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

By Malcolm Cowley; Donald W. Faulkner | Go to book overview

Epilogue: New Year's Eve

As I read over these chapters written almost twenty years ago, the story they tell seems to follow the old pattern of alienation and reintegration, or departure and return, that is repeated in scores of European myths and continually re-embodied in life. A generation of American writers went out into the world like the children in Grimm's fairy tales who ran away from a cruel stepmother. They wandered for years in search of treasure and then came back like the grown children to dig for it at home. But the story in life was not so simple and lacked the happy ending of fairy tales. Perhaps there was really a treasure and perhaps it had been buried all the time in their father's garden, but the exiles did not find it there. They found only what others were finding: work to do as best they could and families to support and educate. The adventure had ended and once more they were part of the common life.

For most of them the adventure had been divided into four stages. There was the first stage when young writers born at the turn of the century were detached from their native backgrounds and were led to think of themselves as exiles in fact, even when living at home. There was the second stage when they went abroad, many of them with the intention of spending the rest of their lives in Europe. The voyage had an unexpected effect on most of them: it taught them to admire their own country, if only for its picturesque qualities. But they still pre

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