F. Scott Fitzgerald

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F. Scott Fitzgerald, photograph by Carl van Vechten , 1937
F Scott Fitzgerald Signature.svg

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (born September 24, 1896 in St. Paul , Minnesota , † December 21, 1940 in Hollywood , Los Angeles ) was an American writer . His first novel This Side of Paradise , which he published at the age of 23 in late March 1920, made him famous in a short time. Together with his wife Zelda Sayre , he led an excessive life in the 1920s. The couple was perceived by the US public as typical representatives of their generation. By the 1930s, however, F. Scott Fitzgerald had largely been forgotten. His alcoholism and his wife's mental illness also contributed to this. F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940 at the age of only 44, convinced that he had missed the goal in life of proving himself an important author of his time.

Fitzgerald was rediscovered as an author from the 1940s and is now counted among the most important American authors of the 20th century. His two most important novels are The Great Gatsby ( The Great Gatsby , 1925) and Tender is the Night ( The night is tender , 1934). The great Gatsby is classified as one of the most important works of American modernism . TS Eliot described this novel as "the first development step that the American novel has made since Henry James ". Fitzgerald deals with topics such as decadence, debauchery, idealism, resistance to change and social upheaval. He created an apt portrait of the so-called " Roaring Twenties ", the 1920s in the United States , which was characterized by economic growth, prohibition , crime, jazz and flappers .



Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born as the son of Edward Fitzgerald and his wife Molly (née McQuillan) in St. Paul in the US state of Minnesota. He was the couple's third child; his two older sisters had died as young children three months before he was born. Another sister, born in 1900, only lived an hour. His only surviving sister, Annabel, was born in 1901.

Railroad industrialist James J. Hill's home in the neighborhood of Fitzgerald's childhood home

Fitzgerald got his first name Francis in honor of his great-great-uncle Francis Scott Key , the poet of the US national anthem. Both parents were devout Catholics. At the time of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth, his father owned a furniture factory, the American Rattan and Willow Works . Two years later, in April 1898, the father was forced to sell the company. He accepted a position as a wholesaler for Procter & Gamble in Buffalo, New York. Accordingly, Fitzgerald spent his elementary school at two Catholic schools in the eastern United States. In July 1908, the now 55-year-old Edward Fitzgerald lost his job. F. Scott Fitzgerald later wrote of the day his father was notified of the discharge:

“He went out this morning as a comparatively young man, a man full of strength, full of self-confidence. He came home that evening, an old man, a completely broken man. "

The family returned to St. Paul, Minnesota in the Midwest after their father was released. From then on they lived on the income that their mother's fortune threw off. This income was sufficient to enable them to enjoy the comfortable lifestyles of the upper middle class. They lived in St. Paul in a part of the city that was inhabited by very wealthy families. The most famous of these was James J. Hill, a railroad industrialist mentioned in Fitzgerald's later novel, The Great Gatsby , among others . Fitzgerald attended the St. Paul Academy in St. Paul from 1908, where he was already noticed as a writer of plays, songs and poems. His first short story, the detective story The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage , appeared in school magazine in 1909. Fitzgerald was 13 years old at the time. Overall, however, his academic performance left a lot to be desired, so that his parents decided to send him to the renowned Catholic boarding school Newman School in Hackensack , New Jersey. Here, too, Fitzgerald was less successful through his academic achievements than through the stories he published in the school magazine. He found little social connection at this school, but made friends with Father Cyril Sigourney Webster Fay, who would later serve as a model for Monsignor Darcy in his first novel This Side of Paradise .

Studies and military service

Zelda Fitzgerald

In September 1913, Fitzgerald began to study at Princeton University , a renowned university in New Jersey that belongs to the so-called Ivy League . Princeton was not his first choice, however; Fitzgerald would have preferred to go to Yale . Fitzgerald, who had barely passed the Princeton entrance exam, was not academically successful here either. In the end, he never completed his studies at Princeton University. At Princeton University, however, he met Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop , who were essential to his literary development. John Peale Bishop introduced him to poetry. Wilson, who became one of the leading American literary critics and with whom Fitzgerald was to have a long-lasting friendship, developed according to Fitzgerald's own statements to his "intellectual conscience". At Princeton, however, Fitzgerald was also confronted with the fact that American society was by no means classless, but differentiated social classes according to religious affiliation, economic success, and social and regional origin.

