Look at the Road! The Polish Way of the Big Beat

in Beat Literature in a Divided Europe
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American Beat literature did not reach Polish readers in the 1950s easily due to the restrictive nature of the country’s political system. However, Leopold Tyrmand – a great advocate of jazz – Marek Hłasko – a kind of hobo adventurer – and Edward Stachura – a vagabond singer – can be considered as representing a Polish version of Beat. Labelled as “marginal” or émigrés, they succeeded in renewing Polish literature from the 1950s onwards. This chapter also discusses issues related to the relevant social and cultural context of Poland, such as the reception of the figure of the beatnik and hitchhiking. Ginsberg, who visited Poland several times, was the best known member of the Beat Generation. His poem “Café in Warsaw” and Miron Białoszewski’s short story Bitnik are important literary testimonies to Beat in Poland. The chapter ends with a discussion on post-1989 authors who represent non-conformist literature and a new style of being on “the road.”

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