Why do Americans Live in Europe? from transition, A Paris Anthology, Writing and Art from transition magazine 1927-30
H. Wolf Kaufman:
“I prefer to live outside of America chiefly because I once had money enough to leave America with and the desire to leave America at the same time. It was a coincidence and I took advantage of it. There has never been a coincidence since. I have never had both the desire to go back and the money to go back with at the same time.
“Since I have come to know Paris I have become less irritable. I don’t like the sound of the French language. I don’t like the Russian taxi-drivers. I would like to have some good American coffee at the same time that I eat my meat, and I would like the newspaper for which I work to pay me enough to enable me to go to concerts when the notion strikes me. But I have come to the conclusion that there would be just as many irritable things in Berlin, or Vienna, or Moscow, or Hong Kong. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to go to some of those places. I do. If, of course, I ever want to go and have the money to go with at the same time.
“I hate to use the word ‘melting pot.’ But the American is a combination of half a dozen nationalities. After the ingredients get well mixed up I think some sort of result must burst forth. The first definite American result thus far that has been a sort of dynamo-like powder blast. That is only a first result. It isn’t enough. Something else is coming. A couple of years ago, way down on Hudson street, I saw a little circulating library in a confectionary shop. The best sellers there were Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The owner told me that most of his customers wanted to read the books but later inevitably told him they were ‘rotten.’ Nevertheless, they read them. I may be a hopeless optimist. I cannot help feeling that if they read good books long enough, whether they understand them or not, whether they like them or not, sooner or later a bit of understanding will burst through. I cannot help feeling that if they buy good pictures long enough because they have the money and think it’s the proper thing to do, sooner or later they will learn to distinguish between red and purple.”
“The United States is just now the oldest country in the world, there always is an oldest country and she is it. It is she who is the mother of the twentieth century civilization. … And so it is a country the right age to have been born in and the wrong age to live in. She is the mother of modern civilization and one wants to have been born in the country that has attained and live in the countries that are attaining or going to be attaining. This is perfectly natural if you only look at facts as they are. America is now early Victorian very early Victorian, she is a rich and well nourished home but not a place to work. Your parent’s home is never a place to work it is a nice place to be brought up in. Later on there will be place enough to get away from home in the United States, it is beginning, then there will be creators who live at home. A country this the oldest and therefore the most important country in the world quite naturally produces the creators, and so naturally it is I an American who was and is thinking in writing was born in America and lives in Paris. This has been and probably will be the history of the world. That it is always going to be like that makes the monotony and variety of life that and that we are after all all of us ourselves.”