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Le Club Jack Kerouac and the Renaissance in Beat Scholarship on Kerouac's French Canadian Background.

Happy Dream of Canada, the illuminated Northern land--! I'm here at
first on Ste. Catherine or some other Boulevard with a bunch of brother
French-Canadians and among old relatives and at one point Nat King Cole
is there talking to my mother... I've been close and talkative and like
Saintly Ti Jean with everyone... I see it all [as] only an outsider
American Genius Canuck can see... such a happy dream, it was Ti-Jean
the happy Saint back among his loyal brothers at last.
                              --Jack Kerouac, Book of Dreams (206-207)


This description, from one of Kerouac's oneiric memories, seems to perfectly capture the complex and nostalgic duality of the writer's identity. On the one hand, such a dream shows the profound emotional, cultural, and linguistic ties he had with the French Canadian and partly Iroquois heritage of his family. As discussed in all of the major Anglophone and Francophone biographies and biographical studies of the author, including those by Victor-Levy Beaulieu, Ann Charters, Tom Clark, Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Gerald Nicosia, Paul Maher, Hassan Melehy, Maurice Poteet, Steven Turner, Eric Waddell, and others, his father, Leo, descended from the Kerouac families of Riviere du Loup, a genealogical branch originating from Maurice-Louis Alexandre Le Brice de Kerouac. Jack Kerouac's mother, Gabrielle Ange Levesque, had been born in St. Pacome de Kamouraska within a peasant family and was three quarters French Canadian and one quarter Iroquois (Charters, Brother-Souls 14). On the other hand, hidden in a dream, this reality appears much easier than the reality of doubleness and partial outsider status that the writer, like many Francophone immigrants, had experienced in New England (Lavoie 1-15).

Kerouac's childhood occurred in the blocks of the Quebecois who had moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, searching for work in a town with five different Catholic parishes and a relevant community of French-speaking Canadian immigrants (Turner 29-32). This Christian, Francophone, Canuck background coexisted with his U.S. identity as the Beat writer who had revolutionized American literature with his spontaneous prose, highly influenced by bebop. He also learned English only at six years of age, something that led Tom Clark to argue that he was "arguably the most important writer since Conrad to adopt English as a second language" (Clark 3). The unusual, hybrid, multilingual heritage of Kerouac was mixed with the difficult reality of the Quebecois diaspora to New England, where, as Joyce Johnson notes in The Voice Is All, this immigrant group was defined by the Massachusetts Department of Labor as "The Chinese of America," though some "New Englanders had other names for them: frogs, pea-soups, dumb Canucks, white niggers," as Johnsonnotes, clearly showing the multiple levels of discrimination that the community faced while resettling (22).

Such a complex background is the reason that the writer's American biographers have always dedicated the initial chapters of their work to difficult and at times contrasting analyses of his existential "Canuck duality" (Maher, Kerouac 244). The first Kerouac biographer, Ann Charters, in Kerouac: A Biography (1973), describes the history of his family in Lowell, the years following the Great Depression of 1929, and the 193 6 floods that destroyed Leo's printing shop, in parallel with references to or narrations of his childhood which have entered Doctor Sax (Faust Part Three), Visions of Gerard, Maggie Cassidy, The Town and The City, and the preface of Lonesome Traveller (20-32). Thus Charters shows in detail how the writer's heritage and memories of his youth have permeated so many of his most experimental works, something which the Quebecois critic Francois Ricard had defined in 1980 as vecriture, a fictional style imbued with facts and derived from the French words verite [truth] and ecriture [writing] (Ricard 85). In Memory Babe (1983) Nicosia recognizes the importance of child saints, such as the Quebecoise Marie-Rose Ferron (Creighton 156), in the Catholic Francophone culture of young Kerouac and the influence this had on his family's hagiographic attitude toward the early death of Gerard, Jack's older brother, who died in 1926 from rheumatic fever (Nicosia 12-28). The motto on the coat of arms of the Kerouac families--Aimer, Travailler, Souffrir [To Love, to Work and to Suffer] (Kerouac-Harvey 3)--seems to sadly mirror the existence of many Quebeckers in the first five decades of the twentieth century, both in their province and abroad. Child mortality was extremely high (Lavoie 1-15). Survivance, in fact, is the very term used by Quebecois communities to describe their struggles to save their Francophone cultural heritage and language within a life of extreme economic difficulties. Clark in Jack Kerouac: A Biography (1984) specifically refers to Kerouac's Quebecois French, constantly spoken with his mother and jotted down in many of his journals, even heard in his dreams. Clark, moreover, devotes an entire chapter titled "Visions in the Lowell Night" to explain the intricate paths of Kerouac's ancestors from Brittany, describing how the writer was interested in all of the facets of his genealogy, including his partly Native Canadian (Iroquois) blood (3-25). Finally, Steve Turner, in Angelheaded Hipster (1996) explores the influence of the nuns and Jesuits who educated Kerouac before he attended junior high school, where only English was spoken, and Turner considers the importance of the Francophone newspapers of Lowell and of New England, which kept the Quebecois community together (Turner 20-38).

