Ken Kesey

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Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey ([ ˈkiːziː ]; born September 17, 1935 in La Junta , Colorado ; † November 10, 2001 in Eugene , Oregon ) was an American writer and performance artist .


Ken Kesey studied from 1959 at the Stanford University in California's Palo Alto the subject Creative Writing . After being with 1,962 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975 filmed ) a worldwide hit had landed, he founded in La Honda in San Francisco , a municipality with the " Merry Pranksters " and held there happenings , called Acid Tests , where the then The legal drug LSD was still being distributed. The best-known members of the "Merry Pranksters" are Neal Cassady and the music group "The Warlocks", who later made a great music career under the name " Grateful Dead ".

The "Merry Pranksters" are considered to be the pioneers of the San Francisco hippies , they propagated the use of psychedelic drugs , colorful clothing, street theater, light shows, the disco ball and peaceful protest against the violence. The journey of the "Merry Pranksters" in 1964 from San Francisco to New York in a colorful school bus was in Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (Engl .: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test documented). The film adaptation of the book was announced in 2010, but not completed. The release of a cinematic adaptation of the Merry Pranksters' journey from California to New York for the 1964 World's Fair was finalized in 2015 under the title Magic Trip , directed by Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney .

The inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (ger .: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest ) Kesey had received in 1959, while at the Veterans Hospital in California's Menlo Park as an assistant in the Department of Psychiatry worked. There he was given psychoactive drugs as part of the CIA's MKULTRA research program to study their effects. The experiences he worked in the period from winter 1960 to spring 1961 to the novel, which in 1963 was brought on stage and in 1975 also successfully filmed. Michael Douglas produced this film with Saul Zaentz after his father, Kirk Douglas , gave him the rights to the material. The production was carried out with Fantasy Films , which had a distribution agreement with United Artists . The film received a number of awards including five Academy Awards : Best Picture, Best Director ( Miloš Forman ), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor ( Jack Nicholson ), Best Actress ( Louise Fletcher ). After It Happened in One Night (1935) by Frank Capra, the film was the second film to win an Oscar in the five most important categories - the so-called Big Five . One flew over the cuckoo's nest not only cemented Jack Nicholson's reputation as a character actor, but also helped several actors to breakthrough: Christopher Lloyd ( Back to the Future I – III), Brad Dourif and Danny DeVito made their debut in this film.

In 1964, Kesey's second book was published, "Sometimes a Great Notion ". The book was made into a film by Paul Newman in 1970 . The title of the film is You want to be giants . After several trials for drug possession, fleeing to Mexico and a subsequent suspended sentence, Kesey retired to his farm near Eugene, Oregon and wrote his third novel "Sailors Song", stories and several plays about his life with the "Merry Pranksters".

He has never seen the film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from 1975, but criticized the fact that, unlike the book, the film is not told from the perspective of Chief Bromden.

Ken Kesey and the remaining "Merry Pranksters" toured America with their school bus until his death in November 2001, performed at festivals and continued to make happenings. Kesey died of liver cancer .



  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) New American Library; TB reprint, ISBN 0-451-16396-6
    • Translation: One flew over the cuckoo's nest. German by Hans Hermann, March Verlag, 1972 (novel)
    • Translation: One flew over the cuckoo's nest. German by Carl Weissner, Zweiausendeins Verlag, ISBN 978-3861503316 (novel)
  • Sometimes a Great Notion. (1964) A novel
    • Translation: Sometimes a great desire. German by Hans Christian Kirsch. March Verlag, 1985, ISBN 978-3888800597 (novel)
  • Demon box. (1987). New York, NY: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140085303 . A collection of essays and short stories
    • Translation: The Demon Box. New stories from America. German by Hans-Ulrich Möhring. Goldmann Blitz. 1988. ISBN 344-2210372 (short stories)
    • Translation: The day after Superman died. Goldmann Blitz, 1988, ISBN 978-3442210220 (short stories)
  • Sailor Song (1992). New York, NY, USA: Viking. ISBN 978-0670835218 . A novel

Audio book


motion pictures
  • 2011: Magic Trip - Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place (USA, Director: Alex Gibney )

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Tom Wolfe: "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test - The Legendary Journey of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters". Heyne, Munich 2009. ISBN 978-3-453-40621-6
  2. ^ Author Ken Kesey dead , Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , November 10, 2001
  3. List of the audio books spoken by Kesey in Audible