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  1. Tale of two novels.

    There is an opinion that the best American novel is Moby Dick. But Melville’s captain Ahab, in his pursuit of an external goal and external victory is not uniquely American but an all-around European personage with “Faustian soul-dynamic” as Oswald Spengler puts it. However, The Great Gatsby is a different story; Gatsby is like a Jewish European Luftmensch, paradoxically transformed into American Luftmensch – and, as it always is with paradoxes, there is something that escapes one’s glance at first. A Jewish Luftmensch, Jew of Diaspora, existed in the air, between land and sky because, since ancient Rome, he did not have the land anymore; he did not have the sky either, since it belonged then to Christian civilization. But at least, he had his Bible, while Gatsby had nothing, having created himself out of thin… well, maybe, not so thin air of the country where he was born.
    In what kind of country was he born? This question is not abstract. King of paradoxes, Chesterton, once compared American Constitution with Spanish Inquisition: “The American constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that is founded on creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed.” He thus proceeded, noting that an Englishman is an Englishman simply because he was born in England and so is Frenchman or German; these countries were naturally formed long time ago by process of history and there is nothing to think about: “We are not trying to Anglicize thousands of French cooks or Italian organ-grinders… America is the one place in the world where this process, healthy or unhealthy, possible or impossible, is going on.” Chesterton was right. In America, the country of newcomers from all over world, Americanization is more than a legitimate idea; it is the moral maxima to become a patriot not simply of land or nation, but of the best in the World land and the greatest in the World nation. American constitution is the best in the World, and so is American democracy and, above all, Declaration of Independence: “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
    Ah, that word: happiness. In Fellini’s 8 ½ protagonist, played by Marcello Mastroianni, complained to the Cardinal that he was unhappy. “Why do you think you suppose to be happy?” answered the Cardinal, as any catholic prelate was supposed to answer. Declaration of Independence was not only a daring proposition but it was also a risky one. It was like a double-edged sword made out of conflicting materials, moral and materialistic – and even if those ingredients were uneasily smoldered for centuries in old Europe, only in America, they were able to burst into the open and take shape in the manner pieces of broken Sigmund’s sword took shape in Siegfried’s mighty hands.
    The Great Gatsby is a deeply ironic American novel about this conflicting double-edged sword. Gatsby is a Mafioso and, though Mafioso is an Italian word, he is an American Mafioso. Even Wolfshein, who speaks exactly like Isaac Babel’s bandits before him spoke, is now purely an American bandit: no Odessa’ bandit in a million years would have had such a bizarre, ghoulishly humorous idea to have his cuffs made out of human molars. Would it be ever possible for Italian or, as a matter of fact, continental literature to produce a novel like Gatsby? Again, not in a million years and that is why. Wolfshein’s fixing of 1919 World series became an event of mythical proportions; but recently I read in some regional European sport paper how Italian tifosi elatedly screamed: “we won in spite of referee who was bought by the other side!” Moral barrier of people born around the Mediterranean basin is much lower than an American protestant barrier; but on the other hand, we have much deeper family roots for such an uprooted and free individuality as Gatsby to be born in our midst. Mafia in Italy is like a chronic pain in arthritic joints, like an old hemorrhoid: it is something unpleasant that people have to live with. It may inspire a neorealist film or a naturalistic novel, but never a symbolic novel of human failure in general; partially because nowhere in contemporary world of the old Europe figure of a bandit, a criminal could be romanticized the way it is done in American popular culture. That is why Gatsby is such a mystical figure; he is like a sacrificial lamb that has no way to escape being killed for the sake of showing how far European descendants on the New Continent can go following their beautiful and rotten dreams.

