Beat generation

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As Beat Generation , a direction which is US literature after the Second World War, referred to in the 1950s. Well-known beat authors are Jack Kerouac , Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs .


The term was introduced around 1948 by Kerouac, who described his social environment in a conversation with John Clellon Holmes . Holmes published Go , an early novel about the beat generation, and the manifesto This Is the Beat Generation in the Sunday New York Times in 1952 . The adjective beat from the slang of criminals, which Herbert Huncke brought into the group around Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, had the meanings "defeated", "tired" and "run down", but Kerouac also coined the meanings "euphoric" ( upbeat ) "blissfully making" ( beatific ) and in terms of music, especially Bebop , even being on the beat ( "be in rhythm").

Calling a small group of authors and their friends a “generation” should reinforce the claim that they were representative and important for the development of a new style, claiming the legacy of the Lost Generation around Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway between the world wars.

The beatniks lived unconventionally and were characterized by their spontaneity and their sometimes chaotic, but mostly creative disposition. Even if Kerouac had coined the term Beat Generation in 1948, it only became popular in the late 1950s. His authoritative work the way ( On The Road ) was published only 1957th By then, the Beat Generation had already gained a foothold in the mainstream. Its influence as the first “modern literary subculture” runs through the subsequent alternative and socially critical cultural developments; direct successors were the political, intellectual hippies of the east coast, the yippies , especially Ed Sanders is often mentioned as a bridge between the two.

The best-known works were Kerouac's novel Unterwegs ( On the Road ), the long poem Howl , which Ginsberg presented at the Six Gallery reading in 1955 , and Burroughs' Naked Lunch . Howl and Naked Lunch were at the center of court proceedings for alleged profanity and, through acquittals, helped to open up more permissive opportunities for publication in the prudish USA.

The Beat Generation writers met in New York City: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Gregory Corso , who joined in 1950. In New York, LeRoi Jones and his wife Hettie Jones later published Beat Lyrik in their literary magazine Yūgen (1958–62), L. Jones also published his first volume of poetry in 1961 in his Totem Press.

In the mid-1950s, Kerouac and Ginsberg moved to San Francisco, where the San Francisco Renaissance developed around the well-known poet and activist Kenneth Rexroth , the bookseller and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti , Gary Snyder , Philip Whalen , William Everson ( Brother Antoninus ) and others . Ginsberg deliberately brought out Howl in Ferlinghetti's cheap City Lights Pocket Poets series.


  • The sources of inspiration for the authors were characters such as Herbert Huncke in New York, whom Burroughs met in 1946, and Neal Cassady , the "hero" of On the Road .
  • Burrough's wife, Joan Vollmer, and other women were important to the beat movement, but they were not taken seriously for a long time. Women were certainly important for LeRoi Jones, who called himself Amiri Baraka since 1967 . His first wife, Hettie Cohen, worked hard for her husband's success, and the poet Diane di Prima co-edited the literary magazine The Floating Bear with him . She is probably the most famous beat writer.
  • the approach to the improvisations of jazz and the "speed" of modern life led to experiments in language and style that are difficult to reproduce in the German translation: Kerouac's Subterraneans , Ginsberg's poem Howl
  • life at the height of the Cold War
  • Experiences and experiments with hard drugs: Burroughs' Naked Lunch ; the Scot Alexander Trocchi .
  • Restless on the move as a fundamental life experience: Kerouacs On the Road , Lonesome Traveler .
  • Discovery of nature and overcoming taboos (for example free love ): Burroughs' The Wild Boys
  • Zen and Buddhism , imparted by Alan Watts and Gary Snyder , run through Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and Tristessa .
  • North Africa for Brion Gysin and Burroughs. Gysin studied Japanese and Arabic calligraphy.
  • Existentialism v. a. French issues: Albert Camus , Jean-Paul Sartre , Simone de Beauvoir
  • William Carlos Williams encouraged Allen Ginsberg to write. Williams was also important to Harold Norse , who also admired WH Auden .
  • As an avant-garde , they anticipated many topics of the hippie movement.

