|Ernest Hemingway in |
uniform, Milan, 1918
Stein coined the phrase to refer to the aimless feeling that followed World War I, and the loss of the idea that if you lived virtuously, good things would happen. Hemingway, by far the leading literary figure of the 1920s, defined the generation in an epigraph to The Sun Also Rises.
"You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes." ~Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
|la Rotonde, Montparnasse|
|Portrait of Gertrude Stein, |
Pablo Picasso, 1906
Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises talks about the lives of these very people. He attributes the phrase to Stein, but it was Hemingway's book that popularized the title and led to the loose interpretation that included all Americans living abroad and attempting art.
Unlike the Paris of today, in the 1920s it was a place artists could live on very little money. It was, as Stein so aptly put it, "where the twentieth century was." Ezra Pound said that, in Paris, he was look for "a poetic serum to save English letters from postmature and American letters from premature suicide and decomposition."
|F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald|
lines from that same story, the book by Ernest Hemingway, summing up the Lost Generation:
"You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world against all tyranny, for all the things you believed in and for the new world you had been educated into." (Chapt. 18)
*Fittingly, today's 'Today in Literary History' speaks of Virginia Woolf, who married her husband on this day in 1912. Woolf was a part of the Lost Generation, though not in the expat definition. She and her husband, Leonard Woolf, published T.S. Eliot and her own novels through their dining room press, Hogarth Press. Woolf killed herself in 1941, fearing the loss of her own sanity and the coming world war.