    Among all great American writers of the twentieth century, Fitzgerald is the most mysterious to me. His sentence is nothing like straightforward lyrical sentence of Hemingway. It twists and turns like contortionist body, creating holes in itself, and through these holes peep out sometimes pretentiousness, sometimes a symbol but sometimes simply the other world. Fitzgerald’s sentence is like Gatsby himself – Gatsby who wears the pink suit and of whom Daisy says she pictures him up in the sky on the pink cloud… It is like Nick Carraway who is contradictory to the point of uncertainty. The whole book is contradictory to the point of uncertainty and there lies both its uniqueness and esthetical distinction. From pure esthetical (formal) point of view Fitzgerald reminds me of Dostoyevsky, and not just because both of them were uneven in their own rights as writers, but because their writing is a peculiar and fascinating mixture of minute realism, total irony and naked, unsupportable romanticism.

    Everything starts with the title of the book. In November 1924, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor: “I have now decided to stick to the title I put on the book. Trimalchio in West Egg. The only other titles that seem to fit are Trimalchio and On the Road to West Egg. I had two others, Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover, but they seemed too light.” We know that finally, Fitzgerald’s preference was Under the Red, White and Blue, but it was too late as the editor went into the direction of “seemed too light”. Clearly, Fitzgerald was on the side of ironic title, but did he comprehend rift here between romantic and ironic? And to what degree did cynical Petronius’s Trimalchio cancel out any notion of romanticism and Gold-Hatted Gatsby hailed romanticism above everything else? And if he really and truly preferred irony, why then, at the beginning of the novel did he sum up Gatsby’s image this unequivocal way: “Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction… No – Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men”?
    Of course, it’s not Fitzgerald, it’s Nick Carraway who says these words. Nick Carraway is not only the narrator; he is the moral compass of the novel. It seems that without his moral judgment, it wouldn’t have existed. Nick is supposed to be the rock on which the novel’s construction was built, but what if the rock turned out to be more like a jelly? Here comes the first layer of Fitzgerald’s irony. Nick calls himself a “cautious man”, but cautiousness may imply restraint and decency, and may also imply indecisiveness. It may also imply what we in Russia, call “sitting on two chairs at the same time,” which is more than indecisiveness; it is a moral trickery. Casually, Nick tells of how ‘his family had been prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations’ and casually he informs a reader that although they had a tradition that were descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, the actual founder of his line was his grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil war, and started the wholesale hardware business that his father carries on today… He never saw that great-uncle, but he was supposed to look like him – with special reference to the rather hard-boiled paintings that hung in his father’s office.’ Do we detect whiff of sarcasm in Nick’s voice? Maybe yes, maybe not; maybe it was said only with melancholic restrain of a decent and basically indecisive man. Oh, it is true that he was not like his grandfather’s brother, nothing Buccaneerish in him! He said he chose to go to bond business because “everybody I knew was in bond business”, so he really seemed like a modest and decent human being. Nick narrates wonderfully when he describes people and landscapes around him, but he narrates like a sleepwalker when he speaks of himself in terms of his ethical standards. First, he declares that he is “…one of the few honest people that I have ever known”, then he casually informs us that if Gatsby’s offer to make money on the side were not so crude, it “might have been one of the crises of my life,” (and he cannot but know perfectly well that Gatsby and Wolfshein are mafias). In relationship with women – the moment he thinks he loves Jordan, he declares that he is “…full of interior rules that act as a break on his desires,” (because he has been writing once a week letters to a girl back in the West and signing them “love, Nick” – what an exemplary ethical man he is!) But in the same time he had a “short affair” with the girl from New Jersey, and when he finally decided to kiss (halleluiah!) Jordan, naïve, banal and pretentious sentence (“there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired”) crossed his mind. This sentence is one of the best examples of Fitzgerald’s irony; it looks like teenager’s profound revelation in the morning-after. But Nick Carraway is a teenager when it comes to both morality and earthy human experience! He is a product of the genteel Middle-Western protestant society which in its cushioned prosperity and comfortable understanding of Christian ethics as an extension of the Common Law (his grandfather’s brother buying a substitute to the Civil War), could not prepare him adequately for the temptations real life threw his way on the East Coast. At the end of the book, Jordan Baker says to Nick: “You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, did not I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.” – “I am thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor”. Jordan Baker is inherently a dishonest girl, she wouldn’t think twice about cheating while playing golf, but she is honest in her relations with Nick, and Nick’s image was really damaged here. Or – again – was his image damaged there? I see someone pointing out that Nick does not really care what he says to Jordan because he is finished with her, he is fed up with everybody this or that way associated with Gatsby death – with their betrayal of Gatsby. But I have known it all along and exactly here lays my point: Nick’s real emotions and ethical pathos are aroused not by women around him but only by a thoroughly immoral conman, whose name is Gatsby. That’s why he absentmindedly repeats all Middle-Western protestant stereotypes he knows of himself: he doesn’t care much what he says.