As this brief introduction shows, interest in Kerouac's origins was strong even before the writer's journals and diaries, filled with texts, notes, lists, short stories, and entire literary works in joual, were opened to researchers in 2007 at the New York Public Library (NYPL). However, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charters point out during the Rencontre Internationale Jack Kerouac [International Jack Kerouac Gathering] held in Quebec City on October 1-4, 1987, the first generation born in the U.S. to immigrant parents usually loses its language of origin (Ferlinghetti 3). Kerouac faced a similar fate. In a journal entry from the Kerouac archives at the NYPL, quoted by Jean-Christophe Cloutier in his introduction to Jack Kerouac: La Vie Est d 'Hommage [Jack Kerouac: Life is a Tribute or Life is a Pity], Kerouac wrote that" [i]l faut vivre en Anglais, c 'est impossible vivre en Francois" [You must live in English, it is impossible to live in French], highlighting the necessity to linguistically assimilate experienced by Quebec immigrants in America (qtd. in Cloutier 38).

This context is important in explaining why, since the opening of the Kerouac archives at the NYPL, scholarly publications and editions of Kerouac's manuscripts written in French have blossomed. On the one hand, the NYPL archive offers a treasure trove of manuscripts. Consequently, the experimental nature of Kerouac's texts, which generated an innovative contemporary prose style in America, can be more thoroughly seen as influenced by his Francophone syntax by studying the corpus of texts he wrote in French, written in his unique phonetic orthography (Cloutier 26-27). Kerouac's Francophone manuscripts can be found in La Vie Est d'Hommage, edited by Cloutier, and published by the Quebecois house Boreal; in English, in the collection of original texts curated by Todd Tietchen, titled The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished and Newly Translated Writings; and in recent works including Hassan Melehy's Kerouac: Language, Poetics, and Territory and Veronique Lane's The French Genealogy of the Beat Generation: Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's Appropriations of Modern Literature, from Rimbaud to Michaux. In 2014, the Quebecois Ici Radio Canada radio program Sur Les Traces de Jack Kerouac, moderated by Franco Nuovo and Gabriel Anctil, re-traced the Quebecois-American geography of Kerouac's heritage from Riviere du Loup to Lowell, Massachussets, to New York City, with interviews with members of the Kerouac families, scholars, and close friends of Kerouac, including Robert Frank and David Amram. The radio show is accompanied by a well-researched, free e-book in French, which is available for download on the website of Radio Canada as Sur Les Traces de Jack Kerouac. Also in 2014, the International Festiblues of Montreal dedicated a section of its program to Kerouac, under the title "Montreal Kerouac Blues," following the "Quebec Kerouac" events of the 2012 Quebec Jazz Festival (Kerouac, La Vie 37).

Such contemporary unveiling of Kerouac's Quebecois identity has been helped by studies, conferences, and publications organized by a Quebecois cultural and scholarly association, Le Club Jack Kerouac, which was active from 1984 to 1990 and based in the city of Quebec. The primary mission of this organization was to expand the scholarly investigation, work, conferences and publications on the Francophone roots of Kerouac while creating an international network of scholars and writers, poets, and actual members of the Beat Generation (such as Allen Ginsberg, Carolyn Cassady, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti) who would use their knowledge and research skills to shed more light on this aspect of the writer's life and work (Foundational Documents of Le Club Jack Kerouac; see fig. 1). One of the most interesting goals of Le Club Jack Kerouac was to research Kerouac's Francophone cultural background and the influence that its language, traditions, geography, and religion had on the author, as a man and as a writer. However, the ways in which the organizational team and the members of Le Club Jack Kerouac explored this initial research path was international, with members from the U.S., Canada, Italy, and Japan, who also contributed to the Club's researchjournal entitled, N'Importe Quelle Route [No Matter Which Road].

