March 1, 2009

Kerouac’s new, lost novel: “The Sea is My Brother.”

Photo: Allen Ginsberg.

Excerpt re Harper’s publication of The Sea is My Brother, writ when Kerouac was a merchant seaman. Via The Guardian:

…which he wrote during his years as a merchant seaman, is to be published in its entirety for the first time.

Described by Kerouac as being about “man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies”, the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime. He wrote in his notes for the project that the characters were “the vanishing American, the big free by, the American Indian, the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes”.

The novel follows the fortunes of Wesley Martin, a man who Kerouac said “loved the sea with a strange, lonely love; the sea is his brother and sentences. He goes down.” By contrast another sailor, Kerouac continued “escapes society for the sea, but finds the sea a place of terrible loneliness.”

The Sea is My Brother is part of a wave of previously unpublished work from the cult author that is only now coming to the surface. A 1945 collaboration with William Burroughs, And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, was published for the first time in 2008. Last year also saw the first publication of Kerouac’s 1955 biography of the founder of Buddhism, Wake Up, while in 2007 the unexpurgated scroll of On the Road was released for the first time.

The manuscript of The Sea is My Brother, along with “correspondence and commentary illuminating his development as a young writer, including correspondence with his friend, the poet Sebastian Sampas”, has been acquired by Harper in the US, according to Publishers Marketplace. A publication date for the book has yet to be announced, and a UK deal for the book has yet to be struck.

“There is definitely ongoing interest in the unpublished Kerouac,” said Penguin Classics publisher Adam Freudenheim, who revealed that Penguin had done “extremely well” with both And The Hippos …, and the original On the Road scroll...for the rest, click here.

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