Galantière: The Lost Generation’s Forgotten Man. By Mark Lurie. West Palm Beach, FL: Overlook Press, 2018. 402 pp. Cloth $34.00.
In 2007, arbitrator Mark Lurie discovered that his father’s cousin was Lewis Galantière, and in 2012 Lurie located Galantière’s papers at Columbia University. That summer, Lurie began his research on his relative, culminating this year with Galantière: The Lost Generation’s Forgotten Man, an impressive book featuring Lurie’s narrative, rare photos, letters, and articles.
Born in Chicago in 1895, Lewis was raised in the Windy City and Los Angeles. He was a writer, critic, bookseller, reviewer, and French literature aficionado. Lewis padded his resume with misleading facts about his family and education, stating his father, Joseph, was French, when he was, in fact, a Latvian Jew, and stating he earned a degree from the University of Paris, when he did not, leaving Lost Generation scholars flummoxed for years.
Although he embellished his accomplishments and lineage, Lewis was a respected translator, collaborator, and connector. He befriended (and served as a go-between) for several Lost Generation writers and luminaries including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach, Janet Flanner, Gilbert Seldes, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, and James Joyce. In fact, “Lewis and James Joyce spoke about collaborating on a lecture series about Ulysses” (45), and Beach asked Lewis to write a reader’s guide for Ulysses, but he turned down both requests. Lewis did, however, find someone to translate Winesburg, Ohiointo French for Anderson, and he introduced Anderson to Beach, Stein, and Joyce.
But it was Sherwood Anderson who introduced Lewis to Hemingway in a letter dated November 28, 1921: “A friend of mine and a very delightful man, Ernest Hemingway, and his wife are leaving for Paris … Hemingway is a young fellow of extraordinary talent and, I believe, will get somewhere” (1). So, when Ernest and Hadley Hemingway arrived in Paris, Lewis was instrumental in guiding the couple through the city. First, Lewis helped the couple locate their first apartment at 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine. Second, he provided counsel on how to navigate the Left Bank literary scene. On one occasion, after Hemingway “skewered Pound” (5) in an article he planned to send to The Little Review, Lewis informed Hemingway that Pound served as an editor for the publication, saving Hemingway’s hide. In turn, Hemingway taught Lewis to box, and in typical Hemingway fashion he hit Lewis with a “sucker punch that caught him squarely on the face, breaking his glasses” (4). In December 1923, Burton Rascoe, Lewis’s friend, wrote in aNew York Times Book Review piece that he thought of “Lewis as the most ‘well thought of’ among the American authors in Paris, and it made no mention of Hemingway” (7). Hemingway felt slighted, so Lewis, under the nom de plume Lewis Gay, went into action by writing a glowing review of iot in the 27 April 1924 European edition of theChicago Tribune, and by including Hemingway inhis The American Mercury article in which Lewis compliments his work. But it was too late, so Hemingway wrote a scathing letter about Lewis (aka Lewis Gay) that Ford Madox Ford published in The Transatlantic Reviewstating: “As Mr. Gay is frequently denunciatory, rarely unpersonal, and always insistent on the lack of cultural background of almost everyone of whom he writes ...” (10). Here, Hemingway trounces Galantière’s literary criticism acumen, but Lewis did not hold a grudge and wrote a favorable review of A Moveable Feast for The New York Timesin 1964 calling it “vintage Hemingway.” Hadley (now Hadley Mowrer) wrote to Lewis about his review: “I cannot let your review of EMH’s ‘Moveable Feast’ pass unremarked and unappreciated by me. For all this is about the good place I seem always to have held in his esteem” (20). Lurie is the first author to print this letter.
According to Lurie’s informative and very readable book, Lewis was “a friend of leading writers on both sides of the Atlantic for more than half-a century” (233). He is best known for translating Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars, and Jean Cocteau’s Le GrandEcart and Thomas the Imposter. He re-imagined Jean Anouilh’s version of Antigone with his very popular Antigone and the Tyrant, in which Laurence Olivier directed Vivien Leigh in the title role in London. Additionally, the polyglot was a Federal Bank economist, counselor to Radio Free Europe, and president of PEN America.
Lurie’s text that is interwoven with rare letters provides the reader with a seat at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Sylvia Beach in which Ernest and Hadley Hemingway, James Joyce, Paul Robeson, and Lewis discuss the literary scene of 1925 Paris, and for that we are grateful for Lurie’sGalantière: The Lost Generation’s Forgotten Man.