The foundation of Le Club Jack Kerouac carried the same double--i.e., Franco-American and international--flavor; the Secretariat Permanent des Peuples Francophones, in association with the Universite de Laval via the affiliation of Professor of Geography Eric Waddell, formed the basis of the club. Waddell suggested to Louis Dussault, the director of the secretariat, "the idea of establishing a Club litteraire Jack Kerouac as a modern way of highlighting relations between Quebec and New England and of reading the continent though the eyes of a 'Franco.' Dussault's reaction was enthusiastic" (Anctil, Dupont, and Waddell xi). The secretariat had been created in 1981 by the government of the province of Quebec led by Rene Levesque to link the Francophone communities of Canada and America and to promote American Francophone culture in all its forms, including new studies on the communities of Quebeckers who had immigrated to New England, as had Jack Kerouac's parents (Georgeault and Plourde 182-183). Le Club Jack Kerouac provided all the Francophone American writers influenced by Kerouac with a series of events and publications, including the bulletin of the association, through which to share their Kerouac-inspired works.

As the multi-authored foreword to Un Homme Grand: Jack Kerouac at the Crossroads of Many Cultures [Jack Kerouac a la Confluence des Cultures] points out, the historical climate at the time was favorable for a Quebecois rediscovery of Kerouac: the political morale in Quebec, especially regarding Francophone unity and identity, had been undoubtedly damaged by the results of their independence referendum held in 1980 and required a more positive focus. Nineteen eighty-three was also the year of publication of Nicosia's Memory Babe after the biographer's visit to Trois-Pistoles, home of Victor-Levy Beaulieu, author of the first major Francophone study of the relationship between Kerouac and Quebec, Jack Kerouac: Essai-Poulet [Jack Kerouac: A Chicken Essay], published in 1975 in its English translation. Ten years after a 1972 special in the Quebecois cultural journal, Le Devoir, on Kerouac's Francophone roots, the magazine Moody Streets Irregulars dedicated its Spring/Summer 1982 issue to the same topic, under the title French Connection Issue (Anctil, Dupont and Waddell x-xi). The cultural atmosphere was ripe and the institutional support was equally favorable for the growth of Le Club Jack Kerouac.

The scope of the association was threefold: 1) fostering a constant exchange between American and international Kerouac friends, readers, and specialists as well as the Quebecois fans and scholars of his work, 2) organizing events based on Kerouac as a writer who spoke Quebecois French and wrote about himself as a Canuck, and 3) issuing a specialized journal and other publications dedicated to Kerouac's French Canadian background as well as to Quebecois and international artists influenced by his poetics. A leaflet sponsoring the activities of Le Club Jack Kerouac thus informed its future members:
Our aim is to gather people who are interested in discovering and
deepening the multiple facets of the writer and man Jack Kerouac, with
a specific focus on his being part of the Francophone community of New
England.... By becoming a member of the club, with a yearly
subscription cost of 10$ [sic], all the members can participate in its
activities, have full access to its research centre, and receive the
bulletin of the club, a quarterly entitled N'Importe Quelle Route [No
Matter Which Road]. In addition, a dossier Jack Kerouac, which includes
a biography, a bibliography, and a press kit containing various
articles on the author, is available for 5$ [sic], while the poster of
the association costs 3$ [sic]. (Official Leaflet, translation mine;
see fig. 2)


The result was an enthusiastic reception throughout all the years of the club's activities, which can be discerned from letters in the archives of the association now housed at La Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec. For instance, William J. Colquhoun, a college student from Ocean City, New Jersey, wrote that he was glad to discover Le Club Jack Kerouac, and Danielle Houboly from Grig Harbour, Washington, requested to become a member of the organization and was also curious about similar associations based in the U.S. (Correspondence of Le Club Jack Kerouac).

It is evident, then, that the documentary and bibliographical aspect of the association was as important to its founders as it was to readers and scholars of Kerouac's work. The research center, in the eight years that the club existed, managed to gather rare books (e.g., a collection of memories from the descendants of Maurice-Louis-Alexandre le Brice de Kerouac since 1730, edited by Raymonde Kerouac-Harvey); studies (e.g., The Three Avant-Dire of the Rencontre Internationale Jack Kerouac held in October 1987); videos of conferences (many of the panels of the Rencontre Internationale Jack Kerouac, as well as interviews withKerouac, such as Fernand Seguin's for Radio Canada in 1967); correspondence, minutes of meetings, press releases, photographs (including a group picture of the founding committee of Le Club Jack Kerouac when it had been invited to Lowell, Massachusetts, for the opening ceremony in 1988 of the Jack Kerouac Commemorative in Kerouac Park; see fig. 3); copies of the Club's bulletin; and a selection of journal articles from Canada, the U.S., France, and Italy related to Kerouac, which fill nine boxes of original documents available for scholarly research in the BANQ Research Center.

