Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Lost Generation

The term stems from a remark made by Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway, “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway used it as an epigraph to The Sun Also Rises (1926), a novel that captures the attitudes of a hard-drinking, fast-living set of disillusioned young expatriates in postwar Paris.

'As the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses suggested in 1922, the Parisian cultural scene was more permissive of literature which confronted established mores & codes of behavior. Culturally as well as morally, Paris in the 1920s remained one of the most exciting, sophisticated cities in the world. Capital of the avant-garde in all its forms including, Modernists, Cubists, Dadaists, Futurists, Expressionists & Surrealists. These were the years of Picasso & Modigliani, Braque & Duchamp, Stravinski, Satie, Diaghilev & Cocteau. Radical developments in the visual & performing arts were mirrored in the Continental literature of the time, from the surrealist shock tactics of André Bréton & Guillaume Apollinaire, to the textual experimentation of Joyce and Beckett. It was into this vibrant, inspiring foment of idea & innovation that the self-imposed exiles of America’s “Lost Generation” flung themselves. Young radicals like Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane & Ezra Pound & a little later on, Henry Miller & Anais Nin, published some of their most powerful & controversial works in the city.
On the face of it the sobriquet of “Lost Generation” seems an odd collective description for a group of writers & artists who were among the brightest flowering of American literary talent yet to emerge on the international stage, yet depicted this generation as characterised by doomed youth, hedonism, uncompromising creativity & wounded—both literally & metaphorically—by the experience of war. To varying degrees, these virtues and vices were to be found in the life-story of nearly every member of the Lost Generation. Aside from their wild lifestyles, though, what is most striking is the astonishing range, depth & influence of work produced by this community of American expatriates in Paris'

'Midnight in Paris' is a modern day retrospective on The Lost Generation as Woody Allen perceives it. Worth the watch.

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