F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

The next book we are going to discuss in the Literaturzirkel der ETH Zürich is “The Great Gatsby”, one of the greatest American novels (see Wikipedias Modern Library 100 Best Novels).

I enjoyed very much reading it, the novel is well-written and has a nice melancholic undertone. The “roaring 20s” come to live, with splendid parties, Jazz music, spontanuous trips and ephemerality. But underlying all that is a critique of the American dream, symbolized by Jay Gatsby and also Tom Buchanan. Gatsby has a shadowy past, people tell all sorts of stories about him. From a simple background he made his way to become a well-known and respected man. While it is not known how exactly he made his way, he seems to be involved in alcohol smuggling (bootlegging) and distribution. The other character, Tom Buchanan, is shown as a man who legally got his wealth but is having an affair with another woman. So, most of the well-off people are said to be careless what shows the negative side of the American dream.

But all those symbolic associations will be discussed in the next meeting. For me the very style alone is something that makes the book worth reading it. A few quotations to give you an idea:

I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited – they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsby’s door. Once they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behaviour associated with an amusement park. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came to the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.