Beat literature in Germany


On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Howl by Allen Ginsberg appeared in 1959 in the Federal Republic of Germany, Das Geheul bei Limes and Unterwegs by Rowohlt . Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Ed Dorn, Michael McClure and many other Beat, San Francisco Renaissance and Black Mountain College poets were featured in 1961, by Klaus-Peter Dienst in his literary journal Rhinozeros and by Gregory Corso and Walter Höllerer in the extensive boy anthology American poetry by Hanser. The Beat collection , which brought together Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac and Henry Miller, Norman Mailer and Mary McCarthy, was published by Rowohlt at the end of 1962, edited by the old national revolutionary Karl Otto Paetel . In the same year Kaddisch by A. Ginsberg and Naked Lunch by WS Burroughs near Limes in Wiesbaden, there in 1963 also In the Fleeting Hand of Time with G. Corso poems, as translated by A. Ginsberg by the Finnish poet Anselm Hollo.

From 1965 to 1969 Carl Weissner produced his underground literary magazine Klactoveedsedsteen , in which he published, among others, Charles Bukowski and avant-garde works by WS Burroughs. Ralf-Rainer Rygulla gave underground poems to the Berlin Oberbaumpresse in 1967 and Fuck You! In 1968 . at Melzer out, Jörg Schröder had already there in 1966 LeRoi Jones Beat Roman Dante's System of Hell and his more recent volume of essays Way Out in Hate. Relocated from liberalism to black power . Rolf Dieter Brinkmann edited the anthology of poems Silver Screen for Kiepenheuer & Witsch in Cologne (1969) and with Rygulla Acid , 1969 at March. Schröder's Olympia Press offshoot published Diane DiPrimas High! The Memories of a Beatnik Girl (New York, 1968) and Alexander Trocchi's pornography. G. Corso's novel The American Express (Paris, 1961) was probably not included in the German program. A. Trocchi's drug novel Kain's Buch (1960) was published by Insel in 1967.

In 1970 March brought out volumes of poetry by Michel McClure, Dunkelbraun and Gerard Malanga , Self-Portrait of a Poet . Burroughs cut up novel The Soft Machine was published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch in 1971. A. Ginsberg's Planet News (1969) and Gary Snyder's Maya (1972) were in the Hanser series, Maro published in 1975, long before an American publisher, Harold Norses Beat Hotel , Brion Gysin was featured in Udo Breger's magazine Soft Need in 1977 . In his text collage , February 23, 1988 (1989), Udo Breger also noted memories of his dead friend Ian Sommerville (1940–1976).

Today, texts from the Beat Generation in Germany are almost exclusively published by the Stadtlichter Presse publishing house , which publishes an extensive library of the Beat Generation with its Heartbeats series , which is constantly being expanded. Reinhard Harbaum had already started to publish his translations of beat and avant-garde authors as altaQuito specials in his own non-profit company in the mid-1970s .

German underground literature

Brinkmann is today the famous German pop writer of the time, but PG Hübsch in Frankfurt, Jürgen Ploog or Jörg Fauser were also well-known German cut-up and beat authors in 1970: Ploog published in Melzer and in the Expanded Media Editions Udo Bregers, die smaller texts by WS Burroughs, A. Ginsberg, Mary Beach and Claude Pelieu, Sinclair Beiles and Charles Plymell , among others . Fauser's first book was also published by eme , the next by Maro Verlag , which published other German authors and also Charles Bukowski . Peer Schröder wrote inspired by the literature of beat literature.

Cinematic reception

The Beat Generation and its protagonists are the subject of several films: In 2010, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman produced Howl - Das Geheul, an experimental, documentary film based on Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl and the circumstances of its publication. In 2013, Kill Your Darlings was another film about the lives of Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and other representatives of the Beat Generation.


  • Karl O. Paetel (Ed.): Beat. The anthology. 2nd Edition. Maro Verlag, Augsburg 1993, ISBN 3-87512-218-6 .
  • Charis Goer: The new barbarians. Early reception of the Beat Generation in West Germany. In: Stefan Höppner, Jörg Kreienbrock (Ed.): The American Gods. Transatlantic processes in German-language literature and pop culture since 1945 (= Linguae et Litterae. Volume 46). de Gruyter, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-030754-2 , pp. 47-64.
  • Bruce Cook : The Beat Generation. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1971, ISBN 0-684-12371-1 .
  • Elias Schneitter & Helmuth Schönauer (eds.): Austrian Beat. 27 Austrian authors who are associated with the "Beat". Edition BAES, Zirl 2018. ISBN 978-3950-441956 .


  • CD box The Beat Generation (Rhino Records 1992). Compiled by James Austin. With audio recordings by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others.

Web links

Commons : Beat Generation  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Website of the Stadtlichter Presse . Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  2. altaQuito Publications - Field Notes on Poetry , Frankfurter Rundschau-online from October 19, 2016.