By Len Hart,
October 29, 2012
Europe is a life changing experience for many Americans, an important part of the 'American Experience'.
You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of 'the artist' and the all-sufficiency of 'art' and 'beauty' and 'love,' back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” ~ Thomas Wolfe, The Story of a Novel quoted in The Creative Process
It is an American tradition to leave America. In the 1995 remake of Sabrina with Harrison Ford and with Julia Ormand as Sabrina, there is a scene in which Sabrina's letter to home is heard in an off screen voice. Of Paris, she said: "...I found myself in Paris." Appropriately, La Vie en Rose was playing in the background. Fiction, perhaps! Nevertheless many Americans have found and continue to find "themselves" abroad. This is a Jungian journey of self-discovery as is life itself.
The only way to truly know your own country is to travel to some other country. The only way to understand or find yourself is to abandon your "self" and realize that the "self" is an invention and an illusion. ~ Robert Dente ~ 10:14pm Jun 15, 2002 EDT (#15047 of 38607)
I had been to Europe five times now; each time I had come with delight, with maddening eagerness to return, and each time how, where, and in what way I did not know, I had felt the bitter ache of homelessness, a desperate longing for America, an overwhelming desire to return.During this summer in Paris, I think I felt this great homesickness more than ever before, and I really believe that from this emotion, this constant and almost intolerable effort of memory and desire, the material and the structure of the books I now began to write were derived. ~ Thomas Wolfe, The Story of a Novel quoted in The Creative Process
I'm very touched to find this book again as I browsed through the net, 25 years after I first bought it in a flea market in New York. The essay by Henry Miller literally blew my young artist mind back then. It inspired me to follow on his crazy steps. I quit my civil service job (without official leave) and went to Paris, where I lived for ten years. I read and re-read that essay on creativity and it just kept giving me the courage to step further into the unknown, thus changing my life completely. ~ Reader Review, The Creative Process, Amazon.com
Most of the expatriates congregated in Paris, France where they lived for several weeks, months, years, or even for the rest of their lives. During the 1920s, Paris was a bustling cosmopolitan hub where a rich history converged with a blossoming artistic community.It was considered to be the cultural capital of the early twentieth century. Attracted by this atmosphere, the expatriates settled in Paris hoping to establish their literary identities and find a market for their work. Nevertheless, each author found a varying degree of success while living and writing in Paris. F. Scott Fitzgerald, as compared to his friend and fellow author Ernest Hemingway, was much less productive in the mid-1920s. ~ American Expatriates in Europe: The Lost Generation
Though not an expatriate, William Wordsworth wrote of London:
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!~ Composed upon Westminster Bridge, William Wordsworth