claps.gr

(Text in greek)


Save her this waltz.


She appeared prematurely and lived fast. The era was somewhat inappropriate for smart, dynamic, gifted tomboys like her. She had grace, talent, communication charisma, but she suffocated living in the shadow of Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Even her literature performance was overshadowed by his. The pressure, the stresses and the uncertainties in conjunction with the proverbial binge of the couple ultimately contributed to the rise of a mental disease. Zelda was however a beauty, an idol, a restless and innovative spirit. She and her husband Scott inspired plays, movies, musicals, books -with latest the novel “Zelda - Scott Fitzgerald” by Agnes Michaux (Kedros Publications).
Overactive, hyperactive, dapper, Zelda was a “devil” since very young - a part of her vigor she vented it in ballet. In high school, although intelligent, she didn’t care for the lessons –she preferred going out, partying and boys. The unconventional spirit of the 1920s found in her the ideal exponent. She drank, smoked, she talked swaggy, she dressed sexy, in short she did everything she could to malign the good name of the family. She was indeed “the quintessentially American tomboy” as her husband Scott Fitzgerald was flattering her.


She was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 24, 1900. She was the youngest of the six children of the Judge Edward Shire, who rarely had time to deal with them – they were raised by their mother, Mini. She christened their youngest child Zelda, giving her the name of a gypsy princess from a children's fairy tale. She hit the bull’s eye. The young girl was to live a fairytale life, sometimes reminding of a princess and sometimes of a gypsy. Unfortunately unlike fairy tales, the story had no happy end...


Scott Fitzgerald served in an army camp near Montgomery when he met her, at the beginning of 1918. He saw her dancing in clubs in the area, having all the soldiers at her feet. But he was different – he had a type, fluency, an aura. Soon he called her “baby” and she called him “Mr. South”. Once he fulfilled his military service, he asked her to follow him to New York, but she hesitated. He had first to convince her about his purposes and also stand on his feet financially. He left alone, but did not stop writing to her. In March 1920 he published the novel “This side of paradise”, which was to become his only undisputed bestseller. In the same month he sent to Zelda his mother's ring, she wore it; she went to find him and they got married in April. “She loves the taste of alcohol on my lips. I love her illusions”, Scott wrote tenderly.


With the great success of the first novel, the dollars flow and the voracious spotlight focused on the young couple. Those are beautiful, elegant, and photogenic. They have talent, style, a point of view. They drink a load of champagne without even getting dizzy. Their house in New York City is the transit center for famous people and not. Fitzgerald respond flawlessly in their role as celebrities of the so called “jazz era”. They feel “at home” when wandering in bars, clubs, parties and secular gatherings. The end of such an evening often finds Zelda dancing barefoot on a table. Subsequent novels of Scott (“Beautiful and damned”, “The Great Gatsby”) and the short stories published by the author in monthly magazines, reflect the days of eudemonism. Zelda embodies independent liberated heroines contained therein, as well as many modern women.


Unfortunately the fame soon showed her noxious side. Zelda started envying the success of Fitzgerald, and she wanted desperately to be a writer. She also accused him that he systematically copied her ideas and writings. “The plagiarism begins at home”, she characteristically said. She also feared that her husband was cheating on her. On the other hand, Scott was bothered by the persistent male glances on her every time they went out and by her habit of always stealing the show. With time their quarrels were becoming more frequent, more violent - in one of them Zelda nearly lost her eye. Neither did they care about money anymore. Besides, the cosmopolitan, sophisticated way of life left no room for economies. They ate, drank, shopped, and amused themselves at the best places and traveled a lot. Scott even smuggled alcohol - in the US alcohol was forbidden at the time.


They spent most of their time in New York and France. The City of Light and the Mediterranean Riviera were a magnet for all the so-called “lost generation” of the thirties, which included many of their friends -the Gertrude Stein, Gloria Swanson, James Joyce, John Dos Passos, Rebecca West. Of course the latter category included Ernest Hemingway, who early became a good friend of Scott to such an extent that Zelda blamed them that they had a secret love affair! The only relevant default, however, probably happened on a drunken night in Paris, when the two men compared their qualifications as they peed at the toilet of a nightclub. Zelda disliked Hemingway since the very beginning. She wondered how a “neurotic and hypersensitive person” like her husband could hang out with him. She called him a “sucker”, a “phony” and a “forged checkbook”. Later, her jealousy for Scott ended up being pathological. According to reports, at a party she fell on purpose from the stairs to get his attention when she saw him being playful with Isadora Duncan.


The birth of their only daughter in 1921 did little to calm the couple. Zelda looked after the “beautiful little stupid” as much as possible, but basically Scotty (who much later became a writer, journalist and prominent member of the Democratic Party) was raised by nannies. Moreover, at some point, Zelda started cheating and finally a brief passionate affair with a young French pilot in 1924 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Scott started locking her at home and being isolated in his office. Zelda sought for solace in writing, but most of her stories “were published under the name of Scott or were mysteriously lost”. To combat the nervous crises, she tried to return to her childhood love, ballet. But wanting to win the lost time she got a very exhaustive program that dried her mentally and physically. At 27 she was also an “elder” for a ballerina.


Eventually she began to curse herself because “once she left dancing because of Fitzgerald”. Her crises acquired greater intensity and duration. The obsessions became excruciating. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Thus, the once glittering lady Zelda Fitzgerald spent the rest of her life in and out of clinics and institutions in France, Switzerland and the USA. The latter doctor, however, much later, stated that the main causes of the nervous collapse was the behavior of the husband and the wrong treatment that had been imposed for a long time.


Fitzgerald was certainly deeply influenced by the mental state of his wife. “We were happy a thousand of times... Maybe spring will come back for us, if we believe in the folk songs. Beautiful swan, may you sail lightly. I love you”, he wrote to her in 1932. The disease was a key theme of the fourth novel “Tender is the night” (1934). Maybe in this way he tried to exorcise evil. But the book -as well as the following ones- didn’t have the commercial success of the past and he quickly broke economically. He got overwhelmed by grief and abuses. He began to consider himself as a failed writer and man. Finally he decided to continue his life without Zelda. In 1937 he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Company in order to work as a screenwriter in Hollywood. In the same year he had a love affair with Sheila Graham, renowned journalist of gossip cinematic reportage. They cohabited and he threw himself into writing having a new life, until he was betrayed by his heart. He died on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44, before he could complete his fifth novel “The Last Tycoon”.


Although Scott had reduced his meetings with Zelda since 1937, she continued writing to him until his death. In the 1930s, in her enlightened breaks, Zelda painted abstract paintings, portraits, views of New York - unfortunately most of her projects were destroyed by a significant, as it turned out to be subsequently, fire which occurred in 1934 in the house of Fitzgerald. At times she wrote feverishly. “I collect everything in one big pile marked as “past” and by emptying the deep tank that was once myself, I continue”, she said. Finally she was able to complete and publish a single novel – “Save me the Waltz” (1932). Much later she began a second prose, but she got a horrible and fictional end. On March 10, 1948, in Asheville of South Carolina, the institution where she was hospitalized got on fire and the unfortunate woman died two years before 50.