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The sardonic pilgrimage of Jack Kerouac / La vie est d’hommage (Boréal 2016)

Yannis Livadas:
The sardonic pilgrimage of Jack Kerouac

The works of Jack Kerouac constitute a rich branch of the American literary tradition, which through the craftiness of such important writers, like Kerouac himself, managed to escape the subsidence in the swamp of intellectual, expressional, pompousness. Ergo, Jack Kerouac’s books do not amount to a shadowy and somehow pointless incident that merely supported the matured American “underground”; which had worn away with a more dramatic intensity than the one through which it was constructed in late ‘50s. Jack Kerouac was a unique experimentalist, a writer on the verge, and he is increasingly recognized as one among the very best in the century.
After the termination of countless, equally essential and meaningless, frictions of modern and postmodern literature; the works of the Beat writers are nowadays widely considered as the most influential phenomenon of the twentieth century, overshadowing the Lost Generation and that versatile stream of American postmodernism. Whether this distinction is infused into one broader misconceived idea of literary backlash, or to what extent this same distinction is purely a postmodern one, is something that would require an extra period of intense investigation in order to be conclusive. The influence and the uniqueness of Jack Kerouac, however, in what is called Beat and postmodern literature is undoubtedly fundamental, integral.
Jack Kerouac overtook with summary yet confident procedures the myopic nature of the discordant aesthetic aspirations, the extensive  imbroglio that American culture was burrowing through in the ‘40s, the ‘50s and, mainly, the ‘60s, providing the most expansive and transparent literary language since Walt Whitman.
To the many previously unpublished works of Jack Kerouac appearing lately in consecutive editions—with admittedly uneven importance—is now added the excellent La vie est d’hommage (Boréal 2016). This new volume gathers the original French writings of Jack Kerouac. Kerouac readers already knew of his fondness for peppering his novels with French sentences, the patois of his French-Canadian family in New England, but since the opening of the Kerouac Archive in 2006, part of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature of the New York Public Library, we are now aware that Kerouac had also composed and filed away many French texts. Only now had authorization been given to publish the whole in their original, experimental form.
With the blessing of the Kerouac Estate, Jean-Christophe Cloutier, professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania, has transcribed, reconstructed, and gathered these texts directly from the manuscripts. In order to present these French texts in their entirety, this book was thus took several years in the making. As Jean-Christophe Cloutier explains in his introduction, “Les Travaux de Jean-Louis Kérouac,” the French texts are greater in number and size than had been previously believed. Kerouac toiled over and revised these texts, yet never showed them to anyone during his lifetime. They also share an essential bond with Kerouac’s published works in English, shedding new light on his creative process by demonstrating the central role French played in his Kerouac’s poetics. As a whole, this volume reveals to readers new adventures in the Duluoz Legend, and underscore the extraordinary refinement Kerouac had when he wrote in his mother tongue, the language he used to give voice to the truth behind his status as the uprooted son of Québécois immigrants ensnared by the assimilative forces of the United States. At the same time, coming to English via French, jazz, and the greater polyphony of the continent, gave Kerouac the secret freedom to undertake one of the most significant revolutions in postwar American letters. Being influentially aware of the creative spirit and the significance of these texts, Jean-Christophe Cloutier took care to provide us with such a valuable gift.
The volume contains sixteen texts. The first part of which consists of works of fiction, including two novellas and many short stories including “On the Road écrit en français” (On the Road written in French). The second part gathers short pieces of non-fiction including letters, notes, and commentaries—notably one on Louis-Ferdinand Céline written in impeccable standard French.
Later this year, a new American volume of previously unpublished works by Kerouac will be released by the Library of America entitled The Unknown Kerouac: Unpublished, Rare & Newly Translated Writings. Among other long sought-after texts like Memory Babe and Kerouac’s 1951 Journal, the volume will include English translations of the two French novellas, La nuit est ma femme [The Night is My Woman], and Sur le chemin [On the Road: Old Bull in the Bowery]. Enjoying a much wider release around the world than the French-language book (alas, limited to Canada), The Unknown Kerouac is edited by Todd Tietchen—who had previously edited Kerouac’s The Haunted Life and the Library of America volume gathering Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, and Big Sur—and the translations are by Jean-Christophe Cloutier.
Jack Kerouac was without doubt one of the most melancholic and analytical observer of his time; and one of the most innovative. He was also one of the very few writers who purified the ardent wave of new literature from the consequences of the ideological and aesthetic moralism; although nowadays both have been resurrected into world literature, more or less transforming it into a coincidental and inorganic externalization.
Kerouac did not think, nor wrote, in a positive way; and above all he was not, in contradiction to most of the writers of his time, so ignorant as to believe that reality was merely an affordable ambit in which we gain access to leave the relics of our common pain. Moreover, Kerouac did not write a single book in which he didn’t undermine the fullness and completion of the modern living conditions and thought.
After all, what is left for us to achieve, through the ecstatic and unparalleled literary saga of Jack Kerouac, is “the unspeakable visions of the individual”.