From December 1914, Fitzgerald began a relationship with Ginevra King, a young, wealthy woman from St. Paul's upper class. The relationship ended in January 1917. The end of the relationship was also evidence of Fitzgerald's feeling that social and financial barriers prevented poor boys from marrying rich girls.

On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. In May 1917, Fitzgerald enlisted in the United States Army and was classified as a second lieutenant in the infantry. To his lifelong regret, however, he was never sent to the theaters of war in Europe, but served at various military locations in the USA. In November 1917, while stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he began working on the first draft of his semi-autobiographical novel The Romantic Egotist .

The transfer to a military base in Montgomery , Alabama was decisive for his further life . Here he met Zelda Sayre , who was born in 1900, in July 1918 . Fitzgerald was instantly in love with Zelda Sayre. It is controversial among Fitzgerald's biographers whether Zelda Sayre felt similar intense feelings for her future husband from the start. He wanted to marry Zelda as early as November 1918. However, since it was doubtful at the time whether Fitzgerald would earn enough money to lead a decent life, Zelda Sayre initially refused to marry him. Fitzgerald then began working for the New York advertising agency Barron Collier, writing short stories, scripts, skits, and poems in the evenings that he hoped would earn him credit and money if sold. He only succeeded in placing the short story Babes in the Wood on The Smart Set magazine for a fee of USD 30 . On the other hand, he had hung up 122 rejecting letters like a frieze in his room. In June 1919, Zelda Sayre ended the engagement to Fitzgerald; in July he left his job at Barron Collier and returned to St. Paul to revise his draft novel at his parents' home.

Early literary success

Maxwell Perkins, the editor who oversaw Fitzgerald at Scribners Publishing

The publishing house Scribner's had interest in Fitzgerald's early novel manuscript The Romantic egotist testified and denied but both the first draft in August 1918, the revised version in October 1918th The third version, whose title Fitzgerald in This Side of Paradise ( This Side of Paradise changed), was established in September in 1919 by editor Maxwell Perkins ultimately accepted for Scribner's. At the same time, Fitzgerald managed to publish several short stories. In February 1920, he first sold a short story to a high-circulation magazine. The Saturday Evening Post paid him $ 500 for his Head and Shoulders short story . With the first financial success he began again to advertise Zelda Sayre. They became engaged again in January 1920, and in April 1920, just a week after This Side of Paradise was published, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were married in New York City.

This side of paradise has been very well received by literary critics, and Fitzgerald's biographer Scott Donaldson describes the sales success as remarkable by any measure. The portrait of the young generation after the end of the First World War and in particular of the flappers and their emancipated way of life made the 23-year-old Fitzgerald famous overnight. Fitzgerald's first collection of Flappers and Philosophers short stories , published in September 1920, was also successful. Selling short stories, essays, and articles became a major source of income for Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald paid between $ 1,000 and $ 4,000 for each of his short stories, which was exceptionally high ($ 1,000 in 1925 is equivalent to $ 12,423.91 in 2015). Fitzgerald, however, did not attach great importance to his short stories. For him, they were essentially a livelihood that financed his work on the next novel. He wanted recognition as an influential and important writer, which from his point of view could only be achieved through the publication of further novels.

The Fitzgerald couple were soon at the center of social life, not least because they both knew how to keep the public going. Both the daily press and magazines reported regularly on the couple, and photos and drawings of the two of them often appeared in the media. Ruth Prigozy believes that, on the one hand, it helped that both Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald gave very generous interviews. However, the deciding factor, in their view, was both appearance. Newspaper articles and gossip columns repeatedly referred to them as sophisticated, good-looking and charming representatives of their generation. There were also high-profile appearances such as Zelda's bath in a public fountain, wild parties and rides on the roofs of taxis.

While Scott Fitzgerald was making an exceptionally good writer, he and Zelda were so wasteful of their money that they were always in debt. Scott Fitzgerald frequently asked his literary agent, Harold Ober, and his editor, Perkins, for prepayments to meet his debts. Scott Fitzgerald's drinking problems, which he struggled with for the rest of his life, also began in 1920.

