Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tristessa” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Duluoz Legend)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  4,882 ratings  ·  258 reviews
Tristessa is the name with which Kerouac baptized Esperanza Villanueva, a Catholic Mexican young woman, a prostitute and addict to certain drugs, whom he fell in love with during one of his stays in Mexico -a country that he frequently visited - by the middle of the fifties. Wrapped in a spiritual atmosphere that expresses the yearnings of Kerouac to find himself, "Tristes ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1960)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tristessa, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Tristessa

On the Road by Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacBig Sur by Jack KerouacDesolation Angels by Jack KerouacThe Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac's Best
20 books — 94 voters
On the Road by Jack KerouacHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. Burroughs
Beat Lit
202 books — 158 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,882 ratings  ·  258 reviews

Sort order
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novella of a story set in the mid-1950s Mexico City, where Jack has met a prostitute and drug addict named Tristessa (real name: Esperanza Villanueva), who he sees as either indigenous or a mestiza. She is the object of his love for a time: there's a year-long break in the middle, where it seems the events of "Dharma Bums" could've happened - and Jack makes a mistake of not declaring his feelings of love to her (view spoiler) ...more
Tristessa, you wily little book flighty as a cat, I should practice Satyagraha and resist my sinister urges to hoo haa your ever-loving Holy graces and wonder in the traces of your manna, all manna of manna, all eat-table and unbeatable and good and thirst-slaking, forsaking my faculties and reveling in the alacrity of all things, like you Mr. K., chronicler of the haloed hollowed hollow-cheeked hollerers of Holiness.

Kerouac, you sing-song like sacred ping-pong, rhythmically and hymnally and hip
Sotiris Karagiannis
Η Τριστέσσα είναι μία μελαγχολική νουβέλα, γραμμένη από τον Τζακ Κέρουακ, τον εκπρόσωπο της γενιάς των Μπητ. Είναι η πρώτη μου επαφή με το έργο του και μπορώ να πω ότι νιώθω κάτι παραπάνω από ευχαριστημένος. Η γραφή του είναι ιδιαίτερη και μου θύμισε αρκετά τις ιστορίες και τα πεζά ποιήματα του Μπωτλαίρ. Καταφέρνει να πλάσει όμορφες εικόνες μέσα στην ασχήμια των πιο βρομερών δρόμων του Μέξικο Σίτι, μπερδεύοντας βιωματικά γεγονότα με τη μυθοπλασία.

Σαν ένας εκπρόσωπος του περιθωρίου, όπως ο Μπουκό
Aleksandar Šegrt
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
motiv zaljubljenosti u kurvu zavisnu od morfijuma mi je bio obećavajući, ali dosta tanko je ovo.
George Ballin
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What to say about Tristessa? Its a beautiful book but definately not for everyone. If you are ok with drugs, prostitution and despair this is a book for you. Needlessly to say I am. ...more
Robin Friedman
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Many readers who love Kerouac consider "Tristessa" one of his finest novels. "Tristessa" has become the book of Kerouac that I return to most often. The book was initially rejected for publication, and it first appeared in paperback in 1960 following the success of "On the Road". The book initially may have been conceived as part of "On the Road." "Tristessa" is written in Kerouac's "spontaneous prose" style, with long rhythmic improvisational sentences and the feel of jazz. It is short, but dec ...more
Emily Seaman
I would actually rate this book a -1. Hated it. Read to page 20 TWICE (it's a 97 page book) and couldn't understand anything that was going on. Something about roosters. Call me crazy, but I require books with punctuation.
Evidence of a great talent in slow decline, but still a fun read nonetheless. Reminiscent of his shorter works such as The Scripture of the Golden Eternity as well as Mexico City Poems and Pomes All Sizes. Kerouac’s at his painterly best here, portraying both the horrors of opiate dependence and the despondency of life in a country without a strong economic base wholly without commentary. It is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions from this slim novella.

This book’s place within the “Du
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Jack Kerouac is one of my all-time favorite writers, and a prime reason why I became a writer myself. The man wrote a slew of classic titles. However, Tristessa ain't one of them.

