Posted in Short Stories

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Babylon Revisited

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 51

He remembered thousand-franc notes given to an orchestra for playing a single number, hundred-franc notes tossed to a doorman for calling a cab.

But it hadn’t been given for nothing.

It had been given, even the most wildly squandered sum, as an offering to destiny that he might not remember the things worth remembering, the things that now he would always remember…

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited”, Charlie Wales and his wife spent most of their marriage living it up in Paris in the 1920’s – not a huge surprise for a Fitzgerald story. As the title implies, though, Fitzgerald sets this story after the 1920’s, after the crash.

Wales still has some money (he managed to make a lot prior to the crash) but due to his alcoholism, he lost his wife to death and his young daughter to his wife’s family. Returning to Paris, Wales has his alcohol under control and genuinely wants his daughter back in his life.

Wales spends the balk of the story in thoughts of regret and asking for forgiveness which, from the beginning, Fitzgerald makes so palpable that the reader could easily resort to tears. The significant conflict in the story is between Wales and his sister-in-law, Marion, over the custody of his daughter. While the narration is in third person from Wales’ point of view and the reader feels legitimate empathy for him, Fitzgerald also manages to show the same empathy for Marion. This ability to see and feel both sides in the conflict makes the story less about an individual and more about the human condition itself.

“Babylon Revisited” is another of those “we had Paris” stories. It seems Paris becomes the symbol of loss or regret for so many of these early twentieth century American authors. The story was turned into the 1954 film “The Last Time I Saw Paris” with Elizabeth Taylor. As I recall seeing the move quite a while ago, I think it took considerable liberties with the plot.

This story is included in The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. I read it when I selected the Seven of Hearts for Week 51 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

4 thoughts on “F. Scott Fitzgerald: Babylon Revisited

    1. It’s a little bit better. I understand what you mean. There is hopelessness and disillusionment in so much of his writing. A part of me has an appreciation for that At the same time, I can’t live on Fitzgerald alone.

  1. Hi Dale,
    What an awesome quotation that is! I’ve read this story, but it’s been so long ago now that I’ve forgotten most of it. (This problem is getting worse as I age…) 🙂

    1. Hi Jay,
      Actually, I read this story a long time ago, too. I just remember it was about a couple looking back on the 20’s after the stock market crash. I didn’t remember the alcoholism or the child custody stuff. And it wasn’t really a couple because one of them is dead. But it was worth reading again!

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