Monday, August 24, 2009

Marshal Ney

After a long pause at a roadside rest stop, the bus for our tour of Hemingway's 1920s Paris is back on track. Our next stop: the statue of Marshal Ney (the man Napoleon called le Brave des Braves--the bravest of the brave).

The statue can be found on the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Avenue de l'Observatoire in front of the cafe Closerie des Lilas.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway drank at toast to Ney at the cafe. He looked at the statue, "with his sword out and the shadows of the trees on the bronze" and thought of his friend Gertrude Stein, who lived nearby. Thinking of Ney's loyalty to Napoleon, he vowed to "Do my best to serve her and see she gets justice for the good work she had done as long as I can, so help me God and Mike Ney. But the hell with her lost-generation talk and all the dirty, easy labels."

Jake Barnes, the narrator from The Sun Also Rises, also has occasion to visit the statue. As he walks back from Montparnasse back to his apartment he says:
I passed Ney's statue standing among the new-leaved chestnut-trees in the car-light. There was a faded purple wreath leaning against the base. I stopped and read the inscription: from the Bonapartist Groups, some date; I forget. He looked very fine, Marshal Ney in his top-boots, gesturing with his sword among the green horse-chestnut leaves.
The statue was done by sculptor Fran├žois Rude and was admired by no less than a talent than Auguste Rodin, who said it was the most beautiful in Paris.

Marshall Ney Statue



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