One of the most interesting aspects of this archival material is the collection of copies of the association's journal, N'Importe Quelle Route [No Matter Which Road], which ranfrom 1987 to 1989 (see figs. 4-8); it was diverse in its textual and visual content. A close analysis of some sections can allow readers to more fully appreciate the multiplicity of authors who collaborated on it. Every issue featured poems, sketches, interviews, essays, and original writings by numerous Quebecois (but also Anglophone Canadian, American, and international) scholars, writers, journalists, poets, artists, film directors, with interviews and anecdotes related to the Beat author. Across the years, there was a clear evolution from the simpler, more minimalist, black-and-white format of the first issue, published in March 1987 and paving the way forthe International JackKerouac Gathering (October 1-4,1987), to the more detailed and colorful style of the later issues, dated 1989. The journal covers in figures 4-8, for example, depict iconographic themes that are clearly Kerouacian: car parts, tires, stylized images of female bodies, abstract drawings, photographic portraits of several authors, sketches of the American continent, collages of crumbled paper, aquarelle drops, mechanical parts, multiple and scattered fonts reminiscent of the literary experiments of DADA and Modernist journals, Italian Futurists' publications, as well as the underground magazines printed in Beat literary circles, such as The Floating Bear and Yugen (Hayward), and in Francophone Quebec following the turmoil of France's 1968 political protests (Bailie 30-31). The journal may have reminded many Quebeckers of the famous Hobo-Quebec, which was a
magazine of writing and images (1972-1981) [which] can be seen as an
artistic magazine par excellence of Quebec counter-culture. Created by
Claude Robitaille, soon assisted by Andre Roy, the magazine published
visual art, poetry, and prose by the likes of Denis Vanier, Josee Yvon,
Yolande Villemaire, Claude Beausoleil, Straram Patrick, Victor-Levy
Beaulieu, and many others: collages, texts, images, games, essays,
criticisms and reflections. (Expozine)


Among the most constant contributors to Hobo-Quebec, one notices names of Kerouac specialists such as Victor-Levy Beaulieu, and major Quebecois experimental poets including Denis Vanier and Josee Yvon, who had openly declared to have been influenced by Kerouac. The magazine welcomed avant-gardist writers who, like Kerouac, aimed at breaking stylistic and thematic taboos. Hence, the Autumn 1988 issue of Le Club Jack Kerouac's journal includes Vanier's "Kundalini Heavy-Metal." One year later, in Autumn 1989, the journal published an untitled poem by Yvon, whose work addressed the gender spectrum, including transsexual and lesbian characters living a liberated sexuality, through openly anti-homophobic and feminist political perspectives.

Following this same desire to break the gender taboos related to experimental writing and to Kerouac, when she was asked to contribute to the International Jack Kerouac Gathering (see fig. 9), Yvon replied with a letter, also in Le Club Jack Kerouac's archives, in which she agreed by declaring that she would deliver a speech entitled "Jack Kerouac et le feminisme [Jack Kerouac and Feminism]." Her presentation aimed to define the problematic attitude of the writer towards women (including his many partners, his mother, his daughter, and Carolyn Cassady) and the lack of recognition that the women of the Beat Generation faced in a closed circle that seemed to be exclusively male (Correspondence of Le Club Jack Kerouac). This eventually became her experimental essay entitled, "Slab Bacon Comme a Lowell ou Les Tendances Sexuelles de Jack Kerouac" in Un Homme Grand (Anctil, Dupont, and Waddell 165-179.) It is sad to think that Yvon did not live long enough to see the development of scholarship on women Beat writers over the last half century.

The openness and politically active positions of N'Importe Quelle Route [No Matter Which Road] were not limited to a Quebecois feminist approach towards the Beat generation and Kerouac--the magazine clearly wanted to fight discrimination of all sorts, almost as a reaction to the marginalization and feelings of being outsiders that many Quebeckers had faced while migrating in search of work. If the geographical starting point of the journal was Quebec and Francophone America, the path that its writers wanted to take had no geographical boundaries, and it included a unique entry, written by Japanese poet Yusuke Keda, on the reception of Kerouac in Japan. In this essay, Keda reveals how the Japanese translations of Kerouac's works were limited to On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and The Subterraneans, and how the lack of translations of his other novels had a serious impact on the ways in which the Japanese audience perceived the author. Keda also writes, however, that Kenzaburo Oe, a major Japanese writer, had publicly stated his love and admiration for Kerouac, thus encouraging many of his readers to discover Kerouac's works in translation, as well as in English (30-31).

