266 - On the Road

Neste mês, 40 anos atrás, morria Jack Kerouac, o celebrado autor do clássico On the Road. Personagem do próximo filme de Walter Salles, esse eterno andarilho também precisava de uma casa para onde voltar. E também de um bar, um restaurante... tudo na pequena cidade de Lowell, Massachusetts que – depois de ignorá-lo por anos – agora lhe tributa a devida honra.
by Kathleen Becker.

Jack Kerouac, who died 40 years ago at the age of 47, is a cult figure in American literature, while his most famous book, On the Road, is a classic. Its writing style was influenced by jazz music, Beat poetry, alcohol and drugs, and it captured the spirit of a generation.
On The Road tells the story of Kerouac’s travels across America with his friend Neal Cassady. In the book the names are changed: Cassady becomes “Dean Moriarty,” while Kerouac calls himself “Sal Paradise.” Other members of the “Beat Generation,” such as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, also appear – with different names – in these road adventures.

Few readers realize that Kerouac’s first language was not actually English. Jack’s parents were French-Canadian immigrants who moved from Quebec to Lowell, Massachusetts in order to work in the town’s booming textile industry - indústria têxtil em expansão . Kerouac only started speaking English at the age of six, and it is said that he started writing the first draft - primeiro rascunho of On the Road in French.
For a long time, says Steve Edington, organizer of the annual Kerouac festival, the town of Lowell did not value Jack Kerouac. The locals were embarrassed by his lifestyle: for many of them, he was simply the town drunk - o bêbado da cidade . But now there is the festival, while his birthplace has a plaque - sua casa natal ganhou uma placa , and there is a Kerouac Park with a large commemorative memorial, and his grave - túmulo is a sacred site for his fans. In 2007, 50 years after the publication of On The Road, the book’s original manuscript – which Kerouac wrote on a scroll - rolo (de papel) – was displayed in town. This attracted Kerouac fans from all over world, and showed them Lowell’s role in the development of his literary conciousness. Steve Edington explains:

Steve Edington
(Standard American accent)

Kerouac kind of has the image of... of sort of the literary pilgrim, the wanderer - o errante, o vagabundo , the nomad, the person that’s always, you know, out there, as his novel says, “on the road,” but I think having this exhibit in Lowell allowed people to see the other side of Kerouac, the part of him that needed to know where his roots - raízes were, and needed to know where his home town was, and to recognize that five of the novels that he wrote are about his childhood and adolescent teenage years here in Lowell. So having the exhibit in Lowell really allowed people to see the two sides of Kerouac because, you know, for every journey there’s got to be a home! And Lowell was the home that he kept returning to.

While a lot has changed in Lowell, many of the places associated with Kerouac have not. You can still see the clapboard house - casa de tábuas de madeira where he was born in 1922, as well as the bridge that he crossed with his mother and where he once witnessed a death. You can also see the high school where he was a promising athlete and where he skipped classes to read in the library - ele cabulava aulas para ler na biblioteca . There’s also a bar in town where he would drink port, think and write, while naked girls danced on the counter - balcão (not any more, it has to be said!). A museum display in a converted textile mill - tecelagem shows his knapsack, typewriter and sunglasses - mochila, máquina de escrever e óculos de sol , as well as his aspirins for hangovers - ressacas . Yet Kerouac’s real legacy - legado, herança cultural is his books. We asked Steve Edington: What makes On the Road so great?

Steve Edington:

The genius of that book is how it can be read at different times in your life, in different kinds of ways. And when you read the book, I... it’s like, when you’re in your twenties or your thirties, or maybe some of your teens - em algum dos anos da adolescência and your twenties, you’re captured by the energy of it, and you’re captured by the spirit, you just want to drop everything you’re doing - você tem vontade de largar tudo o que estiver fazendo and get out there on the road and carry on like Jack and Neal did. So, you catch the energy, you catch the spirit, you catch what, I think, in the book he refers to as “ joy, kicks and darkness - ,” just the whole lure of that - . But, if you really read that book carefully, there’s this kind of this overlay - camada superficial of joy and exuberance, and free-spirited wanderlust - and all those kinds of things, but there’s also an underlay - nível mais profundo, subjacente , if you read it very carefully, of sort of tragedy and loss. And if you read it at different times in your life... the older... I’ve found the older I get, I still get excited by reading it, but I also see that Kerouac was also seeing kind of a tragic side to the road as well, and how he could see both sides of the road, or both aspects of the road, when he was only 29 years old himself, is, I think that’s kind of amazing - , I think that’s part of his literary genius, that he really read (he means “wrote” - ed) a book that can be read and re-read at different times in the life cycle.


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