Finding the Lost Generation

Paris in the 1920s was home for a group of American writers nicknamed ‘The Lost Generation’ by Gertrude Stein, herself a Parisian-based ex-pat author and art collector. They were lost because they had suffered and survived the terrible First World War and were considered to have been in some sense ruined by it and in need of something totally new and life affirming. Though Irish author in self-imposed exile James Joyce fraternised with the group, he seemed to be more of an elder statesman to the youthful Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and T. S. Elliot who comprised the core of the group. Though feeding off each others’ imagination and company, tensions were also at times high and the relationship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald was particularly close, yet at the same time troublesome. An interesting post by Daniel Dalton presents an intriguing photograph of the pair

Image

How dapper they both look and you can imagine the buzz on the streets of Paris during the era – both freshly published and hailed as the new modernist writers of the day. While on something of a Hemingway bender of late, reading biographies as well as some early novels, I had read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby years ago and recently attended the cinema to watch the movie with my daughter. Baz Lurmann has captured something of the facile veneer of Daisy and company through amazing sets, full of glitz and streams of champagne, that cover up an almost total selfishness and lack of empathy. I felt Toby Maguire did an equally marvellous job as Nick, well matched by Leonardo di Caprio’s Jay Gatsby. Their sadness stayed with me for ages after, and in a weird way reminded me of the underlying depression of the nineteen eighties with its similar undercurrents (or reaction formations) of glamour and excess.

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