    But there is another side of Nick – Nick as a romantic dreamer, and this is a very different story. I just said Nick’s dreamy side is tied up to one and only personage – Gatsby. Here, Fitzgerald employs a curious artistic method. Nick is an astute psychological observer of people; he is often ironic, sometimes sarcastic, even cynical (describing people attending Gatsby’s parties). But, when it comes to Gatsby, Nick swallows his skillful tongue. He might state awkwardly: “Gatsby – who represented everything I have an unaffected scorn” – this is all he could say. More than that: Nick has a sharp eye for people’s physical descriptions. The moment new personage appears, he or she stays in our inner vision for a long time. Tom Buchanan: “Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning forward… and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage – a cruel body”. Daisy: “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who cares for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exiting things just while since…”. Jordan: “I enjoyed looking at her. She was slender, small breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of wan, charming, discontented face”. And so on and so forth without a single exception. But the closest description of actual Gatsby’s appearance comes to that: “…and I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.” It seems that when Nick looks at Gatsby, his vision becomes blurred. Tricks like that are employed sometimes in the science fiction movies: all personages are in sharp focus and only one moves among them being out of focus. After the fatal accident, when Gatsby tells Nick story of his love, he utters a strange phrase: “He (Tom Buchanan – A. S.) told her those things in a way that frightened her – that made it look as if I was some kind of a cheap sharper”. But Gatsby is “some kind of a cheap sharper” and, if not cheap, then a big and ruthless (remembering his short telephone conversations) sharper! Again, if the same remark would come from a personage in neorealist Italian movie, we would see handsome but crude face of a young Sicilian Mafiosi in love; the person who is ridiculously limited in his understanding of himself – and we immediately would grasp tragicomic implications of the situation. But seeing Gatsby through dreamy Nick’s eyes we see only a gentle naïve soul bruised by the world around him populated with selfish egoistic people.

    The Great Gatsby is built on endless chain of paradoxes. The paradox that lies on the surface of the novel, visible to everybody, is the paradox of corruptible man and his incorruptible love. This paradox is generally accepted as a symbol of the failed Great American Dream – nothing can be further from the truth: history of the world literature is littered with tales about great criminals and their doomed loves of certain women. It is Nick’s fractured character with a hidden irony that exposes paradoxical rift between spiritual and material, reality and dream of an ideal… it is Nick Carraway, not Jay Gatsby who is the very American hero of this very American novel.

