Friday, February 18, 2011

French Inspiration - Les Deux Magots by Guest Blogger Charley Appenzellar

Let's go back in time about one hundred years to Paris, France. World War I, or the Great War as they called it then, sparked the Dada movement amongst writers and artists. This movement's policy was primarily anti-war and anti-bourgeois; artists believed that excessive rational thought and bourgeois values had brought about conflict and war. 

During the war, Dr. André Breton worked with injured soldiers using Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical methods. One of his patients was writer Jacques Vaché, who greatly intrigued him. After the war, in Paris, Breton began a literary journal called Littérature where he and other writers began experimenting with Automatic Writing. The goal was to write utterly spontaneously without censoring the thought process. Dreams were recorded and published simply as they had been remembered. The more they wrote, the more writers they attracted. 

Dadaism morphed into Surrealism.

We all know that Surrealism gave birth to phenomenal artists like Magritte and Salvador Dali:

Allow these visual images to give you an idea as to what the Surrealistic movement did to the written word. The goal was liberate the imagination!

Enter café Les Deux Magots in Paris' chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. Beginning life in 1813 as a luxury fabric store, it morphed into a wine shop, and then became a famous café for writers and intellectuals in 1914.

Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Wilde, Saint Exupéry, Francois Truffaut, Pablo Picasso, all flocked to Les Deux Magots cafe where they sat for hours, debating, philosophizing, arguing, writing. Can't you just imagine them, legs crossed, cigarettes in hand, the debris of tea and espresso cups scattered about the tables ....

How many written works of art were born there?

Every single morning, Jean-Paul Sartre came to Les Deux Magots and wrote for hours on end. Since 1933, Le Prix des Deux Magots has existed, awarding a prize each year to the best French novel.

All my life I've wanted to be a writer. Pulling up stakes and moving to France has helped me to break down the cultural and social barriers that kept me from being able to freely express myself. And I believe that is the key to being a writer: freely expressing yourself with no social rules and regulations to hold you back, no little voice in the back of your head chanting, 'What is everyone going to think about what you're writing'. 

I moved to France, bien sur, a little extreme! Do whatever you have to do to get into your zone. Open up your mind and just let things flow into your head and out through your fingertips. Allow yourselves to be inspired as I have been from these great French writers. Find yourselves a little cafe and order up a steaming mug of tea or coffee. And write spontaneously without censoring your thought process.

Voila, bonne continuation de l'écriture et a bientôt!

Love, Charley

Postnote: If you like Ms. Appenzellar's article, you can read more of her blog here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will check out this blog! I myself lived in Paris for a few years and am currently working on a novel set there (partially).