A Tour in Provence

APOL - France, Riviera, St Paul de Vence2

Fresh from a gig in Montréal and thus newly confident in la langue de l’amour, APOL has taken its tour to France, where it repaired immediately to Provence, the French having evacuated Paris for the month of August. Naturally enough, local readers asked about APOL’s long-promised French edition, at which the nattering novel grew bombastic, drawing comparisons with Donald Trump and his Mexican wall. “There will be a French translation,” APOL snapped to reporters, “and the French will pay for it.”

Provence has long been a source of creative inspiration. Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse all enjoyed productive tenures there, as did Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Somerset Maugham. The region has inspired many literary and popular works, including Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Garden of Eden, is largely set in the region.

Hemingway was a giant of twentieth century literature, a war correspondent, big-game hunter, sportsman, adventurer, and lover of women. He lived large, nurturing in his actions and his work his image as virility incarnate, a man’s man. So when The Garden of Eden emerged from his files, twenty-five years after his death, it forced a reassessment of his oeuvre. In it, the man’s man’s character explores androgyny: he swaps roles with the missus. Papa is said to have struggled with Garden for fifteen years. It was an honest work, a head-on exploration, but was he unsatisfied with the manuscript? Uncertain how it would be received, what it would do to his image? Did he even want it to be published?

We will never know what he intended – nor what he wrote, exactly. When Garden appeared in 1986 it was heralded as a new addition to the Hemingway canon and became an instant best-seller. His publishers acknowledged “some cuts in the manuscript.” What the world read was a slim volume of 70,000 words, a fraction of the 200,000 Papa actually wrote. Was it an abuse of an executor’s power, a flaunting of a writer’s wishes? This, and legacy, are themes explored satirically in A Person of Letters.

Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a wink and a nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive.  For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.

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