Paris Was Our Mistress: Memoirs of A Lost and Found Generation by Samuel Putnam

Samuel Putnam, while not a popular name, is known mostly for this book. Published in 1947 he talks about his time in Paris and his interactions with the likes of the writers who gathered there whether it be during the Lost Era of the 1920s or later. But it is mainly about his recollections of 1920s Paris.

Putnam shows a generally tight expat community and writes in some details about the popular people of the time such as Hemingway, Emma Goldman, Reed, Pound and others who have since largely been forgotten, potentially, even by 1947. He includes thoughts on why artists moved to Paris, such as not being able to get anywhere in Britain, and he even provides an interview with Ernest Hemingway.

In spite of his on-the-ground writing, he does get a few facts wrong. One of such is his claim that nobody knew about Pound’s politics with fascism at the time. However, in a letter Hemingway wrote in the early 1920s to Pound, Hemingway asked Pound if upon meeting in Rapallo if he’d have any trouble with Pound’s “fascist friends.” Pound was not shy about his fascist leanings even in Paris and the fact that Putnam missed this is surprising. As an addendum, Putnam had said that he didn’t know Pound in Paris and he wouldn’t have known about this letter from Hemingway to Pound even in 1947 but he did make this commentary anyway.

While there are interesting bits within this book, the writing is largely tired and uninteresting. Its incredibly underwhelming considering its reputation. The book serves as a workhorse for recollections on the expats in Paris of the 1920s. It is fine for what it is, does provide new information in parts but for a more casual reader it wouldn’t be as interesting as a more modern book on the subject.

Anti-Semitism in British Society 1876-1939 by Colin Holmes

This one showed up in my feed one day due to some research I’m doing of which you’ll see in a few weeks, although it is somewhat unrelated. However, I like new and interesting topics, especially those which can be relatively uncommon and so I decided to give it a shot. Having it come in as a short book at just over 300 pages also allowed me to fit it into my schedule.

The book is exactly what it says it is. Holmes lays out the history and the climate of the time and how Jews lived in British society. The author understands Britain well, its historical population and how the people intermixed with one another and how this lent itself to shaping the future of Britain in the years discussed.

The author does admit that he uses “controversial” research but this seems to be mostly in that he uses media to cite some sources. But he uses this “controversial” research in a way to highlight what was permissible at the time and how Jews were talked about and portrayed in media. When used in this way, I hardly think the research to be controversial.

Holmes is a classic historian in that he keeps his opinions to himself and simply presents the information. These are the best types of books. While every author has their own biases and opinions and it is virtually impossible to remove them, we can do our best to ignore them when we write our more serious works.

Holmes notes the surges of Jews from Russia and how Jews had refused to acclimate to British Society over time. This led to further xenophobia and their ostracization from society which resulted in them being labeled as an “alien body.” Further worry with these new immigrants were that not only were they foreign and of a different religion, but germs and disease were spreading with the openness of the new age and so health concerns grew which made the population even more wary of the Jewish immigrant.

Rumors spread about the Jews quickly. The author speaks of such rumors as ritual murder in the early 20th century, money and political accusations and some of the history of anti-semitisim within Europe. There’s also a bit of discussion about the Jewish Problem, as Europe considered it, about where to put the Jews. The US? Armenia? Argentina?

The writing is very academic; it is dry but isn’t bad. It’s easy to maintain ones pace and follow along with the author. Holmes provided an excellent study in a topic in a brief period of time. Understanding anti-semitism in Europe is often an interesting subject and this book does not fail in its effort to provide exactly what the reader is looking for.

Anti-Semitism in British Society 1876-1939 is a great book for its content. If conducting research or desiring to find out more information on the said topic, this is a stellar book to be recommended.