Book Review — Iron Curtain Journals: January–May 1965

Iron Curtain Journals by Allen Ginsberg

Iron Curtain Journals are five months of notes from Allen Ginsberg’s travel to Cuba and Eastern Europe in 1965. There is a mixture of disappointment and excitement recorded in his journals. The writing style is typical of journals in recording experiences, feelings, and notes for future use. Ginsberg does not try to create a biography but rather a collection of impressions to spark later writings. Cuba is not the paradise he had expected. Freedom of speech and freedom to choose one’s sexual partner were severely limited and could be punishable offenses. Although his poetry readings may be canceled Ginsberg does record his sexual conquests. Cuba seems to carry the dreariness of Eastern Europe which is his next destination. Eastern Europe again offers highs and lows. Ginsberg met with contemporary writers and was a cause of friction with local authorities.  He had trouble finding a line between freedom and politics.

Allen Ginsberg’s colorful nature is seen throughout his journal.  He is disenchanted with communism. It is not what he expected.  Art and lifestyle are restricted, and freedoms that are taken for granted are missed.  This collection is essential for understanding the man.  These are his words and thoughts and not someone’s interpretation of them.  It is Ginsberg uncensored and unedited.  Anyone interested in the man will learn much more from his own words than in any biography.

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