Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s” as Want to Read:
Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  330 Ratings  ·  38 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Exile's Return, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Exile's Return

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
Sep 02, 2007 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
Mar 05, 2012 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 ?
Jun 19, 2011 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.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Exile's Return" documents the experience of Cowley and other members of the Lost Generation in the 1920s.
Originally writing in 1934 about the 1920s, then substantially revising the book in the 1950s, we are given several layers of Cowley commenting on his own experience and his thinking about it. In the manner of Patrick Leigh Fermor or Robert Byron, the "non-fiction" nature of the work is secondary to its literary impact. The anecdotal quality of some of the starting points (being introduced t
Jan 20, 2008 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
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful stories that greatly humanizes a great many writers and personalities from the 1920s.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: joshbooks
Excellent account of the "lost generation" told by someone who knew all the major players.
Kathleen Hulser
May 20, 2016 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
Nick Guzan
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An invaluable chronicle of the 1920s literary expatriates, Cowley's book benefits from his first-hand perspectives and participation. He allows himself to "intrude" on his narrative just enough to keep the book authentic while staying broad enough to encapture the entire era and scene rather than serving as a straight memoir.

I had chosen to read it mostly to learn more about Harry Crosby but all major figures from the era receive appropriate love.
Aug 01, 2008 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 02, 2010 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.
Richard Chandler
Aug 03, 2011 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.
Nov 02, 2013 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).
Feb 25, 2013 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.
Robert Ripson
Jan 26, 2013 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.
Alicia Beale
Aug 17, 2007 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.
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
The "non-fiction" corollary to A MOVABLE FEAST. Oddly relevent.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lost Generation. A masterpiece that coined the phrase.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book gave an insight into the next generation post-WWI and about the "Lost Generation". Here is a great quote that epitomizes the feelings of that time: "No matter: the country of our childhood survives, if only in our minds, and retains our loyalty even when casting us into exile; we carry its image from city to city as our most essential baggage..." (pg. 14)
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A week or two ago I had no idea this book even excisted, and now I realize it answers quite a few of my questions about the years around WW1; mainly in the American artist emigré community in Europe, of course, but also in more general terms. In addition, it was well written and even entertaining. What more could I ask!
Bill Wallace
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly entertaining, though I found myself more engrossed in the chapters about less familiar subjects. I've read better accounts of the 20s in Greenwich Village and Paris, but the late 20s, when a fair population of New York literati took to rural Connecticut was new to me. That chapter in particular felt like lost history. I also really enjoyed the final essay, about the life and death of Harry Crosby, the publisher of Black Sun Press, and I will be chasing down a copy of that latter day d ...more
Dec 12, 2013 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
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Exile’s Return is a haunting elegy for the moment in the early 1920’s when the fleeting notion of a worthwhile artistic life tantalized, then ultimately abandoned, an entire generation of American writers. At its best this thoughtful cultural document is an indictment of the spread of bourgeoisie values, industrialism, corporatism and vapidity. In seeking a life worth living as expatriates these ‘refugees were also trying to escape something more subtle, some quality of American civilization tha ...more
Raimo Wirkkala
May 28, 2015 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 Hinkle
Oct 29, 2015 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.
Jan 16, 2008 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.
May 08, 2009 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. :)
Jun 29, 2007 rated it liked it
An interesting and witty look back on the Lost Generation of writers.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties
  • Shakespeare and Company
  • Memoirs of Montparnasse
  • Women of the Left Bank
  • The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties
  • Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930
  • Hemingway: The Paris Years
  • Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939
  • Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank
  • Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939
  • Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties
  • That Summer in Paris
  • Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918
  • All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913-1930
  • All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day
  • Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940
  • Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider
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...
“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.” 10 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.” 7 likes
More quotes…