In 1921 the Fitzgeralds toured France, Italy and England and then settled in St. Paul, where they continued to host numerous parties. Their only child was born in October 1921. The daughter was christened Frances Scott Fitzgerald and called Scottie . The Beautiful and Damned ( The Beautiful and Damned ) - Scott Fitzgerald's second novel - and the stories from the jazz era ( Tales of the Jazz Age ) published in 1922. The Beautiful and Damned was longer and more sober in tone as This Side of Paradise , the Roman received relatively good reviews and also sold quite well. In literary terms, however, this novel was not so complete that Fitzgerald was able to establish himself as one of the most important authors of his time. The sales success also did not allow him to forego writing short stories and articles. In the same year the family moved to Great Neck on Long Island . A number of the new rich from show business lived in Great Neck, while on the other side of the bay, in Manhasset Neck, there were mostly families who had already made their fortune in the 19th century. In The Great Gatsby , Great Neck and Manhasset Neck became the two places West Egg and East Egg, whose respective inhabitants differed from one another in the same way.

Although Fitzgerald was extremely productive in 1921 and 1922, he found it increasingly difficult to find enough time for his writing. It is debatable among literary historians to what extent Zelda was jealous of Scott Fitzgerald's success, encouraged his drunkenness and wanted to prevent Fitzgerald from writing through her notorious self-portrayals.

1924 to 1940

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway, 1927

Fitzgerald's alcoholism, the no longer affordable lavish lifestyle, and Zelda's growing mental health problems marked the second half of the Fitzgeralds' 1920s. In April 1924 the couple moved to the French Riviera. A relationship between Zelda and a French pilot alienated the two spouses. At the same time, Fitzgerald was working on The Great Gatsby , which was published in April 1925. To Fitzgerald's disappointment, both the reviews of the novel and the sales figures were subdued. On the other hand, his collection of short stories All The Sad Young Men , published in 1926, was more successful , although Fitzgerald was increasingly critical of his own short stories. At the same time, Fitzgerald considered Ernest Hemingway , with whom he was friends, to be the better writer. Hemingway often criticized Fitzgerald for not concentrating on his "real" talent and criticized his writing style for being too affected. In 1927, Fitzgerald began working for the Hollywood film industry, which resulted in the family living regularly on the West Coast for some time and then returning to Europe for a few months.

Zelda Fitzgerald suffered a severe nervous breakdown in 1930, which led to her being admitted to a clinic in Nyon, Switzerland , where she lived in 1930 and 1931. Another major collapse followed in 1932; this time she was admitted to a clinic in Baltimore. During her stay in the clinic, she wrote Save Me The Waltz (A Waltz for Me). This novel was laid out by her as a mystery novel about the marriage to Scott Fitzgerald and contained large parts that criticized her husband strongly. Before the novel was published by Scribner in 1932, Scott Fitzgerald and his editor shortened about 100 pages without the consent of Zelda Fitzgerald. Scott wrote in his notebook in the spring of 1933: "Attack on all levels: play (suppress), novel (delay), images (suppress), character (attack), child (alienate), daily routine (confuse to create difficulties) . No typing. Probable result: another nervous breakdown. ”He also repeatedly refused the divorce requested by Zelda Fitzgerald. After his ambitious novel Tender Is the Night ( Tender Is the Night, 1934) was not a success with either critics or readers, Fitzgerald fell into disrepair in 1934. He drank, was over-indebted and felt unable to write. He suffered from depression and later called this time his crack-up phase. From 1937 to the end of 1938 he worked for MGM in Hollywood while trying to write short stories to get his debts under control. His daughter Scottie was in boarding school during this time. His marriage to Zelda, which had to be instructed again and again, broke up completely during this time. During this time he also met Sheilah Graham, with whom he had a relationship until his death.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's grave in Rockville, Maryland

In 1939 he began his Hollywood novel The Last Tycoon . He died on December 21, 1940 after two heart attacks. The Last Taikun (filmed as The Last Tycoon ) was edited for publication by Edmund Wilson . Zelda Fitzgerald died in a fire at Asheville Highland Hospital in 1948 .

In the 1970s, Fitzgerald was rediscovered by a wide audience through the successful film adaptation of The Great Gatsby . The book became a worldwide bestseller.


