Iron Curtain Journals
by Allen Ginsberg
Pub Date 27 Nov 2018
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The first of three in a series of Ginsberg’s unpublished travel journals
A travel guide through one of the best minds of the Beat Generation—distinctly not destroyed by madness—Allen Ginsberg’s journals are more tour de force than simple diaries, charting his poetry, political antics, and high-profile encounters behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War.
Between jotting first drafts of well-known poems and composing others not seen until now, Ginsberg manages to get himself deported from Cuba—to, of all places, Prague, where he also eventually finds himself unwelcome. Meanwhile, in characteristically colorful fashion, he details his provocations and pranks, his encounters with other poets, curious citizens, and celebrities, and his pointed, often moving observations as he makes his way to Russia (land of his heritage), to Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto, and to Auschwitz. Running foul of the Czech government when he circles back to Prague, he is warned to keep a low profile but is instead crowned the King of May by students who ceremoniously parade him through the city in a flatbed truck. Ginsberg is beaten in the streets, arrested, and deported once again, this time to swinging England, where he arrives just in time to help stage a massive international poetry reading at the Royal Albert Hall.
Ginsberg wrote of these experiences as only he could, summoning a time, a political and poetic landscape at once familiar and foreign, and a singular poet who in these pages—whether detailing his travels, describing his meetings with Russian poets, annotating his dreams, or giving graphic accounts of his sexual adventures—speaks with electrifying intelligence and insight across the years and the vagaries of culture.