About Andreas Martin Widmann
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Name: Andreas Martin Widmann
[ book tip by Andreas Martin Widmann ] There are certainly more striking affinities in world literature than those between Cervantes, the Spanish 16th century originator of the modern novel, and Jack Kerouac, the American beatnik poet whose books sometimes resemble one long, hastily typed paper roll filled with accounts of travelling and heavy drinking. However, considering parallels between Don Quichote and the protagonist of On the Road might seem worthwhile when we encounter him once again in Big Sur.
After the enormous success of On the Road, Jack Duluoz, the writer-narrator is on the run. He is trying to evade the fame and the pressure that comes with it, and he is physically fleeing from journalists, fans who keep camping on his front lawn, from 'endless telegrams, phonecalls, requests, mail, visitors, reporters, snoopers', when he accepts the offer to spend some time on his own in the log cabin of a friend. Only a stone’s throw away from the Pacific ocean, out in the Californian wilderness Jack wants to find some peace of mind.
The cabin-owning friend is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, here disguised as Lorenz Monsanto. Although his original intention had been to sneak into town secretly, Jack has spoiled this plan straight away: 'But instead I’ve bounced drunk into his City Lights bookshop at the height of Saturday night business, everyone recognized me (even tho’ I was wearing my disguise-like fisherman’s hat and fishermen coat and pants waterproof) and ’t’ all ends up a roaring drunk in all the famous bars the bloody "King of the Beatniks" is back in town buying drinks for everyone,' he states. Times have changed, though. Jack did not make his return to San Francisco riding on a freight train but in a 'pleasant roomette on the California Zephyr train watching America roll by outside my private picture window'. The problem, however, is, that the public won’t accept it. All over America, high-school and college kids think that 'Jack Duluoz is 26 years old and on the road all the time, hitch-hiking' whereas in real life he is almost 40, bored, weary and exhausted. When he hooks up with his old pals (Dean Moriarty is back, by the name of Cody Pomeray), the camaraderie and the excitement can still be brought up occasionally but they come at a high price. Finally he gets rid of his friends and fans again and spends time composing a long poem entitled 'Sea'. But he has been heading for a nervous breakdown all along and when Jack finally gives in to it, it comes very much as a relief.
Whereas On the Road can be said to capture the high time of the party, Big Sur is the protocol of a long hangover. Like Don Quichote, in the second part of the novel Jack, who is author and hero at the same time, finds himself confronted with images of himself; like Don Quichote he is approached by readers of his famous book who expect him to behave accordingly. It is sometimes painful to witness the hitch-hiking hero turning into a sort of belated travelling knight whose quest has become an illusion. What makes it tragic, though, is the awareness he betrays, and which he has pretty much for himself nevertheless. Big Sur, not nearly as famous and influential as On the Road is therefore anything but a follow up. It is a beautiful and honest book that ought to be read not in comparison but as a complement.
[ book info ] Kerouac, Jack: Big Sur.
(Book language: English)