Widening the borders of the research published in French and related to Kerouac also meant providing a publication space for both the research of Quebecois scholars specializing in the relationship between the main Francophone province of Canada and Kerouac, and their reviews of the most recent American scholarly publications on the writer, which may have interested a French-speaking public. Consequently, the journal carried contributions by Maurice Poteet, professor of literature at the University of Quebec, on "The Role of Quebec in Kerouac's Fiction" and by Robert B. Perreault on "The Franco-American Side of Jack Kerouac."

Together with scholarly articles such as these, the Quebecois journal of Le Club Jack Kerouac published reviews of American scholarly texts on Kerouac--such as Regina Weinreich's Jack Kerouac's Spontaneous Poetics--and close readings of Beat works, focusing, for instance, on the recurrent erotic fixation with hanging in William S. Burroughs's fiction. Other contributions to the journal tried to compare Kerouac's double identity with that faced by other communities in America. Dean Lourder's 'Americanite, Americanidad, Americanness: Pourquoi Pas?" for instance, created a parallel between the double identity of Chicanos in the United States and that of Francophone immigrants, both--albeit with their unique cultural differences--trying to maintain two languages in addition to a family structure as well as their Catholic backgrounds and traditions (22-23).

The last type of contribution that N'Importe Quelle Route [No Matter Which Road] featured was a series of interviews with Quebecois writers who had met and spent some time with Kerouac or who were collectors of Beat memorabilia, such as Rod Anstee, author of Jack Kerouac: The Bootleg Era: A Bibliography of Pirated Editions (1994). With regard to the encounters between Kerouac and the Quebecois audience, the most famous and commonly cited one is the long interview dated 1967 in which Kerouac replied in French to the questions of Fernand Seguin during the television programme, Le Sel de La Semaine for Ici Radio Canada. A thorough translation by Paul Fortin and Eric Waddell, as well as a series of critical analyses of the references Kerouac made during the interview (also by Fortin and Waddell) are part of the third Avant-Dire that Le Club Jack Kerouac published in advance of its International Kerouac Gathering in 1987. The Quebecois association also shared with a wider audience a less cited and earlier interview with Kerouac, in French filmed in New York City by Pierre Nadeau and aired by Radio Canada in 1959. Here, a much younger Kerouac describes Celine as one of the most influential writers in his life and refers to Genet, as well, as a source of inspiration.

Two Kerouac interviews conducted by Andre Major and Denis Vanier and published in N'Importe Quelle Route [No Matter Which Road] detail the time the two intellectuals spent with Kerouac. Major took Kerouac to a jazz club where he enjoyed a set by Lee Gagnon and his orchestra; the jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer also discussed spontaneous prose with Kerouac. The evening concluded with a long conversation with Max Gros Louis, then Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation, with whom Kerouac discussed his Iroquois roots in his mother's line (Major 16). Vanier also took Kerouac to a jazz club called the Black Bottom in what was the home of Montreal's black artistic community at the time to listen to Canadianjazz guitarist Nelson Symonds. The night ended with Vanier and Kerouac at a nearby brothel, where Kerouac paid three women, while listening to a juke-box song by Billie Holiday, in order to simply talk to them about the difficulties of being a writer, without ever taking any of them upstairs for sex (Vanier 16-17). Both of these accounts reconfirm two aspects of Kerouac's interests that remained his focus until the end of his life. First is his genealogy and the hybridity of his identity, not only his Americanness and Francophone Quebecois background, but also his Iroquois origins. Second is the omnipresence of jazz, its musicians, improvisations, and rhythms in his writing style.

It thus seems fitting that this musical genre was included in the multiplicity of events organized by Le Club Jack Kerouac from October 1-4, 1987, during the International Jack Kerouac Gathering. On October 2, a poetry performance featuring Allen Ginsberg, Alan Lord, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joy Walsh (editor of Moody Street Irregulars), Paul Marion, Jack Micheline, John Montgomery, Hermenegilde Chiasson (director of the movie Le Grand Jack), Patrice Desbiens, Josee Yvon Lucien Francoeur (winner of the prestigious Emile Nelligan Prize for Quebecois poetry), Indian poet Pradig Choudhouri (also editor-in-chief of the trilingual English-French-Bengali underground magazine PPHOO), and Italian experimental writer Pier Vittorio Tondelli, among others, included jazz accompaniment by pianist Denis Hebert.

