Can you imagine strolling along the Left Bank in the Montparnasse
area of Paris in the early to mid 1920's? You might see
a young French couple strolling along the banks of the River Seine
smoking cigarettes and embracing. If you went by the world famous
Harry's Bar you might have seen some of the most influential American
authors of 20th Century, possibly ever, getting slammed on Bloody Marys
(Harry's apparently made some good ones). Ernest Hemingway might be sitting
across the the beer-soaked wood floors from F. Scott Fitzgerald
complaining about how he just couldn't get that first sentence of his
Fitzgerald might have made a cutting joke and pissed off Hemingway.
Ernest, fueled by his 15th, or so, cocktail might have said something
to the effect of, "I'll kick your scrawny ass Francis." Taking umbrage
to someone calling him by his given birth name, Fitzgerald might have
charged him and Big Ern might have thrust one of his barrel arms
and sent Francis crashing through Ezra Pound and William
Faulkner, sitting quietly having a beer, onto the floor.(Now, am I
saying that Hemingway would kick Fitzie's ass. No. More
importantly...yeah that's what I'm saying. It's not
symbolic of their writing abilities. Hemingway was a big dude. Sorry, thought I had
something a little more profound there. As far as the whole time
machine-like concept goes; I just watched Back to the Future. What can
I say. I'm a moron.)
Now on to some concrete facts as opposed to some idiot's ravings.
They fled America after World War I, seeking refuge from the bankrupt culture they had returned to after seeing such devastation and hardships come from war. The Great War quickly turned them from idyllic teenagers into battle-hardened adults. They had been influenced by the rhetoric, that is such a part of wartime, to join up and fight and they had lost their innocence in the process.
Once they returned to find their homeland's culture motivated solely by profit and business, with no artistic sensibility or cosmopolitan cities, they sought to flee. They ended up in Paris. A city that had a thriving art culture where they could write freely and live void of the corrupt morals of their own country.
Many of them worked for newspapers or magazines in order to make enough money to keep with the Bohemian lifestyle they had been living. They drank, traveled, had love affairs and wrote.(1)
"The Lost Generation" was the group of American writers and poets that emigrated to Paris in the years following World War I. They mingled with French artists in a part of Paris called the Left Bank. They were influenced by the paintings of artists like Dada and Picasso and collected their works as well as socialized with them. They critiqued eachothers writing and often met in bookstores, cafes and bars to talk about their works and life in general.(2)
They had a mostly upper-middle-class upbringing and were sustained in hard times by their parents' fortunes. They were oddly enough helped by the material culture they chastized so vehemently.(1) They were able to live in Paris cheaply due to the devaluation of the franc from the fallout of the war.
Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were three of these ex-patriate writers that had become disillusioned with America and chose to come to Paris to seek artistic fulfillment.
The writers encouraged eachother and lavished in the bohemian lifestyle that gave them the freedom to live by no rules. They ended up writing some of the best fiction in the 20th century and were greatly shaped by eachother and Paris itself.