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Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
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Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  280 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
The adventures and attitudes shared by the American writers dubbed "The Lost Generation" are brought to life here by one of the group's most notable members. Feeling alienated in the America of the 1920s, Fitzgerald, Crane, Hemingway, Wilder, Dos Passos, Cowley, and many other writers "escaped" to Europe, some forever, some as temporary exiles. As Cowley details in this in ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published 1951)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,086)
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P.J. Sullivan
This is the story of the so-called lost generation of American writers, of their alienation from their American roots, their attempts to replace America's "mechanical values" with moral values by escaping to Europe. Of their struggles to reconcile their need for self-expression with their need to make a living. The crass money values of America drove them overseas, but their need for American money drew them back, back to an America that was changed, in their perceptions.

This is a narrative of
Aug 27, 2014 Sketchbook rated it liked it
From the Sacred Cowley, a worthy reference book. What I remember about Cowley is that his soon-to-be-exwife Peggy was "romancing" Hart Crane in Mexico and was w him on the boat when Hart jumped ohboard. Are you thinking what I'm thinking ?
Sep 12, 2007 Mary rated it really liked it

A celebration of the brilliant people the essayist knew in Greenwich Village and in France during and after the war. It's personal without being too anecdotal and does a good job of showing the appreciation for form during this period, which is still useful for anyone who really cares about what makes for good writing. However, I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the author's virtual indifference to black writers from the same period who were just as talented and productive as their white
Jun 19, 2011 Mitch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
Very possibly the book that made the most impression on me during university, therefore fantastic. A glimpse into the lives of Fitzgerland, Hemingway, Pound, Eliot, Joyce, and others. On my to-read shelf to revisit.
Jan 20, 2008 Deborah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Literary junkies, history buffs, and everyone else!
Recommended to Deborah by: UC Berkeley english dept :)
This text was like a secret glimpse inside the lives of 1920s authors. You get to learn about the bar fights, affairs, and other drunken acts that inspired the great books of this century. I found it rather surprising that one man was so well-connected to this scene, as Malcolm Cowley befriended almost every major author of the time (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dos Passos, and my favorite e.e. cummings). By reading this, you get to really understand why WW1, the economy, and social change created the ...more
Kathleen Hulser
May 20, 2016 Kathleen Hulser rated it really liked it
The casual cosmopolitanism, the rage against the bourgeoisie, the sense of infinite time for cafe life (backed by an American dollar as strong as the fiercest vinasse). Cowley chronicles bohemian times in Paris, the village, the dilapidated farmhouses where writer's solitude was sought then tossed aside as too bereft of stimulation. His analysis of the fury of DaDa and its close kinship to the religion of art that it seemingly rejected could be transposed to many a later alternative art scene. T ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
Wonderful stories that greatly humanizes a great many writers and personalities from the 1920s.
Feb 10, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it
Shelves: joshbooks
Excellent account of the "lost generation" told by someone who knew all the major players.
Aug 01, 2008 Gabriel rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Little snippets about Eugene O'Neil interacting with mobsters in the speakeasies of Manhattan, and remarkable descriptions of Hemingway, Proust, Joyce, not to mention a wonderful slew of anecdotes from Cowley's own life, and interesting intellectual history, such as the history of bohemianism, the expat experience, and what happened to the lost generation. If you like any of the authors mentioned in here, you should read this book.
Nov 09, 2010 Johnny rated it it was amazing
An in-depth and fascinating review of modernism in Paris. Written from an outside perspective it adds a certain authenticity to the plethora due to its stark honesty even though it is often looking at other real figures in he scene, however, without the veil of fiction that most other pieces from the period rely on.
Nov 30, 2013 Katrinka rated it liked it
Pretty good, but Cowley's account would make it seem that women were more or less absent in a significant, contributing way from the literary and artistic developments that occurred during the 1920s (Gertrude Stein is mentioned dismissively; Katherine Anne Porter gets a shout-out in an appendix).
Richard Chandler
Aug 03, 2011 Richard Chandler rated it it was amazing
An informative retelling of the Lost Generation. Well worth reading. Of particular interest to those interested in: Hart Crane, Harry Crosby, the Dada movement, or the boom of post WWI literary reviews devoted to modernism and its offshoots.
Feb 25, 2013 Hilary rated it really liked it
A definitive work on the lost generation and their experiences abroad written by a man intimate with the members of this group. Was an invaluable research tool for my thesis on the lost generation and transnationalism in literature.
Alicia Beale
Aug 17, 2007 Alicia Beale rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It has really influenced my ideas on art and its creation. Also, it's a timeless understanding of the artist living amongst capitalism.
Robert Ripson
Oct 08, 2013 Robert Ripson rated it really liked it
An interesting insight to the mindset of writers coming of age in the 1920s and the forces that shaped their outlook.
I can never get enough of Lost Generation writing. I especially enjoyed the extended portrait of Harry Crosby.
Jul 22, 2011 Bob rated it really liked it
The "non-fiction" corollary to A MOVABLE FEAST. Oddly relevent.
Aug 22, 2008 Sophie rated it it was amazing
Lost Generation. A masterpiece that coined the phrase.
Raimo Wirkkala
Jun 18, 2015 Raimo Wirkkala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A superbly constructed personal memoir of a fascinating and very formative time in the history of American literature. The author shares his own experiences but not at the expense of the much more interesting bigger picture. Through anecdote and quote he gives the reader a strong sense of the times, places and, critically, the people. His over-arching theme is sound and well-considered but I would quibble with the overly poetic device used (the life, times and ultimate fate of a long-forgotten m ...more
Emma Marx
Nov 04, 2015 Emma Marx rated it liked it
I utilized this book for a paper I'm writing on the Lost Generation using the works of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and thus was a great book to get not only an overview of the lost generation, but also a direct insight into their lives.
Feb 22, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
I so enjoyed reading about the literary voices of the so-called "Lost Generation". The author
and his subject are ideally matched and I can
highly recommend this study.
Sep 07, 2014 Spencer rated it it was ok
This was assigned reading for a book group. Had it not been for the assignment, I would not have read it. It's a non-fiction book about expatriate writers in Paris during the 1920s, which also includes 1930. Their motivations and goals are explained in a way that I feel only a fellow writer could understand. It also covers how they returned to their mother countries, and at least for the Americans with a new appreciation for their country. The author lived among them and writes from first hand k ...more
Nov 30, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
This a cool read! Definitely worth the time!
Jan 16, 2008 lisa_emily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: well-read, lost generationalists
Cowley does a pretty good attempt at capturing the literary and intellectual maelstrom which was the 20s. This is the place I first heard of Harold Stearns. Cowley also tries to place the senselessness of Harry Crosby's suicide into context.
Jul 10, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it
I read this book for a class in college and really enjoyed it. I am feeling a bit silly though, because I just realized I still have my college copy, but I have been reading the library's copy! Still good though. :)
Luke Winter
Feb 05, 2013 Luke Winter rated it it was amazing
1910's - 1930's

