The Beat Generation was an influential literary movement exploring American culture and politics post-WWII. The central themes of the movement ranged from rejection of narrative values, spirituality and Eastern religions, rejection of materialism, the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs and sexual liberation. Here are some of the key writers of the Beat Generation.
Born in Greenfield, Massachusetts on January 9, 1915, Herbert Huncke is a lesser known Beat writer but is actually reputed to have coined the term. Huncke led a troubled life laden with drug abuse, destitution and crime. He was also a marine during WWII and landed on the beach of Normandy three days after the invasion. However, he was a natural storyteller and had a honest take on life, as laid out in his autobiography, titled Guilty of Everything.
Born in Newark, New Jersey on June 3, 1926, Allen Ginsberg was an award-winning writer and icon of the Beat Generation. He is best known for his poem Howl, in which he criticised capitalism and conformity in American culture. Ginsberg also notably practiced Buddhism and studied Eastern religions extensively. He also took part in many political protests against the Vietnam War and the War on Drugs.
William S. Burroughs
Born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 5, 1914, William S. Burroughs was a famed writer and visual artist of the Beat Generation. He was prolific in his career, authoring eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. His major literary achievements include Naked Lunch, Cities of the Red Night and Junky.
Born in New York City on March 1, 1925, Lucien Carr was a key member of the Beat Generation. He befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac while studying at Columbia University. While he never wrote or published any works, he developed a thesis he called the “New Vision”, underpinned the Beats’ creative rebellion.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 12, 1922, Jack Kerouac was a novelist and pioneer of the Beat Generation. He achieved widespread acclaim for his second book On the Road. His work covered topics such as spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, life in New York, Buddhism, drugs, poverty and travel. He also published numerous poems, including Bowery Blues.