at­ing the Ritz.”

Hem­ing­way had be­come en­am­oured of the Ritz as a pen­ni­less writer in Paris in the 1920s along with F Scott Fitzger­ald, a time he later im­mor­talised in A Move­able Feast’. With the help of his con­tacts in the Amer­i­can ar­moured di­vi­sion, com­manded by the equally flam­boy­ant Gen Ge­orge S Pat­ton, Hem­ing­way wran­gled a meet­ing with French com­man­der Gen Philippe Le­clerc, whose tanks had been given the hon­our of lib­er­at­ing Paris. His hum­ble re­quest: To be given enough men to lib­er­ate the Ernest Hem­ing­way

Ritz’s bar. To the writer’s sur­prise, he got a frosty re­cep­tion and was dis­missed. But Hem­ing­way per­se­vered and on Au­gust 25 he turned up at the ho­tel on Paris’s beau­ti­ful Place Ven­dome in a Jeep mounted with a ma­chine gun at the head of a group of Re­sis­tance fighters.

He burst into the ho­tel and an­nounced that he had come to per­son­ally lib­er­ate it and its bar, which had served as a wa­ter­ing hole for a long line of Nazi dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing Her­mann Go­er­ing and Joseph Goebbels.

Hem­ing­way wrote of his stay in the ho­tel with his group of ir­reg­u­lars in a 1956 short story, A Room on the Gar­den Side, which was re­cently un­earthed by The Strand Mag­a­zine in the US. In it, he quotes the French sym­bol­ist poet Charles Baude­laire and de­scribes how his men drank the Ritz’s cham­pagne as they cleaned their weapons and pre­pared them­selves for their next stage in the “dirty trade of war.” Schol­ars be­lieve it may have been a part of a big­ger work he planned, de­tail­ing his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences.

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