What does Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Jim Morrison have in common besides being legendary rock musicians? That all three draw inspiration from the beat culture. "The Beatles" they spell their name with "a" instead of another "e", partly as a reference to the concept of "beat generation" coined by Jack Kerouac, in which "beat" functions as an adjective for a person with little money and opportunities. On the cover of the album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" Of the many celebrities, writer William Burroughs can be found, and Ray Manzarek writes that if the novel "On the Road" had not been created, "The Doors" there would be none.


The logical question is: "Well, what makes this generation different from any other, what makes it different?" And even those familiar with the socio-cultural movement find it difficult to formulate a clear and concise answer. Even finding the nominative to designate a person belonging to the movement is difficult, because the widespread form of the term "hipster" actually references a stereotypical pattern of clothing and behavior that appears under the influence of "beat" culture later.


The answer that is most common is that the beat generation is made up of a group of post-war American authors, heavily influenced by romanticism, surrealism, transcendentalism, and Eastern philosophy. But the truth is that anyone could be a "beat" during the 50 years of 20 century America. Without necessarily being a poet, artist or musician. Frenetic travel from the East to the West Bank under various circumstances is also not a sufficient condition to be worth the nickname. Beat is a state of mind, an existential attitude.

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The preface in the Bulgarian edition of the novel On the Road by 1983 defines wandering as a "metaphor for deep inner frustration and protest." There is internal dissatisfaction with the novel, but the protest does not lead to the beat generation either in its existential or social sense, much less in its political category.


Clues to even greater gaps in understanding the cultural movement are found in characterizing the journey as a metaphor. "Spontaneous prose" is an invention of the beat generation's father, Jack Kerouac, and as the name of the literary style itself suggests, this type of writing is inseparably linked to the experience as it was at the time of its occurrence, while adhering to the reality of the accepted . At the same time, this does not prevent poets and fiction writers with their mystical revelations and visions when they are part of a sensory adventure. But re-writing it and revamping it for the sake of a more refined expression and greater artistry is against the principles of "beat" authors.


Traveling on the Road, the manifesto of the generation, is literal, not metaphorical, because for these people it is a fix, a need, it is not rationalized - it is a way of life. Demand, adaptation, growth, inner liberation are all dimensions that are assumed for them by the act of travel, they are not secondary features that can be reached in any implicit way of transmission.

In his summary of the "consequences" of the "beat" movement, Alan Ginsberg included the cessation of censorship. Kerouac sees his novel as a story about two Catholic friends who travel around the country in search of God. At the same time, his manuscript was rejected by publishers within the 7 years because it contained vivid descriptions of drug use and implied homosexual relationships. Such a fate is shared by Burroughs' Naked Lunch and Ginsberg's "Howl".

It is interesting how shortly before the 50 years, Americans saw Europeans, and the French in particular, as a benchmark for being brazen, while imperceptibly outperforming teachers in the race to break and behavioral taboos. Yet their works, however obscure they may be in places, do not exude vulgarity and ignorance. Observance of personal dignity and some accepted standard of decency, demonstration of ambition - increasingly behavioral models alien to Kerouac's characters and their prototypes, whose blatantly outspoken actions are provoked by a thirst for meaning and a few intoxicating bliss of happiness under the starry sky.


And it is more than clear that America for Kerouac is not some state structure conditioned by political and social conventions, for him it is not just a geographical territory with its own history. America is a mythologized spiritual category that is in the "beat" generation and above the "beat" generation - it is the starry night itself, in which anything can happen. This archetypal night, on the other hand, leads to a particularly acute sensory perception of existence, evokes a muffled universal sorrow, almost Christian humility before the metaphysical essence of life. Maybe that's why Kerouac later wrote: "I'm not really a beat, but a strange, lonely, crazy Catholic mystic."


In an interview with Ted Berrigan, Kerouac talks about the legendary letters from Cassidy, which are turning the cornerstone of beat art. One of his letters, Kerouac argues, was a length of 40 000 words, "a little novel." Admired, he gave it to Alan Ginsberg, who then passed it on and eventually got lost.

Carlo Marx, a paranoid poet with mystical visions, plunged into his Dakar chaos, easily leads to the figure of Alan Ginsberg. The teacher, in a quiet, monotonous voice who traveled around the world and read Spengler and de Sade at English hotels, found it more difficult to contact William Burroughs if one knew him only from The Big Lunch. Old Bull Lee is also a spiritual master of our wandering characters. When Sal talks about him, there is a special note of respect in the narrative. Bull Lee is the authority that knows life. Studying medicine in Vienna, then anthropology, participating in all sorts of drug-related experiments, he eventually became interested in studying the American streets with his air rifle on his shoulder.


The impact that Proust exerts on Kerouac cannot be denied. At all levels of the novel, there is a motif of time, identified with the higher truth and bound by exalted existential search. If "On the Trail of Lost Time" carries the idea of ​​chronology, then Kerouac provides the missing piece of the puzzle. He attaches the topos to this chronos in order to merge them into the chronotype. It can be unreservedly argued that the only space equivalent to the idea of ​​flowing time is the path. The road, like the weather, cleverly lifts its mirages, in whose nets the heroes are captured. Sal is increasingly dreaming of a settled life, a home, and a wife, but the path sucks him back into the enchanted circle of spiritual hunger and his illusory saturation with adventures.

Slim Gaylard

Just like rock would not be rock without "On the Road", the "beat" generation would not exist without jazz. The prophet in the novel who knows the secret of the times is Slim Gaylard, a jazz performer. He is presented precisely through his spontaneous manner of speaking, through his creative trance, in which he falls while playing, through his grim tense grimace of mediator between reality and the world of the transcendent. After the performance is over, Slim seems to slip from the halo of the unusual, the mystical, and he retreats to some corner with a glass of whiskey stuck in his hand. Gaylard, in his fictional language, manages to get along not with another, but with Dean Moriarty, the main character who also speaks his own language, insane to the rest. The language of Neil Cassidy - the prototype of Dean Moriarty - is actually at the heart of inventing "spontaneous" writing.

"On the Road" is a story as much about Sal, behind whom Kerouac himself stands, as much, if not more, for Dean Moriarty. The second one appears on the first page with his longing to be told everything about Nietzsche and to be taught "the wonderful intellectual secrets". Growing up on the streets of Denver is a petty felony, a friendship with Bohemian academics at Columbia University. However, history paradoxically shows that this friendship is more important to them. Immersed in a dry theory and largely middle-class with its various nuances, future "beat" creators are stunned by the exotic Dean who embodies "living life".


photo: Andreaz Wagner

Yale University's Amy Hungerford draws attention to the fact that the lifestyle used by the Beat Generation does not appear to be an escape from the post-war era of consumerism in America, nor does it even testify to the deepening of the problem. In her opinion, the image of the pie, which appears with great frequency within the text, functions as an emblem of the consumer attitude in On the Road.


Hunger, in its various incarnations, is the driving force behind all narrative, and it is not difficult to trace its kinship to that hunger that gives birth to the paradoxes of modernity that have come to monstrous dimensions. In this sense, the legacy bequeathed by the creators can be seen as a spark of life, in the socio-spiritual aspect before the devastating fire of decline, in a postmodern society.

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