Articoli taggati con ‘beatnicks’

Tafterjournal n. 104 - GENNAIO - FEBBRAIO 2019

Sociology of dissent: American Beatniks and pre-sixty-eight Europe

di Luca Benvenga

In the Fifties of the XX century, American provincial and urban roads were occupied by “groups of vagrants”, who theorized an unusual “on the road” culture with their own ethics and their own “way of life”. The assault on culture was the characteristic of this group of “beatnik”[1] poets, artists and literary men, which, retrospectively analysed, becomes an archetypal condition of XX century avant-garde. Historically the beat movement has been considered the first outcry phenomenon prior to an increasing movement of teenager opposition, holding the key points of what will prove to be a radical breakup of an all-embracing and absolutist system. Its rebellion came out of a widespread feeling of clear, visible refuse towards the dominant power, so that the beat alienation from the “system” was to be understood as a real revolutionary process rooted in the Self and directed to the liberation from any oppressive power. Sympathetic towards the present, narrated as it presented itself to their own eyes, the various “Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs – Goffman wrote- avoided the direct participation to some of their hipster friends ‘desperate excesses, preferring to observe and express solidarity.” They could understand and identify themselves with Bill Cannastra, who danced on the broken glass and on the mouldings, who once lost his challenge with the death while climbing the window of a New York subway car. They offered comfort and shelter to Herbert Huncke, a heavy drug addict who used to get money pilfering in Time Square. An extraordinary performance, a kaleidoscope of images and sounds from the underground, through which the beat wanted to give a violent shock to the romantic views of civil society, to the routine and usual ways of observing and analysing the real world, the one represented indeed by “Cannastra’s death, drug addicts and street thugs who passed by the windows of a diner in Time Square, where they spent…their time with Huncke”. These desperate lives represented to the beat writer the evidence that “we were detached from the official perspective of history and reality”. An unconventional socio-political context mixed with an idyllic, raw and releasing language, used to eviscerate the American low-lives: it is here, among run-down premises and dump houses, that they were involved in the lives of dropout hipsters, developing a literary identity marked by independence and experimental research. Without any directional structure and without any organization to embrace the whole movement, the key aspects of the beat generation, besides the change and subversion of linguistic models, were the absence of a fixed commitment, the non-violence, and the absolute freedom, which prevented the emergence of any centralized and hierarchical structure. In fact, as Holstein writes, we- the beat- “before the links  of a society characterized by any structure, recognized the tribal links proper of a primitive communitarian feeling, directed to mutual help, hospitality, refuse of property, friendship and solidarity facing the world outside.”

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