Short Story #13: “Babylon Revisited” — F. Scott Fitzgerald (1931)
People think of F. Scott Fitzgerald writing all the time about flappers and extravagant parties, when most of his work — certainly his best stories — are about the Hangover. The Aftermath. The Fallout. In “The Crack-up,” an essay he wrote a few years before his death in 1940, when his novels were out of print and his money and popularity gone, Fitzgerald said, regarding himself, that he had learned more from failure than Hemingway had ever learned from success.
That was never more apparent than in his best-known short story, “Babylon Revisited.” Set in Paris after the stock market crash, it follows a former hard-partying expat as he returns to hopefully regain custody of his daughter. Now sober and trying to rebuild his life, he visits his old haunts, trying to piece together his past and how he squandered everything during the boom of the 1920s, when a chance encounter with old drinking buddies threatens to wreck everything.
Spoiler alert, it doesn’t end well.
“Babylon Revisited” can be found in every Norton’s college literature book ever published, or you can go read it here.