Spielzeit 26.08. - 09.10.

Beats, Zen and High Mountains

Texts of the Beat Generation


»If you walk, says one Zen master, be modest in your walking. If you sit, then be modest in your sitting. But above all do not hesitate!« / Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs

They were young and radical and challenged life; the authors of the Beat Generation. They lived and wrote for the moment and were also fascinated by the grandeur and calm of nature. With Zen Buddhism, which reached the USA in the 1950s, a new form of consciousness opened up for numerous writers, which embraced the intellectual and spiritual life of their generation. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are not only still regarded today as the best known formative minds behind the Beat Generation, they were also among the greatest advocates of Zen Buddhism in the USA. Kerouac, who published the novel of the Beat Generation in 1957, On the Road, spent over ten years as a nomadic drifter travelling on America’s roads and railways. Despite his alcohol addiction, asceticism and meditation were decisive sources of Kerouac’s creativity. For Allen Ginsberg, the literary examination of his homosexuality became part of his search for an alternative, non-capitalist lifestyle. His unflinching poetry provoked and stirred up the population in the prudish America of the 50s and with his poem Howl he became the cynical portraitist of the American petty bourgeoisie. Sexuality, excess, meditation and Zen Buddhism were not mutually exclusive for the Beat Generation, instead they produced creative inspiration and an awareness of life.