Gelegentlich lese ich auch Klassiker ganz gern. Ich versuche mich damit herauszufordern, Bücher zu lesen, die in der Schule zur Pflichtlektüre gehörten und an denen ich wenig bis gar keinen Gefallen gefunden habe.

Eins dieser Bücher ist definitiv „The Great Gatsby“. Während meines High School Jahrs in der 11. Klasse musste ich Auszüge aus dem Buch für meinen American Literature Kurs lesen und ich konnte nicht wirklich etwas damit anfangen. Vielleicht war ich mit 16 noch zu jung oder zu sehr mit mir selbst beschäftigt, aber die Botschaft des Buches ging völlig an mir vorbei und auch mit einer Interpretation tat ich mich seinerzeit sehr schwer.

Ich habe das Buch dann acht Jahre nachdem ich es lesen musste noch einmal gelesen, eigentlich eher durch einen Zufall. Auf einem „Grabbeltisch“ in der Buchhandlung meines Vertrauens habe ich ein deutsches Exemplar der Lektüre gefunden und habe die englische Version dann eigentlich eher aus dem Grund „sieht im Bücherregal gut aus“ gekauft. Ich habe aus Neugierde dann doch angefangen, noch einmal in das Buch hineinzulesen und war erstaunt, dass ich es kaum weglegen konnte. Obwohl es fast hundert Jahre alt ist, hat es meiner Meinung nach von den Themen her nichts an Aktualität eingebüßt.

Die Rezension habe ich auf Englisch verfasst, weil ich das Buch auf Englisch gelesen habe.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first time I came in contact with this book, I had to read excerpts of it for my American Literature class in High School and I have to admit that it did not capture my attention. Now, almost eight years later, I finally read the whole book again and I was amazed.

Nick Carrahan tells the story of his neighbour Jay Gatsby, who hosts lavish and extravagant parties almost daily. People show up to these parties, invited or not, and everybody enjoys themselves tremendously. However, nobody really seems to know anything about their host. The most absurd and inane rumours about how Gatsby became so rich are whispered among the guests, but no one knows the truth.

The real story about Gatsby is a simple one: Gatsby is passionately in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy and has been for a long time. He met her five years earlier, when he was penniless and just getting drafted to join the Army in the First World War. Daisy promised Jay to wait for him but still ended up marrying Tom Buchanan, a wealthy but brutal football-player. Gatsby is still convinced that Daisy loves him but was unable to marry him because of his low social standing.
He has now lived in viewing distance of Tom and Daisy’s house for some time, but never made an attempt to come close to her. Gatsby then starts using Nick to invite Daisy to his house and to get a chance to change the past. Gatsby and Daisy meet, but the story takes a turn that Gatsby had not expected.

In my opinion, „The Great Gatsby“ is first and foremost a love story – an unsentimental and cruel love story. Gatsby longed and lived for an illusion for years and, in the end, he has to pay a bitter price for it.
„The Great Gatsby“ is also a reckoning with the American Dream. Values such as ‚ambition‘ or ’success‘ do not lead to a happy ending but rather to a solitary and miserable life.

It also criticises the modern consumer society. People are rich, enjoy material wealth and luxuries but are utterly bored on the one hand and emotionally empty on the other. Friendships in this story are not built on mutuality, sentiment or respect, they are stone-coldly calculated bonds among people, formed merely for personal profit.

With very pictographic yet straightforward language, Fitzgerald describes an equally brilliant and tragic figure and a bittersweet delusion, which – finally – ends in disaster. The chrome of expensive cars seems to flash before the reader’s eyes, the floor-length curtains made from finest white linen seem to billow and the women’s lipstick appears blood red. The dangerous and malignant entanglements of the main characters are somewhat foreshadowed by Nick, who is affected, yet striving for objectivity.

The story arc is constructed splendidly and conclusively. It changes slowly but steadily from a carefree and cheerful party-atmosphere to an anxiety and fretfulness usually reserved for chamber-plays.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and it is, in my opinion, one of the best American novels ever written. The book has not lost its magic and its up-to-dateness, despite being almost a hundred years old. How many of today’s wealthy are empty inside and chase after an unachievable illusion?

„So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.“

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