Paris, June 2016


William S. Burroughs / Semiose Galerie – Paris 2016

Yannis Livadas ~ 25-06-2016 Semiose Galerie, William Burroughs' paintings.
Είμαι ένας από εκείνους που θεωρούν πως το έργο του Ουίλιαμ Μπάροουζ αποτελεί δευτερεύουσα παρουσία στον χώρο της λεγόμενης λογοτεχνίας της αντίδρασης(;) – εφόσον ακόμη και ο ίδιος αυτός ο χώρος, ως είδος, υπήρξε εγκλωβισμένος στην τερατουργική του υπερβολή. Εν ολίγοις, υπερθεμάτισε στη βάση ενός κοινωνικού αντίκτυπου ο οποίος εκφράστηκε ως παρηγορικό, με την καταγγελμένη πραγματικότητα να το υπερβαίνει τόσο με αυστηρά πολιτισμικούς όσο και με αισθητικούς όρους. Δίχως να αναφερθώ μάλιστα στο κατά πόσο ο ίδιος και τα βιβλία του πέρασαν επιτυχημένα από τις παράπλευρες διόδους της όποιας σύγκρουσης με την κατεστημένη ευταξία αποφεύγοντας χαρισματικά το πέρασμα από τις συμπληγάδες, δηλαδή μέσω της κριτικής που εγείρεται από την απείθεια όχι μόνον προς την ωμή εξουσία αλλά και προς τις προσφερόμενες λειτουργίες της. Κατά πόσο, εντέλει, ο Μπάροουζ παρέμεινε ενεργός αμφισβητίας μετά το 1960, ή έπαιξε έναν προσφερόμενο  ρόλο, χώρος για τον οποίο διατίθετο, όπως πάντοτε διατίθεται, υπό τις κρυφές ευλογίες του σύννομου εκδοτικού και καλλιτεχνικού στερεώματος, το οποίο επιλέγει τόσο τα ευλογημένα όσο και τα καταραμένα του τέκνα.
Σχετικά με τις τεχνικές που ακολούθησε, οφείλεται κάποια στιγμή να δημοσιοποιηθεί ευρύτερα πως, με εξαίρεση το «Junky» και εν μέρει το «Naked Lunch», δεν εκδίπλωσε κάποιο νέο αισθητικό και περιεχομενικό γνώρισμα.
Κατ’ αυτή την αναλογία κινήθηκε και στα εικαστικά του έργα, τα οποία χαρακτηρίστηκαν σχεδόν ολικά από την αισθητική των έργων του μέντορά του,  Μπράιον Γκάισιν. Ορισμένα από αυτά φιλοξενούνται αυτές τις μέρες στη γκαλερί Semiose, στο Παρίσι. 


Στο πρώτο στάδιο μετάλλαξης

Στο πρώτο στάδιο μετάλλαξης, ο βλακέντιος τρέφεται με υπαινιγμό. Στο δεύτερο, με επιπλέον υπαινιγμό. 

Γ. Λ.



Με την αναμόχλευση του ζητήματος της εκμάθησης της αρχαίας ελληνικής στο σχολείο, το μόνο που αναμοχλεύθηκε είναι η υστέρηση προτεινόντων και αντιπροτεινόντων. Κι οι δυο πλευρές εξίσου ανάξιες. 

γ. λ.

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