I think we were all excited to discover just how many Americans were in Paris in 1924. From Hemingway to Fitzgerald, their well-documented stays in the city of lights provided valuable contextual information that transplants the reader into Paris during the roaring twenties. With the amount of sources devoted to the American ex-patriot experience, it seemed like Americans must have run the city.
I was surprised to learn, however, that Americans were listed as a “marginal group” in Paris in Andrew Hussey’s Paris: The Secret History. He goes on to say:
The impact of the American presence in Paris was minimal, and indeed barely if ever noticed by ordinary Parisians of the period. Few American spoke anything more than basic French and their engagement with the real culture of the city-as opposed to the in-crowd gossip of the wealthy élite-was mainly limited to waiters, prostitutes or pimp. In this, the American community had all the trappings of a colony, although unlike the French they did not have the empire to match (Hussey, 337).
While American ex-pats still provide valuable perspectives and insights into their experience in Paris, it is important to understand that their accounts are not fully representative of the diverse city that is Paris.
Andrew Hussey, Paris: The Secret History (New York: Bloomsbury, 2006), 337