On the road, Jack Kerouac

On the road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

The author :

Jack Kerouac, born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts, is a an american writer and a poet. He comes from a French-Canadian family.
Student in Colombia, sailor during the World War II, he meets in New York, in 1944, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, with whom he leads a bohemian life at Greenwich Village. Alcohols, drugs, sex, homosexuality, parties, jazz bop, he hangs out with his friends from New York to Mexico, via New-Orleans, Denver, San Francisco… His walk of life is totally the opposite of the « traditional », conformist american life. He dies in 1969, at the age of 47, ravaged by loneliness and alcohol.

The Beat Generation :

The Beat Generation is an artistic and literary movement born in the 50’s in the USA. The expression is used for the first time in 1948 by Jack Kerouac to discribe his circle of friends to John Clellon Holmes. There are many books depicting this movement : Howl, Allen Ginsberg (1956) ; Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs and obviously On the road by Jack Kerouac. Some members of the Beat Generation showed their homosexuality and it made a scandal in the puritan America. For example, Howl and Naked Lunch became the object of trials which allowed to develop the publishing world and the sexual liberation of the next generation. The three authors have influenced the youth walk of life of the 50’s – 60’s. The Beat Generation indirectly inspired May 68, the opposition to Vietnam war and Woodstock. It also illustrates the great commitment to big spaces, nature and spiritualities.

After his first book in 1950, The Town and the City, he develops a new write technique, very spontaneous that will lead the publication of On the road in 1957 : it was written in only three weeks. It is considered as the manifesto of the Beat Generation. It is an autobiographical novel where Sal (Salvador) Paradise, a student and a writer, is Jack Kerouac. Sal, the narrator, just got divorced, meets Dean Moriarty, released from prison, with who he travels accross the USA hitchhiking, by bus or car. Their trip begins to the west, passing by California, then the to east and to the South. Each step of their travel is made of new experiences : meetings, parties, various jobs and problems.

I have like read this book : the characters wander aimlessly, they lived without thinking about their future. On the road offers numerous meditation about life, death, love, friendship… We can also see it through Sal’s monologues. They live from hand to mouth, meeting people, questioning themselves, unending race to find money, food and a place to stay. This book reminds me of Into The Wild at some point (even if the main character is not really here to have fun). Besides, the fact that the road brings aventures, discoveries, meetings makes me want to travel accross a country.

«  Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. 

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