Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouack, known as Jack Kerouac, was born in 1922 and died in 1969.
Actually, Kerouac was Canadian. But his parents emigrated to the United States. Since he was very young Jack was shy and big-hearted. He adored his parents, especially his mother and his older brother Gérard, who died at 9 years of age, leaving his mother Gabrielle in a deep sadness that made her take refuge in her iron Catholic faith; faith that she tried to instill in her children.
On the contrary, his father took refuge in alcohol and gambling. The death of his brother had a great impact on the boy Jack Kerouac who later reflected in his book “Visions of Gérard”.
When he was six he confessed for the first time since he was a Catholic. The priest gave him the penance of praying a rosary. While praying, Jack heard that God told him that he would have a life full of suffering and that he would die terribly but that he would find salvation.
This experience led her to a life of spirituality and Buddhism, apart from a link with Christ that was reflected in all her literary work.
He was a great athlete who played baseball at Columbia University. However, his continuous fights with his coach made him be expelled from the team. Disappointed, he left the university.
During the short time that Kerouac served in the Merchant Navy, he wrote his first novel, “The sea is my brother”, which the writer himself described as a revolt against society and against inequalities. Although he later described his book as a “vessel of shit.”
In 1944 he was arrested for concealing his help in the murder of a person who committed his friend Lucien Carr (friend of Burroughs and Ginsberg as well). Lucien Carr had been sexually harassed and eventually shot his attacker. Kerouac accompanied him to throw the gun into the Hudson River. It was Burroughs who convinced them to turn themselves in to the police.
Upon leaving prison, Kerouac and Burroughs collaborated on a novel about the murder that occurred “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks”.
Kerouac finished his excellent book On the Road in April 1951 while living in Manhattan with his wife. The book is practically an autobiography in which he narrates his adventures when he toured the United States and Mexico in the late 40s, as well as his relationships with other Beat cultural writers and his friends.
Actually, his biographer said of this book that it has been misinterpreted. He says that the most important thing is not his adventures but the Catholic concerns and the writer’s appeals to Christ.
Kerouac had enemies on both sides of the political spectrum. The right hated its use of drugs and the left reproached its anti-communism and its Catholicism. In 1954 he went to political sessions to support Senator McCarthy while smoking marijuana.
In July 1957 The New York Times wrote that Kerouac was the soul of the Beat generation. In fact it was his friendship with Burroughs and Ginsberg that defined him as the greatest exponent of this cultural movement, among other things because it was he who invented the term Beat Generation. However, Kerouac did not agree and in fact, during an interview he explained that the term Beat was used to refer to a person with little money and few perspectives.
Kerouac’s novel has been described as the work of the King of the beat generation. But Kerouac insisted that he was not a beat. “I’m not a beat, I used to say, I’m a Catholic.”
He was a very prolific writer and, along with his friends William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, the pioneer of the Beat Generation no matter how much he did not admit it. In addition, it was a benchmark of hippie culture in the decade of the sixties.
As well as a Catholic he was a practicing Buddhist and highly respected among the Buddhist masters, the fact that he had become a drunkard finally plunged him into depression. In reality, Kerouac was sunk by the death of his mother, the death of his brother and fame; something he hated. In a letter to an old friend he wrote these premonitory words: “I have become decadent and drunk, I do not give a shit. I am no longer a Buddhist ”
His literature is fresh and spontaneous. Many young people left their homes and went to tour the country after reading their book “On the road”. All his literary work is full of references to drugs, Buddhism, jazz, Catholicism and travels.
Jack Kerouac died at age 47 due to internal bleeding from his excesses with alcohol. Since his death, the writer became a symbol for two generations of literati and all his books were reissued.
Although he wrote more books, undoubtedly the most important are: On the Road, Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur and The Subterraneans.