“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn…”
With these words – which immediately give us a narrator with attitude – Ernest Hemingway begins his first big novel, published in 1926. This novel perfectly evokes the twenties. It is a portrait of a group of British and American expatriates enjoying the café scene of Left Bank Paris, who decide to take an excursion to Pamplona in Spain to see bullfighting.
What could be more charming or interesting than to see (or hear in Hemingway’s inimitable dialogues) these well-educated bright young things? And yet the ravages of the Great War lurk underneath the surface, with ruined bodies, ruined minds, cynicism and spiritual dissolution.
It is helpful to remember that when people talk about the “Lost Generation”, they mean the survivors of a horrible and wasteful war. This war killed so many young men (the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 cost England 23,000 young men), that plenty of women had to live out their lives without any hope of marriage and family.
It is not surprising that the twenties – when people tried to cope with the aftermath of so much destruction – evokes so many images of light and darkness. This book is particularly relevant today.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry. During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts. (c) 2009. All rights reserved.