If Un Homme Grand, the bilingual edited volume stemming from this international gathering, became one of the most detailed contributions to scholarship on Kerouac's Francophone American identity, the material that accompanies it in Le Club Jack Kerouac archives at BANQ allows researchers to gather information on other events at the conference that were not documented otherwise. These included, together with the concerts and jazz poetry sessions, an exhibition of photographs and other rare materials titled Canuck et Clochard Celeste: L 'Univers de Jack Kerouac at the Musee du Quebec (see fig. 10), with images of Kerouac and other Beats by Robert Frank, Ginsberg, Charters, Walsh, Dave Moore (editor of The Kerouac Connection), Fred McDarrah, and George Durette; and rare materials, including first editions and copies of letters, of the Associations of the Families Kerouac, Le Club Jack Kerouac, and Rod Anstee. An exhibition of Lowell painters, artists, and illustrators inspired by "Jack Kerouac at Galerie Quatre Saisons" had also been opened to the public, thanks to the ties among Kerouac's friends in his Massachusetts hometown; the Lowell Preservation Commission; and Le Club Jack Kerouac. One of the Quebecois association's trips out of the province, in fact, had been to Lowell, and the entire group was invited again by Paul Marion and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission to the official opening of the Kerouac commemorative events in Kerouac Park (Official Program).

The visual aspect of the conference, together with photographs, illustrations, and paintings, also included film screenings of Frank's This Song is for Jack, and Me and My Brother, followed by a Q&A session with the director himself. The conference also featured the premiere of Chiasson's documentary, Le Grand Jack, produced under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada, in a double bill with Frank's Pull My Daisy, followed by a reception which allowed the audience to meet and talk with the filmmakers.

One of the most enthusiastically received events planned for the International Jack Kerouac Gathering was a "Pilgrimage to the Village of Meniere and of Leo Alcide," organized by Le Club Jack Kerouac with the Association des Families Kerouac and its president, Jacques Kerouac. The event, held on September 30, 1987, took the conference group to Cap Saint Ignace where Father Rodrigue Lagace showed them the marriage records of Kerouac ancestor Maurice-Louis Alexandre Le Brice de Kerouac. The group then toured St. Pacome de Kamouraska, where Kerouac's mother Gabrielle Levesque was born in a little farm house. In his review of the event for the magazine Dolce Vita, Tondelli reveals how the entire trip had some moving and nostalgic moments: many remembered lines from Mexico City Blues narrating the birth of Gabrielle, some quoted from the introduction to Lonesome Traveller in which the writer refers to his nationality as Franco-American, and at some point Reginald Ouellet started singing Francophone folk songs typical of Kerouac's childhood while several Quebecois participants followed him in an improvised choir (8-10). The then-mayor of Lowell, Robert Kennedy, had sent an official copy of the keys of the city to Roger Ferland, the mayor of Saint Hubert, where Kerouac's father, was born, to symbolically stress the affective, cultural, and political ties between the Quebecois town and the "Petits Canadas" of the Francophone inhabitants of Lowell (Tondelli 8-10).

This event is reconstructed through various letters, articles, and reviews of the International Gathering that are part of Le Club Jack Kerouac materials. On the one hand, the pilgrimage concretizes in a thorough historical, territorial, and cultural way the links between the Quebecois borough that Kerouac had experienced in his childhood, and the province and towns that gave origin to the Francophone identity of his family. All this was condensed into a one-day experience open not only to specialists but also to all kinds of people who admired the writer. On the other hand, this pilgrimage stressed the importance in Kerouac's works of geography and the land, conceived not only in terms of his coast-to-coast "on the road" trips. This approach had characterized most Quebecois studies of the writer, and it was one that the founders of Le Club Jack Kerouac, especially Waddell, had explored and written about earlier. Traditions and rituals of the Francophone communities in North America alongside Kerouac's descriptions of his Quebec background constitute the dual analysis that Le Club Jack Kerouac undertook, hand-in-hand with American scholarship, ultimately leading to the recognition of Kerouac's original manuscripts written in French.

Note: The author thanks Professor Eric Waddell, co-founder of Le Club Jack Kerouac, for his kindness and generosity in sharing time, details, anecdotes, and knowledge during the writing of this article.

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By Sara Villa
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Author:Villa, Sara
Publication:Journal of Beat Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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