There are few character failings worse, in Gert’s opinion, than humourlessness, and this Gertrude Stein had in spades, so Gert was quite pleased to read, in Enrique Vila-Matas’ Never any end to Paris:
…’a rose is a rose is a rose’, one of Miss Stein’s favourite phrases and irrefutable proof that even in the world’s literary hubs, people have always talked nonsense. (86)
He goes on to describe Stein as a terrible writer, even though she did impart some interesting teaching to the young Hemingway. (87)
And a quote from Stein herself, Don’t argue with me, Hemingway, it does no good at all. (156)
Never any end to Paris is an interesting companion-piece to Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, by which it was inspired, covering the same ground of a young writer struggling to find his way in Paris – but what different sensibilities, even if Vila-Matas is, or claims to be, besotted with Hemingway to the point of entering Hemingway lookalike contests from which he’s disqualified on the grounds that he looks nothing like Hemingway.
The book is of additional interest to Gert because of its interest in personal identity and in fakes and impostors, one of her favourite subjects.
No man knows who he is, no man is anyone, says the Argentine writer Macedonio Fernandez (163).
We will speak more of this in future posts on Joyce Hatto, A.D. Harvey, Brendan Bracken, Donald Crowhurst and Peter Treseder.