An Icon Of American Literature
Jack Kerouac. The first time I saw the name of this writer I knew nothing about him, it was a few years ago in the memoirs of a famous Montana author. He was referring to Jack Kerouac as an icon of American literature, and I was surprised that a family name with such Breton resonance could associate with America.
A few days later I was in my hands. On the road, the Beat Generation’s leading book, realizing with enthusiasm that I had just found the kind of literature I had been waiting for. Long descriptions of landscapes, a style of spontaneous writing mixed with great lyricism where travel also rhymes with melancholy. The fact that this icon of literature is as Breton, as I am, being the icing on the cake.
He is considered one of the most important American authors of the 20th century. His style of writing has inspired American singers Tom Waits and Bob Dylan.
On the road, his most famous novel is an ode to the great outdoors, to the epic adventure towards the west, and to the discovery of new worlds.
The Truth About Its Origins
Breton origins that the writer has long sought to understand and document throughout his life in particular in 1965 where, a few years before his death, he visited the city of BREST after having found in the National Archives of thin information about his ancestor Maurice -Louis Le Bris de Kervoac. Information that unfortunately will not suffice to shed light on its history.
The surname of his ancestor is actually Urbain-François Le Bihan de Kervoac.
Son of notaries from Huelgoat, who, targeted by justice for charges of thefts, decides to go into exile in Quebec. An ancestor who, to protect himself from justice, will constantly hide his true identity, thus preventing the writer from pinpointing his genealogy.
His demons and successes
In 1946, his father died and took refuge in books. His writings became increasingly autobiographical and he worked frantically on the tapestry of On the Road, from his numerous notebooks of preparatory notes. This “introspective writing leads him to wonder about the foundations of his evil of life” and Kerouac realizes that he has “a subconscious desire to fail, a kind of wish of death. “
Having problems with alcohol and drugs, during 10 years his writings will be refused by the publishing houses. His income became very low and his addiction to alcohol and amphetamines reached a climax. He plans to stop writing several times, in vain.
In 1955, in San Francisco, Kerouac made an important encounter: Gary Snyder, an enthusiast of hiking and Japanese philosophy. The two men, accompanied by a bookseller, John Montgomery, make an expedition at an altitude of 3600 meters to the peak of Matterhorn. Kerouac is introduced to meditation and haiku, short Japanese poems that evoke a feeling, a situation, an atmosphere. The encounter with himself and with the simplicity, the absence of excesses and drugs or alcohol makes Kerouac decide to begin a “new life”.
2 years later, his novel On the Road is published and the success is immediate. According to the poet Kenneth Rexroth, he is even “the most famous author in America.“
At the end of his life, covered with debts, Urbain-Francois Le Bihan of Kervoac died leaving a wife and three children who fathered the descendants of Jack Kerouac among them Jean Baptiste Kerouac, French-Canadian grandfather of Jack Kerouac who emigrates In the USA, thus making his grandson the most Breton American writers.
In 2012, the Brazilian film-event Walter Salles, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, is presented in official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, the first exhibition in France of the original text of the mythical On The Road. Reclus of the world and without a penny, but with an archive that will be valued at more than 10 million euros …
In spite of his demons and though he died prematurely due to his excesses, Jack Kerouac brilliantly succeeded in impressing minds by his genius and inspiring positively many people on his way, beyond the origins and the borders…
Article written by Jude Castel, author of destination and wandering.