THE SUN ALSO RISES – Lost Generation
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) has been considered the essential prose of the Lost Generation. Its theme of alienation and detachment reflected the attitudes of its time.
In fact, the term “Lost Generation” was originally coined in a conversation by Gertrude Stein, a member of the expatriate circle in 1920’s Paris. While spontaneous and meaningless when first spoken, the expression would unwittingly go on to become the label for the expatriates from the United States and England who had rejected traditional American and British conventions for the more appealing lifestyle of Left Bank, Paris.
Congregating in cafes located along the Boulevard Montparnasse to drink, talk and watch the crowds pass by, the Lost Generation was comprised of exiles who had spurned the pre-war values of love, romanticism, optimism, prosperity and hope that they had grown up believing in, all shattered by the war. As well as the glitter and potential of the Great Boom of the 1920’s, which they now saw as American and money-based, and therefore corrupt and insincere. Unable to reconcile themselves with their past beliefs, and unwilling to accept those of their present mainstream society, the Lost Generation was left morally bankrupt and spiritually sterile, with only the fleeting pleasures of alcohol and sexual promiscuity as comfort.
Many Americans in Paris became bohemian writers and artists as a reactionary protest to the business- and consumer-based culture in the United States, their days spent lounging in cafes and their nights hopping from one meaningless relationship to the next. For the Lost Generation, love, hope and religion were foreign concepts after WWI, replaced by a world of sexual liberty and moral indifference. The lounging in the cafes and the promiscuity of the generation is very much connected with their traumas from the War. They are suffering from post-traumatic stress and are trying to deal with it.
In 1926, Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises, a semi-autobiography based on his adventures in France and Spain in 1924-25. Despite having already received moderate critical acclaim for his prior works, it would be this novel that would gain him international success and make him the leader of the so-called Lost Generation.