This map plots the settings and references in Good Morning, Midnight

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Montparnasse, Paris

Largely set in Paris, 1937 (with flashbacks to the mid 1920s), Good Morning, Midnight’s broken narrative also takes us to Antibes on the French Riviera and the Bloomsbury district of London.

Paris, the capital of France, was settled over 2,000 years ago by the Parisii, a Gaul tribe. Popularly and romantically known as ‘The City of Light’ (‘La Ville-Lumière’) owing to the city’s reputation as a hub of ideas and artistry during the Enlightenment, it was, for the first half of the 20th century, the centre of Western culture, art, fashion, music and literature. The city is characterised by broad, tree-lined boulevards and countless café-bars.

Located on the Left Bank of the Seine, Montparnasse is famous for being a hothouse of intellectual and artistic creativity in the interwar years. Owing to the area’s vertiginous incline (later levelled for the building of Boulevard du Montparnasse in the 18th century) it was nicknamed ‘Mount Parnassus’ in the 17th century, from which its name derives.

 

Cafe terrace, Montparnasse 1930s
Creative Commons AttributionCafe terrace, Montparnasse 1930s - Credit: paul-w-locke, Flickr

 

Montmartre had played host to an earlier generation of artists, writers and leading thinkers, but Montparnasse was an altogether grittier affair. From around 1910 to the outbreak of World War II, artists flocked from all corners of the globe to its damp, cheap, vermin-infested studios, raucous music-halls, seedy hotels and gaudy cabarets. 

Luminaries of Montparnasse include Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Nina Hamnett, Salvador Dalí, Kiki de Montparnasse, Henry Miller, Anaїs Nin, Man Ray, André Breton, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Political exiles including Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin also sought sanctuary there. In the 1920s, Americans flooded in, including Peggy Guggenheim.

Marc Chagall summed up the area’s significance succinctly: “The sun of art then shone only on Paris”.