Saturday, March 12, 2011

epitaphe pour un beatnik

i found this reproduced in a book titled "burroughs kerouac pelieu" published by l'herne press in 1971. i believe it originally appeared in the paris edition of the new york herald tribune shortly after jack kerouac's death. the book also includes an essay by burroughs about kerouac , written in french and first published in le nouvel observateur in 1971.
the history of this work is a good example of burroughs' inclination to rewrite things he had already published.
the first english version appeared in the magazine "soft need" (published in germany) in 1972. ( it might be an indication of how "forgotten" the dead kerouac and the live burroughs were at that point that it would appear in so obscure a venue.)
a longer english version appeared in the bradford morrow booksellers catalogue in 1978 or 1979. this seems to follow the original french version closely enough to be considered a translation.
a revised version appeared in dalkey archive's journal of contemporary fiction in 1983.
then a shortened version of this , retitled "remembering jack kerouac" instead of just "kerouac" was printed in burroughs' book of essays "the adding machine" in 1986. it has since been reprinted in the compendium "word virus", and seems to be the final official version.
a broadside of "remembering jack kerouac" was printed by the white fields press of louisville kentucky in 1994. i have not seen it - i can't say if it is the same text as appears in "the adding machine" and "word virus".
this adds up to at least six versions including the short obit - maybe more. no "first thought - best thought" here!

the bradford morrow version concludes with this cutup paragraph, apparently not printed elsewhere in english :

On the young tender criminal a painful smile...unreplied posthumous... the end of ruined galaxies the shapes are empty now I'm going to tell you the truth when I wrote these books I did it as a holy duty and thought my manuscripts would be discovered after my death so there I am at dawn in my dim cell, it gets very cold outside, the city in winter, dogs snarl from behind wire fences from a crime more secret and baneful than words can tell. I listen to Jack's prophecy like the wind's skin rustling to the last white shadow.

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