Inside the Beat Hotel of Paris

“‘I lay there on the floor, he makes love to Nanette all night, as she whimpers,’ wrote Jack Kerouac, recalling the night he slept in Room 41 of a Parisian ‘fleabag’ in the Latin Quarter that his friend and fellow poet had christened ‘The Beat Hotel’. Gregory Corso, the youngest of the inner circle of Beat Generation writers, would also introduce Allen Ginsberg , his lover Peter Orlovsky and William Burroughs to the Left Bank lodging house at 9 rue Gît-le-Coeur that barely met minimum health and safety standards. Bed linens were changed once a month, hot baths were only available on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (from a single bathtub situated on the ground floor), and the rent cost $30 a month. When artists and writers were strapped for cash, Madame Rachou, the ‘patronne’ would let them pay rent with paintings or manuscripts. Clientele were also permitted to to paint and decorate their rooms however they wanted. Writer William Burroughs, a troubled but primary character of the Beat Generation, who completed the final pages of his seminal novel Naked Lunch while drinking at the bar of the hotel, called Madame Rachou the ‘perfect landlady’ with ‘inflexible authority’. The widowed Parisian became an unwitting mother figure to an international movement – one that influenced post-war American culture and politics – all from her rundown little boarding house in a back alley behind the Seine they called, The Beat Hotel. ‘The main entrance of the hotel. The door, which was never locked, made a penetrating screech as it crashed shut, the sound of which could be heard on the top floor. Attempts to shut the door quietly would bring Madame Rachou out of her room to investigate. … For a short time, I had an improvised dark room in an alcove no larger than a small wardrobe, blacked out with two blankets which I nailed up to the walls at night,’ recalls Chapman of his most significant period. …”

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This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Paris and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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