John Glassco (1909-1981), born in Montreal, attended McGill University without graduating, visited Paris as a sixteen-year-old and two years later, in 1928, accompanied by his friend Graeme Taylor. It was on this more lengthy and eventful stay, in the city he loved, that he based his Memoirs of Montparnasse (1970), which was published, and presented by Glassco, as an authentic memoir though it was later discovered to be in many respects a work of fiction. Before publication he had confided to his friend Kay Boyle: “It has the form of fiction—i.e. with lots of dialogue, speed, rearranged and telescoped action; never a dull moment—and is more a montage of those days than literal truth.” It is, however, firmly based in reality and felt experience, and probably contains as much fact as fiction.
Glassco once remarked that he was “as much a novelist, anthologist, translator and pornographer” as he was a poet or a memoirist. His Selected Poems (1971) won a Governor General’s Award, then Canada’s leading literary honor.
Finding college life “depressing…to a point where [he] could not go on” John “Buffy” Glassco decamped for Paris. Forty years later, he reconstructed this memoir à clef of his rollicking youth among the haute bohemians of the day, including Hemingway, Joyce, Djuna Barnes, and Kay Boyle.