biography of the lost generation

what it is to write. how it can be done and the function of art to individuals and communities.

a writer's book.
Feb 18, 2013 El marked it as to-read
Recommended to El by: My notebook.
I just came across this title scribbled in one of my notebooks. I have no idea what led me to write it down. But, dagnammit, if it's in the notebook, then it's important.
Matthew Lavin
Feb 01, 2011 Matthew Lavin rated it liked it
I was surprised at the amount of text allotted for Cowley's broad generational language, rather than personal stories like Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." Still worth reading.
Jun 29, 2007 Jason rated it liked it
An interesting and witty look back on the Lost Generation of writers.
Aug 10, 2009 Valarie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I actually loved this book more than I thought I would.
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Malcolm Cowley was an American novelist, poet, literary critic, and journalist. Cowley is also recognized as one of the major literary historians of the twentieth century, and his Exile's Return, is one of the most definitive and widely read chronicles of the 1920s.

Cowley was one of the dozens of creative literary and artistic figures who migrated during the 1920s to Paris and congregated in Montp
More about Malcolm Cowley...

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“Everywhere was the atmosphere of a long debauch that had to end; the orchestras played too fast, the stakes were too high at the gambling tables, the players were so empty, so tired, secretly hoping to vanish together into sleep and ... maybe wake on a very distant morning and hear nothing, whatever, no shouting or crooning, find all things changed.” 9 likes
“They were learning that New York had another life, too — subterranean, like almost everything that was human in the city — a life of writers meeting in restaurants at lunchtime or in coffee houses after business hours to talk of work just started or magazines unpublished, and even to lay modest plans for the future. Modestly they were beginning to write poems worth the trouble of reading to their friends over coffee cups. Modestly they were rebelling once more.” 6 likes
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