Fitzgerald was, as many of his stories and his better novels prove, alongside Ernest Hemingway , Gertrude Stein , John Dos Passos and William Faulkner, a major exponent of prose in American modernism. But he also embodied the Jazz Age and the "Lost Generation" ( Lost Generation ), who was staying in the 1920s in Europe and thanks to the strong dollar in the cheap and by the war ruined France could live well. Fitzgerald met Ernest Hemingway in 1925. The later Nobel Prize winner had published two volumes of short stories in small English-speaking Paris publishers. Hemingway first befriended Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby , Fitzgerald's best-known work today , was published in 1925 . The great Gatsby did not sell well during the author's lifetime, but there was a stage version and a first film adaptation.

Fitzgerald's novels are all in large part autobiographical, and his characters are modeled on him, his wife, and friends; he even used entire passages from Zelda's diaries.


  • 1920: This Side of Paradise . German "This side of paradise". novel
  • 1920: Flappers and Philosophers. German flappers and philosophers . stories
  • 1920: The Ice Palace , short story
  • 1922: The Beautiful and Damned. Novel. German edition: The beautiful and damned. Diogenes, Zurich 2007 ISBN 978-3-257-23694-1
  • 1922: Tales of the Jazz Age. German "Stories from the Jazz Era". Collection of eleven short stories including: A diamond - as big as the Ritz and The Strange Case of Benjamin Button
  • 1923: The Vegetable. Play.
  • 1924: The Cruise of the Rolling Junk . German first edition: The street of the peaches , with an essay by Zelda Fitzgerald, ed., Transl. Alexander Pechmann. Structure, Berlin 2015 ISBN 978-3-351-03612-6 .
  • 1925: The Great Gatsby. dt. The great Gatsby . novel
  • 1926: All the Sad Young Men. Stories
  • 1934: Tender Is the Night. dt. The night is tender . novel
  • 1935: Taps at Reveille. stories
  • 1936: Thank You for the Light. Narrative. August 6, 2012
  • 1941: The Last Tycoon. dt. The last Taikun . Unfinished novel
  • 1945: The Crack-Up . dt. The crack. Essays, notes
  • 1960: Babylon Revisited and Other Stories. stories
  • 1962: The Pat Hobby Stories. German "Pat Hobby's Hollywood Stories." Short stories
  • 1973: The Basil and Josephine Stories. Short stories
  • 2017: Translated by Gregor Runge, Andrea Stumpf, Melanie Walz: I would die for you. Stories. Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg ISBN 978-3-455-00007-8 (Original: I'd Die For You. And Other Lost Stories . Simon & Schuster, New York 2017)

The stories and novellas have been put together differently in more recent German editions in chronological order.

  • Staged reading, with Zelda Fitzgerald: We were terribly good actors. Psychogram of a marriage . The Hörverlag, Hamburg 2014

Films based on works by Fitzgerald

Films based on the works of Fitzgerald and those on which he has worked as a screenwriter are listed.

Fitzgerald in popular culture

Fitzgerald has been portrayed in several films and television series. In the film adaptation of Sheilah Graham's "Fearless Memoir" under the title The Crown of Life , his role was taken over by Gregory Peck . Richard Chamberlain played his role in F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles' (1974) . Jason Anthony Miller played him in the biopic F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (1975) . Timothy Hutton played his role in the 1993 television film Zelda . In 1994 he was embodied in Mrs. Parker and her vicious circle of Malcolm Gets . In Last Call , the last on the memoirs of Fitzgerald's secretary Frances Kroll Ring is based, took Jeremy Irons his role. In Woody Allen's comedy Midnight in Paris (2011), F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are played in a short scene by Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill . In the Amazon video series Z: The Beginning of Everything , which deals with the lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in partly fictionalized form, David Hoflin took over his role from the second episode; in the pilot he was played by Gavin Stenhouse . In the film drama Genius - The Thousand Pages of a Friendship (2016) about Max Perkins , F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are portrayed by Guy Pearce and Vanessa Kirby .

The musical Waiting for the Moon with music by Frank Wildhorn and texts by Jack Murphy is dedicated to the lives of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. It premiered in 2005, with Jarrod Emick playing the role of writer and Zelda played by Lauren Kennedy .

Stewart O'Nan's novel Westlich des Sunset (2015) is partly fictionalized and is dedicated to the last three years of the author's life and above all to his relationship with Sheilah Graham.


