What should a novelist do, who after a few months of work realizes that his concept of a novel does not work – this is the question of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, one of the most significant representatives of the so-called a lost generation of America after the First World War.
Fitzgerald compares the unsuccessful character in the novel to the unsuccessful-looking doll: “Who cares what happens to a girl who comes out of sawdust?”
“I know I have to prove something and it will become clear throughout the story. Or: it’s just stubborn. Better throw it all away and start over? The latter is one of the most difficult decisions an author has to make. ”
Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was often faced with making this difficult decision. In 20 years (between 1920 and 1940) he published a total of four novels. The fifth – “The Last Tycoon” is unfinished and appears after the death of its author.
However, Fitzgerald is a kind of classic of American literature. The public’s interest in his works is unceasing, whether during the time he lived, in the 50’s and 60’s or today.
Portrait of Fitzgerald in a photo studio, circa 1925 (Photo: Getty Images)
Scott Fitzgerald finds his way into literature not through theoretical or stylistic considerations, but through practical ones. After retiring from the army in November 1919, he found a job at an advertising agency in New York for a monthly salary of $ 90.
He wants nothing more than to write except to earn enough money to marry the adored Zelda Sear.
So Fitzgerald began writing a novel for which, however, he could not find a publisher. When she made a “literary success” by selling a short story – for a fee of $ 30 – Miss Sear began to express serious doubts about her choice and broke up with her former lover.
FS Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda and their daughter Frances dance in front of the Christmas tree in Paris. (Photo: Getty Images)
Then Fitzgerald began a more intimate relationship with alcohol, injured, with a hangover, went to his parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. There he began to write his already completed novel – from the beginning. And he gives it the title “From Heaven”.
It was at this point that the 23-year-old writer placed the sentence in his character’s mouth, which would later become the program of a literary movement popularized by Hemingway. The Lost Generation. It includes Hemingway himself, Fitzgerald, Thomas Stearns Elliott, Erich Maria Remarque. And the phrase uttered by the hero is:
“All the gods are dead, all the wars have been won, all faith in man has been destroyed.”
The publication of the novel in the prestigious publishing house Scribner“sSons is a huge literary blow, with which the author becomes not just a star, but a spokesman for young literary America.
On top of that, the book earns the author such a beautiful fee that until recently the cautious but still beautiful Zelda corrected her decision and suddenly married her already successful friend.
“Americans readily, even willingly, agree to be slaves, but stubbornly never want to be recognized as peasants.”
Bitterness, however, still remains somewhere. Fitzgerald writes: “The man with the jingling money in his pocket, who marries his girl a year later, will always be in a state of constant doubt – disgust for the class of people with a lot of money (not in the same way as the views of the revolutionary) and with smoldering hatred for the peasant. ”
Fitzgerald’s literary success created a great deal of excitement for the author, which was often caused by something quite ordinary: the documents for the fees on his desk.
American actor Neil Hamilton in the 1926 silent film The Great Gatsby (Photo: Getty Images)
In the collection of short stories “An Author’s Afternoon” (1957), which was published seventeen years after his death, collected impressive stories and several articles. There we can see the text with the title “How do you live on $ 36,000 a year?”
In it, Fitzgerald categorically denies the popular notion of the newly rich:
When you say “new rich”, you imagine a fat middle-aged man who has a tendency at evening parties to unbutton his shirt and embarrass his wife and their serious circle of friends. As a member of the new class, I confirm that this allegation is defamatory. ”
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, has never denied that he has the weakness of any new rich man, namely, pretending that you are not interested in money at all. He rents an expensive house on Long Island, three maids and a laundress that comes twice a week.
Lois Wilson as Daisy in the first film adaptation of the novel The Great Gatsby (1926) (Photo: Getty Images)
“Every diamond looks big until it’s cut.”
The Fitzgeralds’ hospitality was appreciated by countless new acquaintances – so much so that at the end of one of their most successful years, in which $ 36,000 was transferred to their account, the family owed $ 5,000.
Zelda offers to release the three servants. However, this plan clearly failed because each of the three had to be paid for the last two weeks, and there was no cash available.
Fitzgerald had no choice but to sit down and write a short story, which he himself called “garbage” beforehand, but the money from it was enough to pay the servants some urgent bills.
This is what the first edition of FS Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby looks like. Photo courtesy of the London Antiques Book Fair, June 13, 2013 (Photo: Getty Images)
His lifestyle as a newly rich man and his acquaintances with the really rich gave him the opportunity to write perhaps his best novel, The Great Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby has apparently fulfilled the American dream on the road from rags to great wealth.
Mia Farrow and Robert Redford in the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
Where he got all the money for his endless glamorous parties is only hinted at, and that may not be the most important thing in realizing the American dream. Maybe from smuggling deals during the Dry Regime? Nobody cares, but everyone admires the glamorous hill on the star floors in the class elevator.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in the 2013 film adaptation of director Baz Luhrmann’s novel.
Wealth will always be Fitzgerald’s great theme.
However, the American literary critic and writer Alfred Cassin says that “for him the rich are as for Hemingway the war, and for Dos Pasos the anarchy of modern society – that is, the scheme of human existence.
Fitzgerald sketches this scheme in his next book: “The night is gentle”.
This is about the marriage between a doctor and his young wife from the upper classes of the aristocracy. The doctor can treat the young nervous woman, he can marry her, but when the treatment is over, he must disappear from her class circle, whose secular and refined rituals he does not master. This is a novel inspired by their personal tragic story with Zelda.
Fitzgerald loved wealth rather than the rich themselves.
“Fitzgerald’s talent is as natural as the butterfly’s pollen on the patterns of its wings.” “Ernest Hemingway.”
To the treasury of literary anecdotes belongs a conversation in the Parisian restaurant “La Closerie des Lilas” between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who was approximately his age:
“The rich are so different from us,” Fitzgerald said to Hemingway.
To which Hemingway replied:
“Yes, they have more money.”
Fitzgerald never manages to “take the best” from the situation in which he finds himself. He was a well-paid but not very wealthy writer.
Death took him 44 years as a result of chronic drinking, but to this day, he continues to search for the secret mysteries of wealth.