Satori in Paris

A little bit of light refreshment was understandably needed following the epic war drama I had just battled through, and this is where the achingly cool and undeniably handsome Jack Kerouac has come in. (Ladies, please see photo inset and be very impressed.)

Most of you will be familiar French-Canadian Kerouac, often lauded as the father of the post WWII Beat Generation, and this short snippet of his life, hurtling around Northern France in search of ancestors is a real reflection of that particular style. It is short, snappy, cool and poetic.

I was pretty sure this was one for the TBR pile, but as I picked it up at the bf’s insistence I realised that I had read this gem before, albeit it during rather headier days of my own, perhaps the reason for my forgetting. After a quick type into Wikipedia it seems that ‘Satori’ is a Zen Buddhist term for enlightenment, an area of spirituality that many of you may know came hand in hand with this generation of writers’ interests and something often reflected in their prose. As the title suggests, Kerouac experiences his Satori at the hands of a simple taxi driver in Paris, yet is nevertheless keen to point out several poignant moments throughout his whirlwind trip in search of his ancestry that may have occasioned a further moment of enlightenment for him.  This is not a straightforward short story and the idea, I feel, is to simply enjoy the rhythm of his language (French included) the characters he meets and the atmosphere he creates.  My personal interest in all matters etymological also gave this book an extra je ne sais quoi.  It does take a few pages to become accustomed to his odd turn of phrase but, once you’ve ‘got it’, its well worth hanging in for the ride. This is an amusing little book, full of personality and excitement that left me wanting more.  Beyond that, the only way to really understand this story is to read it for yourselves:

‘This cowardly Breton (me) watered down by two centuries in Canada and America, nobody’s fault but my own, this Kerouac who would be laughed at in Prince of Wales Land because he cant even hunt, or fish, or fight a beef for his fathers, this boastful, this prune, this rage and rake and rack of lacks, ‘this trunk of humours’ as Shakespeare said of Falstaff, this false staff not even a prophet let alone a knight, this fear-of-death tumor, with tumescences in the bathroom, this runaway slave of football fields, this strikeout artist and base thief, this yeller in Paris salons and mum in Breton fogs, this farceur jokester at art galleries of New York and whimperer at police stations and over longdistance telephones, this prude, this yellowbellied aide-de-camp with portfolio full of port and folios, this pinner of flowers and mocker at thorns, this very Hurracan like the gasworks of Manchester and Birmingham both, this ham, this tester of men’s patience and ladies’ panties, this boneyard of decay eating rusty horse shoes hoping to win a game from…This, in short, scared and humbled dumbhead loudmouth with-the-shits descendant of man.’
p. 71

14 thoughts on “Satori in Paris

  1. Perhaps my greatest claim to fame is I saw Jack K. in San Francisco once. He didn't look like your photo. He was something in his youth, wasn't he? As to his writing . . . excuse me while I swipe some drool from my chin . . . there! So I guess you know I'm a fan of the man.

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  2. Hi cleemckenzieIt's probably a good job he didn't look quite the same as in the picture as, judging by the photographs, I would most likely disgrace myself, either by gawping or chasing him!Isn't he just so utterly cool. One of those lovely occasions where you read something and wonder how anyone could express themselves so…at the risk of sounding a little cheesy – sublimely!

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  3. What a great post. Nice review. I am a new follower. I would love a visit/follow on my blog if you have a moment. I am also hosting a give away of the book "Mistakes". Be sure to enter.Donnahttp://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com

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  4. Hi DeborahIt is a very cool book indeed aaannd..small enough to fit in your pocket as you bum around Paris (I can only dream..) Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  5. Quirky language that Quebecois…I have to admit I couldn't read more than a hundred pages of this type of stuff, it is heavy-going but I took 'Satori in Paris' almost as you would a quick, snappy peace of poetry or even music …. the kind of thing you don't settle down to read but more…stick in your back pocket as you mooch around Paris dipping in and out of bars, relishing your next absinthe and enjoying the ambiance and quirky characters (stereotypical I know!)

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