    I saw once Wagner’s Flying Dutchman staged in a way whole opera takes place in Senta’s imagination only. The same thing may be said about Nick – that almost everything about Gatsby might be a product of Nick’s imagination. Independently from Nick, we have as a proof of Gatsby’s existence, only two above mentioned photographs and the scrap book of the boy whose name was Jay Gatz (I will come to this uniquely interesting document later). Maxwell Perkins noted in the letter to Fitzgerald that not only Gatsby’s wealth and business, respectively, needed “the suggestion of an explanation”, but in general character of Gatsby was “somewhat vague” and has to be “adumbrated”. Perkins should have had concern about “general character” of Nick Carraway as well. What makes The Great Gatsby unique is “somewhat vague” interplay between these two “somewhat vague” major characters – it’s like endless row of images going away from you in the hall of mirrors. Which image is real and which is phony and mirrored by another image? Nick-the-dreamer is attracted to Gatsby-the-dreamer, but to what degree does Gatsby-the-dreamer exist independently? It is Gatsby who says to Daisy when they meet: “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock”, but it is Nick who comments: “Possibly it occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever.” Whole mystery of the hall of mirrors is reflected in the word “possibly”. Nick organized the meeting and, while Gatsby shows Daisy his riches, his enormous house, his hydroplane, his “beautiful” shirts, Nick is “going to ask to see the rubies”. He still at this point believes in existence of the rubies, believes in that improbable story Gatsby sold him while driving to New York; continues to believe it even after he saw Gatsby and Wolfsheim together! But here is a gem that cast real light on Gatsby’s character: Gatsby’s crude and idiotic story about his past. Who can be in the novel more careless than Gatsby? How long, he thinks, this story will hold water with Nick? Or, more importantly, with people close to Nick, and Daisy herself? But he is not capable of thinking the way ordinary people think; the strength and the weakness of criminal mind (or of ancient hero’ mind) is to think ahead only by smallest increments of time and rely on intuition only. And so is Gatsby. That is why the detail that he bought his house and waited till Daisy by chance would attend one of his parties’ sounds rather improbable. Who gives Nick that idea, Jordan Baker? But obviously, she repeats what Gatsby told her and would not Gatsby tell her that? – not as a conscious lie of course – but as something that suits his inspiration at the moment. According to Nick there is only one alpha male in the novel, Tom Buchanan. And it is also not true: Gatsby, as an ultimate man of action, as one who would take all what belongs to him and who is a war hero, is a real alpha male in the novel. There are hundreds, if not thousand articles written on the subject and everybody agrees that Gatsby is a victim, of social inequality, social prejudice or his own wrongly understood romantic dream. But Fitzgerald’s idea of Gatsby was different: he saw him not as a creature molded by social conditions but as a metaphysical man. It is not by accident that Nick calls Gatsby’s conception of himself Platonic. I suspect that Fitzgerald read, understood and liked philosophy more that it is acknowledged. Plato’s conception of a man was purely idealistic; people are born with certain inbred qualities of their minds and souls, during people’s lives, these qualities, depending on circumstances, might reveal themselves and might not, but no life-circumstances, no matter how extreme, can change these qualities (Plato’s man as a complete opposite to spineless and opportunistic Derrida’s man). There is one Gatsby’s quality that stands out: “He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you, at your best, which you hoped to convey. Precisely at this point it vanished “…and I was looking at the elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd”. Gatsby is an exceptionally gifted Confidence Man. There is the hilarious Wolfsheim’s utterance about his first meeting with Gatsby: “…I talked with him an hour. I said to myself: ‘There’s the kind of man you’d like to take home and introduce to your mother and sister.” Wolfsheim, that shrewd criminal operator, after speaking with young Gatsby for “an hour”, knew exactly what kind of human material he is dealing with – that kind you keep from your mother and sister within shooting range of the biggest possible gun.
    It would be a cardinal mistake to call Gatsby “immoral” or “phony”: he is outside of value-system that employs such terms. It would be also wrong to measure him in terms “authentic-unauthentic”: Gatsby authenticity, like of any good actor, consist of imitating somebody else authenticity. The better he imitates, the more authentic he is. Best moments in his life are when he seduces Daisy on false pretenses or glides anonymously among his guests while they are whispering to each other about his improbable biographies. It is when he tries awkwardly and unsuccessfully to de-mask himself that he is in danger of losing his authenticity. He is so nakedly naïve and hopeless in his showdown with Tom, that, paradoxically as it might seem, he, with his grotesque language, looks like Tony Curtis playing a millionaire to Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.
