Legendary 'On the Road' manuscript bound for France

11 May 2012
Spectators view a 60 foot section of the  120 foot "On the Road" scroll in 2007
Spectators view a 60 foot section of the 120 foot "On the Road" scroll on display at an exhibit of works by US beat writer Jack Kerouac in 2007 at the New York Public Library in New York. The 36-metre long original scroll left the United States Friday to go on show in France, where a new film version of the cult novel will premiere in Cannes next week

The 36-metre long original scroll of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" left the United States Friday to go on show in France, where a new film version of the cult novel will premiere in Cannes next week.

The prized manuscript is to go on display in Paris for three months from May 16, the opening day of the Cannes Film Festival where "On the Road" by Brazilian director Walter Salles is one of 22 films competing for the Palme d'Or.

The then 29-year-old Kerouac famously wrote up the beat generation novel in a three-week sitting in April 1951, typing continuously on to a 36-metre (120-foot) roll of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together.

The first nine metres of the scroll, which the Indianapolis Colts football team owner Jim Irsay acquired for 2.5 million dollars -- will be unfurled for public viewing at the Paris museum of letters and manuscripts.

Inspired by a rambling letter from his friend and travelling companion Neal Cassady, Kerouac decided to tell the story of their years on the road in a form that reflected the fluidity of improvised jazz.

Written in a coffee-fuelled fever, the 125,000 words of his career-making novel were poured onto the page without margins, paragraphs or chapters.

The scroll was ferried by car from Indianapolis to Chicago and flown to Paris where it will be displayed as part of a wider exhibition on Kerouac's novel and his influences from Rimbaud to Proust, the museum told AFP.

Best known as the director of another roadtrip movie, "The Motorcycle Diaries" about Che Guevara's youthful travels, Salles united a stellar cast for his Kerouac adaptation including Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst.

The movie will premiere in Cannes on May 23.