Since the Breton nation lived under the colonization of the French, they figure more prominently in Quebec and other French colonies more so than in America. Jack Kerouac makes an exception. He was the creator of the Beats Generation and author of such works as On The Road, Dharma Bums, Departed Angels, and The Sea Is My Brother.
Jean-Louis Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922 to French-Canadian immigrants.
The surname Kerouac can be traced to a town in Brittany in the commune of Lanmeur known as Kervoach. It can be speculated that Kerouac’s father Léo-Alcide Kéroack was a descendant of a Breton family who arrived in Canada, or at least the bearer of that surname. Though, Kerouac himself maintained that he was descended from royalty.
He would grow up in Lowell, becoming a football star in his high school. When he graduated in 1939, he was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University and continued his sports development there and he would meet Allen Ginsberg. However, he eventually became injured, which caused him to lose interest in Columbia University, so he dropped out. He would become inspired by the writings of Thomas Wolfe, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Fyodor Dostoevsky.
He enlisted in the Marines. Although the allure of travel enticed him, he could not tolerate the military discipline and would often seclude himself in the ship’s library. He would become discharged for having an “indifferent character.”
Upon arriving in New York City, he became friends with William S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. Along with Allen Ginsburg, these men would eventually give birth to the Beat Generation. It was a literary movement in the 1950’s defined by a sense of cultural subversion. It was birthed from the constant stress that came with the Cold War, which resulted in writers like himself feeling “beat,” hence where the literary movement got its name.
He embarked on journeys from New York City to San Francisco and the vice versa, which would inspire many of his short stories and his magnum opus On The Road.
However, Kerouac was an alcoholic who developed an intestinal hemorrhage. He passed away at the age of 1969. He was survived by his daughter Jan Kerouac.
Bob Dylan noted that he was inspired by Kerouac’s On The Road. Other musicians claim inspiration from him, such as The Doors, John Lennon, and Jerry Garcia. Kerouac’s writing style was defined as having no care or worry, rather as a free-flowing stream-of-consciousness. His influence is widely felt, and Kerouac gives his name to it.
- Bibliography. Jack Kerouac Society.
- Charters, Samuel and Ann, Brother-Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, and the Beat Generation, University Press of Mississippi, 2010, p. 113
- Dagier, Patricia (2009). Jack Kerouac, Breton d’Amérique. Editions Le Télégramme
- IMDb. Jack Kerouac.
- JackKerouac.com – The Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for the Public Humanities
- Jack Kerouac, Poetry Foundation.
- Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats (1985) – Complete Documentary. Uploaded by Nicolas Flores Pedeira. YouTube. 2020.
- Larson, Jordan. “What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation”. The Atlantic. 2013.
- Palumbo, Tom. Jack Kerouac. 1956. Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 2.0. Changes include reduplication, background blurring, and resizing.
- Viren, Sarah. “Writing with Jack Kerouac, Ghost Father”. Lit Hub. 2018.