  • Harald Bloom (Ed.): F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . Chelsea House Publishers, New York 2006, ISBN 0-7910-8580-5 .
  • Michael K. Glenday: F. Scott Fitzgerald . Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2012, ISBN 978-0-333-66899-3 .
  • Andrew Hook: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A literary life. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. 2002, ISBN 0-333-73848-9 .
  • Michaela Karl : We break the 10 commandments and break our necks. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. A biography. Residenz, St. Pölten 2011, ISBN 978-3-7017-3257-9 ; as a paperback btb, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-442-74652-1 .
  • Liliane Kerjan: Fitzgerald: Le désenchanté . Albin Michel, Paris 2013, ISBN 978-2-226-24849-7 .
  • Horst Kruse: F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Pat Hobby Stories. In: Paul Gerhard Buchloh et al. (Ed.): American stories from Hawthorne to Salinger · Interpretations. Kiel Contributions to English and American Studies Volume 6 . Karl Wachholtz Verlag Neumünster 1968, pp. 112–154.
  • Stewart O'Nan : West of Sunset , from the English by Thomas Gunkel. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2016, ISBN 978-3-498-05045-0 .
  • Ruth Prigozy (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, ISBN 0-521-62474-6 .
  • Edward J. Rielly: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A biography. Greenwood, Westport, Conn. et al. 2005, ISBN 0-313-33164-2 .
  • Nicolas Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . Continuum International Publishing Group, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-8264-9011-7 .
  • Emily Walton : The summer F. Scott Fitzgerald nearly sawed up a waiter . Vienna: Braumüller, 2016.
  • David S. Brown: Paradise lost: a life of F. Scott Fitzgerald , Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-674-50482-0

Web links

Commons : F. Scott Fitzgerald  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Peter Conn: Literature in America - An Illustrated History. Cambridge University Press, London 1989, ISBN 0-521-30373-7 , p. 389. The original quote is : .. the first step the American Novel has taken since Henry James :
  2. dhm.de
  3. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. 2007, p. 1.
  4. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2007, p. 2. The original quote is That morning he had gone out a comparatively young man, a man füll of strength, füll of confidence. He came home that evening, an old man, a completely broken man.
  5. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 2.
  6. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 2.
  7. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 3.
  8. ^ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Upt. P. 79.
  9. Ronald Bergman: The Great Gatsby and the Twenties. in Ruth Prigozy (Ed.): The Cambridge Compagnien to F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York, Cambridge University Press 2002, pp. 79-94.
  10. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 3.
  11. Glenday: F. Scott Fitzgerald. 2012, p. 2.
  12. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 10.
  13. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 4.
  14. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. P. 4.
  15. Prigozy: The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald . 2002, p. XVIII
  16. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 11.
  17. ^ Scott Donaldson: Fitzgerald's nonfiction in Pregozy (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald . 2002, p. 165. The original quote is: By any standard, the sales of 'This Side of Paradise' was remarkable. Its portrayal of the younger generation, and particularly of the flapper and her liberated ways, made the twenty-three-year-old famous overnight.
  18. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 11.
  19. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 11.
  20. Ruth Prigozy: Scott, Zelda, and the culture of celebrity in Prigozy (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald . 2002, p. 5.
  21. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2007, p. 6.
  22. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 12.
  23. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2007, p. 6.
  24. Tredell: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2007, p. 7.
  25. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 12.
  26. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 12.
  27. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 12.
  28. Kendall Taylor: "Sometimes Madness is Wisdom. Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. A Marriage", New York 2001, pp. 259 f.
  29. ^ Scott Donaldson, "Fool for Love. F. Scott Fitzgerald," New York 1983, p. 86
  30. ^ Sara Mayfield, "Exiles from Paradise. Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald," New York 1971, p. 199
  31. Bloom; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . 2006, p. 12.
  32. ^ Tales of the Jazz Age
  33. Die Straße der Pfirsiche , Hamburger Abendblatt , October 29, 2015, accessed on October 29, 2015
  34. Grandchildren discover unpublished story , Der Spiegel , July 30, 2012, accessed on July 31, 2012
  35. ^ The New Yorker , accessed July 31, 2012
  36. Kassler Documentary Film and Video Festival - 08th Dokfest 1991 - Sad emastles Nebel sed Znarf