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F. Scott Fitzgerald

(1896—1940) American novelist

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US writer whose fiction is one of the most eloquent expressions of the American Jazz Age of the 1920s.

Fitzgerald was born in St Paul, Minnesota, and educated at Princeton. He joined the army during World War I and after being demobilized moved to New York where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to become a journalist. In 1920 he published his first book, This Side of Paradise. This novel was immediately successful, largely because of Fitzgerald's skill in portraying the world of the postwar American adolescent, and enabled him to marry Zelda Sayre, whom he had met during the war. Now launched into affluent and fashionable society, Fitzgerald earned the money necessary to stay there by writing magazine stories. His books of this period, depicting the society of which he and Zelda were now a part, included The Beautiful and Damned (1922), portraying a hedonistic couple not unlike the Fitzgeralds, and a collection of short stories, Tales of the Jazz Age (1922). During their second trip to Europe (1924–26) Fitzgerald completed the novel that is regarded as his finest achievement: The Great Gatsby (1925). The eponymous hero of this book epitomizes the Jazz Age – a near-criminal but idealistic financier whose love for the materialistic and self-centred Daisy leads eventually to his death. This book has been filmed three times (1926, 1949, and 1974).

Throughout his life Fitzgerald retained a complex and ambivalent attitude towards the charisma and vices of the social class to which he aspired. Although he was relatively well off, he and Zelda spent the years after the success of The Great Gatsby living beyond their means in both Europe and the USA. From the late 1920s Zelda Fitzgerald's mental instability became increasingly apparent and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. The pressures of caring for her, together with accumulating financial problems, contributed to Fitzgerald's alcoholism; these problems provided the material for his next novel, Tender is the Night (1934). By 1935 Zelda's schizophrenia required hospitalization and Fitzgerald's health had broken. He returned to Hollywood in 1937 in an attempt to make money by writing for the film industry. In the three years before his death from a heart attack, he produced an unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, published posthumously in 1941, and seventeen short stories collected as The Pat Hobby Stories, which finally appeared in print in 1962.

Subjects: Literature

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