“Living on $1000 a Year in Paris” by Ernest Hemingway is republished with permission by The Paris Review.
Toronto Star, February 1922
When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.
The dollar, either Canadian or American, is the key to Paris. With the US dollar worth twelve and a half francs and the Canadian dollar quoted as something over eleven francs, it is a very effective key.
At the present rate of exchange, a Canadian with an income of one thousand dollars a year can live comfortably and enjoyably in Paris. If exchange were normal, the same Canadian would starve to death. Exchange is a wonderful thing.
Two of us are living in a comfortable hotel in the Rue Jacob, it is just back of the Academy of the Beaux Arts and a few minutes’ walk from the Tuileries. Our room costs twelve francs a day for two. It is clean, light, well heated, has hot and cold running water and a bathroom on the same floor. That makes a cost for rent of thirty dollars a month.
Breakfast costs us both two francs and a half. That totals seventy-five francs a month, or about six dollars and three or four cents. At the corner of the Rue Bonaparte and the Rue Jacob there is a splendid restaurant where the prices are a la carte. Soups cost sixty centimes, and a fish is 1.20 francs. The meals are roast beef, veal cutlet, lamb, mutton and thick steaks served with potatoes prepared as only the French can cook them. These cost 2.40 francs an order. Brussels sprouts in butter, creamed spinach, beans, sifted peas and cauliflower vary in price from forty to eighty-five centimes. Salad is sixty centimes. Desserts are seventy-five centimes and sometimes as much as a franc. Red wine is sixty centimes a bottle and beer is forty centimes a glass.
My wife and I have an excellent meal there, equal in cooking and quality of food to the best restaurants in America, for fifty cents apiece. After dinner you can go anywhere on the subway for four cents in American money or take a bus to the farthest part of the city for the same amount. It sounds unbelievable but it is simply a case of prices not having advanced in proportion to the increased value of the dollar.
All of Paris is not so cheap, however, for the big hotels located around the Opera and the Madeline are more expensive than ever. We ran into two girls from New York the other day in the Luxembourg Gardens. All of us crossed on the same boat, and they had gone to one of the big, highly-advertised hotels. Their rooms were costing them sixty francs a day apiece, and other charges in proportion. For two days and three nights at their hotel, they received a bill for five hundred francs, or forty-two dollars. They are now located in a hotel on the left bank of the Seine, where five hundred francs will last two weeks instead of two days, and are as comfortable as they were at the tourist hotel.
It is from tourists who stop at the large hotels that the reports come that living in Paris is very high. The big hotel-keepers charge all they think the traffic can bear. But there are several hundred small hotels in all parts of Paris where an American or Canadian can live comfortably, eat at attractive restaurants and find amusement for a total expenditure of two and one half to three dollars a day.
Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899 – 1961) American author, war hero, journalist, hunter, fisherman, Pulitzer winner (The Old Man and the Sea), and Nobel Prize winner (1954). He was also well-known for A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many more works depicting a minimalist style termed modernism that would impact writers for generations after him.