Lost Generation

the sun also rises

The ‘Lost Generation‘ is a term used to refer to the generation that came of age during World War I. It was popularized by Ernest Hemingway who used it as one of two contrasting epigraphs for his novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ In that volume Hemingway credits the phrase to fellow novelist Gertrude Stein, who was then his mentor and patron.

In ‘A Movable Feast,’ which was published after Hemingway and Stein had had a famous feud and fallen apart, and after they were both dead, Hemingway reveals that the phrase was actually originated by the garage owner who repaired Stein’s car. When a young mechanic failed to repair the car in a way satisfactory to Stein, the owner shouted at him, ‘You are all a generation perdue. That is what you are. That’s what you all are…All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.’

In Britain the term was originally used for those who died in the war, and often implicitly referred to upper-class casualties who were perceived to have died disproportionately, robbing the country of a future elite. Many felt that ‘the flower of youth’ and the ‘best of the nation’ had been destroyed.

In China, the ‘Lost Generation’ can describe the young Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), or the generation after them. The Red Guards were ‘lost’ by the failure of the Cultural Revolution and their alienation by the zeitgeist’s shift against ultra-leftism and in favor of Chinese economic reform. The label of ‘Lost Generation’ is also applied in China to the generation of the very young during the Cultural Revolution, as they spent much of their early childhood learning slogans, ideology, and self-criticism instead of content knowledge.

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