Doing my research on the scene, I was pleased to learn that Sylvia Beach, another icon from those Parisian roaring twenties, was still around. I phoned her and asked if we could get together. She suggested meeting at the cafe named Le Select. The Select! That rang a bell. There couldn’t have been a better place for such a meeting.
“’Café Select,’ he told the driver, ‘Boulevard Montparnasse.’” Jake Barnes in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”
La Coupole was just across the street, and that was just steps away from La Rotonde and Le Dome at the next corner, but Le Select was the jewel of the crown – not just for the Americans but for people who came from all over the world. It was indeed a pleasure, sitting in that famous café, to have pointed out to me just where in the place Henry Miller used to meet Anais Nin for afternoon drinks, where Luis Bunuel sat, and which was young Pablo Picasso’s favorite spot. In our 21st century groups of Japanese tourists continue to show up, asking to see Hemingway’s table.
Then came World War II. The shop tried to remain open after the fall of Paris, but by the end of 1941 Sylvia Beach was forced to close. She kept her books hidden in a vacant apartment.