    The idea of Confidence Man is in his complete detachment from more-or-less rationally organized world of men and women, who call themselves either “God creatures” or “social animals”. Step by step, Nick leads us closer and closer to Gatsby real identity, but Gatsby has no identity in our meaning of this word. There are two photographs of him and both are illusionary as they suppose to be: how photography can register an image of a man whose reveries “were a satisfactory hint of unreality of reality”? I will repeat: although majority of personages are written in explicitly realistic mode, The Great Gatsby cannot be considered realistic novel because its two main characters exist not only in concrete reality, but also in symbolic and abstract unreality.
    No, Gatsby is not a realistic novel; it’s not even a novel about so called romantic love. Was it written by Nick-the-Realist, it would be much more realistic and definitely more romantic novel with Gatsby solidly taking central place in the plot. It would still be an excellent, beautifully written novel on the par with the best novels written by other American authors. But Nick-the-dreamer gives the novel different dimension because Nick-the-dreamer is an uneasy bearer of a certain vision that has not much to do with concrete novel’s plot.

    When I say “a certain vision” I don’t mean the sort of vision that blinds mental eyes of a great prophet or a great warrior with an urgency of its crystal clear message. I rather mean a sort of vision that sometimes burdens, not mental but rather sub-mental eyes of the great writers and sits not in their brains but rather in the marrow of their bones so to speak. By the stroke of his genius, Fitzgerald creates an image of such a writer under guise of Nick Carraway, and from that moment, Fitzgerald and Nick Carraway exist in parallel universes, both of them having the same problem with understanding their own writings. Fitzgerald would vacillate between contradicting, mutually exclusive titles for his novel not knowing if Gatsby is predominantly satirical novel (“Trimalchio in West Egg”) or overwhelmingly romantic (“Gold-Hatted Gatsby” or “The High-Bouncing Lover”). Similarly, Nick would depict Jay Gatsby as a self-made platonic Confidence Man and in the same time would talk of Gatsby as basically a good man, who “turned out all right at the end” and was just corrupted by “foul dust” that “floated in the wake of his dreams”.

    Addressing Nick’s vision, I probably should have used stronger words: unhappy bearer of unhappy difficult-to-shoulder vision; the vision that one wants to escape, the way Perseus wanted to escape looking directly into Meduza Gorgona face (good literature always served as a magical substitution for the Athens shield). At the very end of the novel, the completely disillusioned Nick goes into trance and dreams of “the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes” and of that “transitory enchanted moment that man must held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder”. This dream, no matter how beautifully it is written, seems abstract and disconnected from the rest of the novel. But, if understood properly, it reveals another dimension of the novel. I said earlier that, when Nick-the-Dreamer speaks of Gatsby, his vision becomes blurred. I will say now that when he speaks of Gatsby his mind wanders among half-forgotten and abstract ideas: “Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something – elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment, a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was incommunicable forever.”
    By strange coincidence, I, as a product of soviet educational system, rigidly oriented on past European culture, might say something about the phrase that escapes Nick’s lips. I vividly remember how reading Gatsby the very first time and coming to the description of young Jay’s self-improvement schedule, I was struck by some momentous ironic association. That is, I momentarily recalled the phrase that stuck in my memory from school days: “Rise, M. le Comte – you have great things to achieve!” Those were the words (we were told by our teachers) young Henry De Saint-Simon ordered his valet to wake him every morning with, and now, with Fitzgerald’s blessing, Jay Gatz addressed himself with, practically, the same words. Soviet school teachers exalted times of De Saint Simon – times of great European educators and social utopists, times of great European social optimism – was Fitzgerald-the-Dreamer really and truly so pessimistic that he was trying to say that all what was left to people of European tradition from bygone times were “a fragment of lost words” he “had heard somewhere a long time ago”? It is clear that nobody would bother to read The Great Gatsby if not for the tragic Gatsby’s love in the center of the novel – this love shines as the only real thing in the book, its authenticity shaded off on the background of everybody else’s egoism, corruption and total phoniness. But this love is not what Nick remembers of Gatsby when he introduces him in the beginning of the novel: “…there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away… an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again”. It is difficult to relate the adjective “gorgeous” to the unhappy lover and failed love and much easier to a person with Donald Trump mentality. And this is exactly how Nick chooses to remember his hero!

