Most days at the Beat Museum are pretty great, but sometimes an ordinary day can turn into something totally unbelievable—and we had one of those days just this past weekend.
It was crowded on Friday, and when I walked downstairs I noticed two young people looking at me as they spoke in whispers to each other. In a moment they approached me, and in halting English the young lady asked, “You are the founder here, yes?”
“Yes, I am. Who are you two?”
“I am Victoria and this is Oleg. We are from Siberia and we travelled here to bring you a gift?”
“Really? What did you bring?”
Oleg carefully unwrapped a beautiful book with a cover that, to me, looked like a Russian Norman Rockwell. “It is from 1960, and the title translates from Russian to English roughly as ‘Foreign Literature.'”
“And what is in this book?” I asked.
“It is Jack Kerouac, parts of On the Road. Not the whole book. That didn’t get published in Russia until 1995. But here there are three segments. ‘The Mexican Girl,’ ‘Jazz of The Beat Generation’ and ‘A Billowy Trip in the World.'”
I was incredulous. “From 1960?”
I was pleasantly shocked. Someone years ago had already donated some Kerouac books in Russian, all published in the 1990s, but I had no idea Kerouac had been published in Russia as early as 1960.
We examined the illustrations closely. I was in awe. Such a moment. Guests and strangers came up to take a look. We posed for photographs, and I escorted Victoria and Oleg to Caffe Trieste, Vesuvio, and City Lights.
Later that evening, when I began investigating the book further online, I learned that supposedly the references to marijuana had been left in, but references to the bible had been removed. I also discovered this book is worth a small fortune.
What a beautiful sentiment. Two young people from half way around the world making a special trip to see us to present such a wonderful gift.
The Beats do this to people.