Not something that happens every day, here’s an extract from the new, previously unpublished novella by Jack Kerouac, The Haunted Life…
Peter’s origins – the more recent ones – betrayed his intellectual convictions. Bent on lolling through the summer, he yet winced inwardly when passing by a group of workmen in the street, and avoided their eyes. His conviction was that history, as drama, was an unparalleled production – acted by the princes of destiny; directed by that brilliant, envious, and colorless crew that forever sat at the hem of greatness; financed – in terms of blood and labor – by the numberless, nameless masses who paused, only occasionally, to look up from their work and watch; and written by the reality of the hour, the reigning combination of cross-events that was supreme, final, and unalterable history.
His was the role of destiny’s prince. Not for him the whispered suggestion in the mad ruler’s ear; not for him the weary hand behind the scenes of splendor. Not for him also the plow and the weight of centuries, the stunned, wondrous look peering within the carnage that passes through. For him, Peter Martin – lately of the working class, the Canadian peasantry, and on back to a great-great-great-grandfather who, arriving in arrogance, with casks of Rochambeau, from a barony in Normandy, to forward the cause of the new French empire to the West, saw his fortunes blown up by Wolfe’s powder at Quebec and had to be satisfied with a tract on land near Fleur du Loup, which was transformed as the generations progressed from a baronial holding into a region of peasants – grim, muscular farmers – who worked too hard to survive to waste any time of lineage – for him, Peter Martin, the role of prominence on history’s stage. For him, then, the splendid leisure and the calm demeanor; the aristocrat of history, plucked from the vine at the right moment, made to burgeon in glory for all to se; he that can wait for his time, blandly assured.
How this prominence was to be achieved he did not know. He only waited, as youth will, for the hour; he only knew he belonged to that great family of the earth whose destiny, whose one responsibility, was to act out a part in history, while the others directed, produced, financed, and stage set, and while supreme reality moved the pen that decided the plot.
And yet, this young aristocrat must drop his eyes when the workingmen glance up from their toil – while they boil black tar in summer’s glaze, tear down, build, and repair the setting for the play, whereon the youth will soon perform his regal and tragic part. The prince of destiny is betrayed by the blood of a grandfather who saw fit to kill his own cows; and by a father who believed in work, and rose every morning to lay onto.
Taken from The Haunted Life by Jack Kerouac