The book Satori in Paris by the great American author Jack Kerouac was completed in 1966 and was released by Grove Press Inc., New York City. In this novella, Kerouac recounts his journey to France on the occasion of his research on the roots of his Britonian surname. The reader will become a companion of the adventures that took place during the writer’s ten-day stay, which led him to an awakening – satori, but he will learn little about the origin of his surname – which is probably the case for the writer himself.
From this book is given the 3rd chapter.
This book’ll say, in effect, have pity on us all, and dont get mad at me for writing at all.
Ι live in Florida. Arriving over Paris suburbs in the big Air France jetliner Ι noticed how green the northem countryside is in the summer, because of winter snows that have melted right into that butlerslug meadow. Greener than any palmetto country could ever be, and especially in June before August (Août) has withered it all away. The Plane touched down without a Georgia hitch. Here l’m referring Ιο that planeload of prominent respectable Atlantans who were all Ioaded with gifts around 1962 and heading back to Atlanta when the liner shot itself into a farm and everybody died, it never left the ground and half of Atlanta was depleted and all the gifts were strewn and burned all over Orly, a great Christian tragedy not the of the French government at all since the pilots and steward’s crew were all French citizens.
The Plane touched down just right and here we were in Paris on a gray cold morning in June.
In the airport bus an American expatriate was calmly and joyfully smoking his Pipe and talking to his buddy just arrived on another plane probably from Madrid or something. In my own plane Ι had not talked to the tired American painter girl because she fell asleep over Nova Scotia in the Ionesome cold after the exhaustion of New York and having to buy a million drinks for the people who were babysitting there for her – no business of mine anyhow. She’d wondered al Idlewild if Ι was going Ιο look up my old flame in Paris:- no. (Ι really shoulda.)
For Ι was the Ioneliest man in Paris if that’s possible. It was 6 A.M. and raining and Ι took the airport bus into the city, to near Les Invalides, then a taxi in the rain and Ι asked the driver where Napoleon was entombed because Ι knew it was someplace around there, not that it matters, but after a period ofwhat Ι thought to be surly silence he finaΙΙγ pointed and said ‘là’(there).
Ι was all hot to go see the Sainte Chapelle where St Louis, King Louis IX of France, had installed a piece of the True Cross. Ι never even made it except ten days later zipping by in Raymond Baillet’s cab and he mentioned it. Ι was also all hot to see St Louis de France church on the island of St Louis in the Seine River, because that’s the name of the church of my baptism in Lowell, Massachusetts. Well Ι finaΙΙγ got there and sat with hat in hand watching guys in red coats blow Iong trumpets at the altar, to organ upstairs, beautiful Medieval cansos or cantatas to make Handel’s mouth water, and all of a sudden a woman with kids and husband comes by and lays twenty centimes (4,) in my poor tortured misunderstood hat (which Ι was holding upsidedown in awe), to teach them caritas, or loving charity, which Ι accepted so’s not to embarrass her teacherly instincts, or the kids, and my mother said back home in Florida ‘Why didn’t you then put the twenty centimes in the poor box’ which Ι forgot.
It wasnt enough to wonder about and besides the very first thing Ι did in Paris after Ι cleaned up in my hotel room (with a big round wall in it, welling the chimney Ι guess) was give a franc (20,) to a French woman beggar with pimples, saying, ‘Un franc pour la Fransaise‘ (Α franc for the French woman) and later Ι gave a franc to a man beggar in St- Germain to whom Ι then yelled: ‘Vieux νογοιι!’ (Old hoodlum!) and he laughed and said: ‘What? — Hood-lum?’ Ι said ‘Yes, you cant fool an old French Canadian’ and Ι wonder today if that hurt him because what Ι really wanted to say was ‘Guenigiou’ (ragpicker) but ‘voyou’ came out.
Guenigiou it is.
(Ragpicker should be spelled ‘guenillou’, but that’s not the way it comes out in 300-year-old French which was preserved intact in Quebec and still understood in the streets of Paris not to mention the hay barns of the North.)
Coming down the steps of that magnificent huge church of La Madeleine was a dignifted old bum in a full brown robe and gray beard, neither a Greek nor a Patriarch, just probably an old member of the Syriac Church; either that or a Surrealist on a larky kick? Na.
Jack Kerouac – Satori in Paris (1966)
Douglas Brinkley‘s lecture was held at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas, Austin, USA, April 24, 2008
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