    Almost hundred years before publication of The Great Gatsby, Stendhal published his masterpiece Red and Black. Using Google, I tried to find traces of any comparison between these two novels but found nothing, and it is a pity. Keeping in mind Fitzgerald’s chosen title Under Red, Blue and White, we have here practically the same title, the same self-made scheming peasant boy and his love to the upper class lady. But what a difference between those two books! I mean: what exactly is the difference between those two books? What is the difference between solid rock and pulp made out of rocks, real diamond and false one, Notre Dame in Paris and Mirage of Notre Dame in Sahara desert? Stendhal was writing Red and Black in the time of reaction, not the best of the times for a man of liberal worldview. But, as anticlerical as he was, he depicted in Red and Black several images of humble and honest priests, if limited intellectually. He liked social order under Bonaparte and disliked social order under Bourbon Restoration, but he would never describe Marquis de la Mole as a dishonest man or self-absorbed phony. Coming to main characters – what a striking difference between them in both novels! In a blink of an eye, (what is hundred years in human history?) Madame de Renal turns into Daisy Buchanan and Julien Sorel into Jay Gatsby. Having in mind interpretations of word “romantic” in Webster dictionary we have in Julien Sorel a literary personage who perfectly answers the definition of a person who is “responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous”. Julien Sorel is passionate in his world-view; his love for Napoleon is sincere, his awareness of social injustices is impeccable. But, as a representative of European literary tradition, he still, like Gatsby, is a picaro as well as a knight – both an adventurer and a lover. Red and Black and The Great Gatsby brilliantly crown chain of tale-of-chivalry and novella picaresca European novels, but Gatsby goes further. By ironically giving a role of a Romantic Hero to a conman, Fitzgerald kills off European romantic novel the way Cervantes killed off with don Quixote Tale-of-Chivalry novel.

    Nick-the-prose-writer writes: “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – phrase which if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about his Father’s business, the service of vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty… and to this conception he was faithful to the end”. But Nick-the-poet raises his shoulders and shivers: “I was reminded of something – elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago”. Nick-the-prose-writer knows that when it comes to material goals, all civilizations are equal in pursuing land, gold and slaves. But Nick-the-poet knows that spiritual motto of each civilization is different and unique. And here is disturbingly illogical rub: from one point, this motto is a high-minded excuse to cover low minded instincts, but from another – the moment a civilization loses its motto, it loses its illusions; then it loses its material wealth and dies. In the last paragraphs of the novel, Nick dreams of “…the last and greatest of all human dreams…” Even if he makes regrettable common mistake substituting overlapping “all human” for “all European”, there can be no mistake where poet’s heart of the matter lies. All enviable ability of Nick-the-prose-writer to get under the skin of the contemporary American society and expose its grotesque ills cannot make Nick-the-poet to forget his cultural heritage. Nick in his semiconscious state of mind is “brooding” of “a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent… face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder”, and in spite of all his brooding, nowhere in the novel is his judgment so precise, his historical memory so clear, his existential position so definite. He talks of a “man” but it is obvious that he speaks of the European man who came to the New Continent’s shore in his hope “last time in history” to build a Better World. Nick just told us the story about state of affairs in this Better World, circa one thousand ninety twenty two, AC, and it might look as a satirical, even bitter and angry satirical story… but it is not so. He is still a young man, this Nick Carraway, but his European soul is hundreds and hundreds of years old and not so optimistic anymore (cultures always begin at the highest point of their illusions and then go down the path of realism). He might know the difference between Julian Sorel and Jay Gatsby, as well as anybody else, but this difference means very little to him in his existential awareness that Sorel was there and then, and Gatsby is here and now. And Gatsby is the most important man in the whole world to him now – Gatsby, not as a concrete human being, but rather as a symbol of the European man who “believed in the green light, that orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us”.

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