Jack Kerouac: On the road to immortality – The Navhind Times

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

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Navneet Vyasan

Born toFrench-Canadian parents, Jack Kerouac excelled in sports from a very young age.Initially, never interested in literature, Kerouacs athletic pursuits won hima sports scholarship at Columbia University in the early 1940s.

At the same time, Allen Ginsberg, also won a scholarshipat Columbia University and then met Lucien Carr. Carr, a well-read academic,was popular for his views and writings, which were infamouslyanti-establishment.

This is the time when, the core members of the BeatGeneration Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, Herbert Huncke and William S Burroughs would go on to start a movement that would inspire generations to come. Throughtheir prose and poetry, they would advocate spiritual awakening, purification,and illumination through heightened sensory awareness. This, they argued, mightbe induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or, in the later years, Zen Buddhism. But itwas Kerouacs book titled On the Road, and his friendship with Ginsberg thatmade headlines every nowand then.

In the 1960s, as their writing gained momentum, adorationwas closely followed by denunciation. However, their works, in time, influencedthese popular trends, then engulfing the world.

The hippiemovement

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act ofleaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich withpossibility, wrote Kerouac in his seminal work, On The Road. Published in1957, this part travelogue part novel, took Kerouac only three weeks towrite. Written in a single, effortless flow, the book was inspired by Kerouacstravel across the rapidly changing post-war United States.

Cited by legendary artistes including, Bob Dylan, JimMorrison, and David Bowie as an influential read, Kerouacs work inspired ageneration of hippie trails. The quest for soul searching, lied in travel, andfor him, the journey he underwent before writing the book, was just a start.Unsurprisingly, American teens read the book cover-to-cover and before late, hebecame a literary icon.

In fact, the term hippie was introduced in the 1960s.Before that, the American media coined the term, beatnik, to describeAmericans, setting on a long journey inspired by Kerouacs writings. His works,acquired a global reach after hippies became prevalent around the world. The trail,required Americans to fly to Europe, which is where it would start. The finalstop, more often than not, being Southern India, the travellers used the passesthrough pre-revolution Iran, and Afghanistan, before it was invaded, finallycrossing over to Pakistan and entering India before settling in the southernstates of Goa and Kerala.


Arguably, nothing influenced music and literature the waycounterculture did. Constantly associated with liberation, one can see the riseof ideals of pacifism, LGBT acceptance and marijuana legalisation when onereads works like Post Office by Charles Bukowski or Fear and Loathing in LasVegas by Hunter S Thompson.

Counterculture literature grew with time when authors,notably, used their writings as a tool to critique the establishment that wasgoverning them. Risking imprisonment and sedition charges, Kerouacscontemporary, Allen Ginsberg penned his much acclaimed poem, Howl. Ginsbergregularly mentions Kerouac in his works.

What is obscenity? And to whom? he wrote in the initialpages of his book, Howl and Other Poems. Ginsberg was frustrated that therapidly growing American economy was masking the countrys military ventures.He accused the everyday white collar worker of ignoring the countrysatrocities. I saw the best minds of my generation who threw their watches offthe roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, and alarm clocksfell on their heads every day for the next decade, he wrote about how the USgovernment was fooling them by luring them with jobs, as a way to mask VietnamWars atrocities. Subsequently, he had to face sedition charges.

Religion andspirituality

In Kerouacs final days, which would also mark theconclusive years of the Beat Generation, he set out in search of spiritualityand was fascinated by Eastern religions. Ginsberg made a historic trip to Indiaand Kerouac published, The Dharma Bums, what is now considered the hippie handbook.

My karma was to be born in America where nobody has anyfun or believes in anything, especially freedom, he wrote. Raised a devoutRoman Catholic, Kerouac after being introduced to Buddhism, mentionsBodhisattva frequently in his works which followed The Dharma Bums. Moreover,this was the early 1960s, when hippies, in their Volkswagen buses, thronged thebeaches of California chanting Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.

(HT Media)

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Jack Kerouac: On the road to immortality - The Navhind Times

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