I feel like a heel for saying that, but it's only true. Tristessa is 96 pages of Jack Duluoz (Kerouac) mooning over a broken-down morphine junkie/whore who couldn't give a sh*t less about him. Kerouac compares this woman, who's based on a real-life fling he had down in Mexico City, to everyone from Ava Gardner and Grac
Stuart Ayris
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Tristessa. What a beautiful name - you can't say it aloud wwithout feeling a sense of wonder, a sense of peace, a feeling that things are slowing down in the most perfect of ways. Yet this book (not sure it's a novel as it's not even a hundred pages yet not sure still it's a book as it's more like a film, a faded, dream sodden broken breaking film) is far from wonderous, far from peaceful and if pain is perfection then it's perfect indeed. Tristessa is what it's called and Tristessa is the name ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it
A escrita subversiva de Kerouac prende-me profundamente. Este é um daqueles livros que nos engana, por variados motivos. Apesar da sua finura e de aparentar ser um livro sem grande conteúdo (a escrita subversiva engana-nos neste sentido) é um livro denso e cheio de entrelinhas. Kerouac escreve ao ritmo do tempo, do álcool, das drogas e da tesão e, por isso, é sempre tudo tão rápido, tão efusivo, tão fragmentário - afinal não é a vida assim mesmo?

Uma bela introdução a um dos grandes da Beat Gener
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
I myself can barely tolerate the writing of Kerouac. Too many run on sentences and drug addled thought processes. It's not that I absolutely hate it, but I think much of his popularity is based on name only without any regard to the finer details of his chaotic and exhausting prose. I feel as if I'm giving this a generous rating, based solely on the rare parts I actually happened to enjoy, while much of it was wasted effort to me. It was, and is, mainly an exercise of patience.
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i never want to take morphine ever
Harish Venkatesan
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is maybe a little more rambling/unstructured than usual for Kerouac (!), but overall, it's quintessential kerouacian stream-of-consciousness prose that's worth a read for when he finally hits his stride mid-book.

"since beginningless time and into the never-ending future, men have loved women without telling them, and the Lord has loved them without telling, and the void is not the void because there's nothing to be empty of."
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Tristessa was breath-takingly gorgeous! I realised half way through he'd just been sitting in a junkie's room in Mexico City (with Burroughs) and it had been fascinating! It was so beautifully written, and touching and sad and everything that I love best about Kerouac.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"não devias ter feito o que fizeste, Senhor, que nos despertas do sono, não devias ter jogado o jogo do sofrimento-e-morte com os filhos que povoam o teu espírito, não devias ter dormido, devias ter assobiado a pedir música e dançado sozinho sobre uma nuvem, a berrar às estrelas que criaste, oh Deus, nem nunca devias ter congeminado e dado os últimos retoques com todo o esmero nos teus filhos, nós, pequenos sofredores delicados e amalucados - Pobre Bull, chora desalmadamente - parece uma criança ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
As my twenties dwindle away, I've prioritized reading the remaining works of Jack Kerouac that interest and intrigue me before I find his style intolerable by virtue of age, particularly those written about other countries. Tristessa is one such work, set during two of Kerouac's frequent visits to Mexico City, and is centered around the love he had for a Mexican junkie who goes by that name in this novella.

Though feeling like it lacks the purpose that fueled On the Road and the Dharma Bums, Tri
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my 15 year old self
My ratings for several books are based on how I felt about them when I read them. Several books that I loved/"really liked" I don't feel similarly about any longer, to put as simply and as fairly as possible. Kerouac is probably a perfect example of this. I loved reading about the melancholy psychological and geographical wanderings of Mr. Kerouac and his friends when I was 15 years old. It spoke to me in that way that people will describe books like On The Road and Catcher in the Rye as speak ...more
Frances Margaret
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tristessa - the way it rolls down your tongue like a hiss, escaping like a slow death, is reminiscent of Kerouac's muse from Mexico. A long-time junky, dead eyes, dead love, dancing her way to ruins, untouchable.

One takes from this book the difficult but obvious truth, lessons greater than unrequited love. To fall in love with a junky is to step into a black hole. To live with a junky, one must become a junky. So all throughout this thing we have Jack tiptoeing around and against the void with h
Jesse Osborne
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
While it was morphine-addled and convoluted, all of it was breathtakingly beautiful. The way Tristessa loves everything, cares about nothing, wants so badly to understand but at the same time is addicted to not knowing. The way Jack worships her, her name becomes a deity, Tristessa. He loved her, but in the age-old "could never be with her" way. It was heartbreaking, a reflection of the impermanence of living/loving, the inevitability of loss, but also the effortless beauty of the "live fast, di ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The story has a power that just carries the reader along. I felt almost like the invisible companion of Kerouac shadowing him through the wet saturday night streets of Mexico city and into the lives of Tristessa and her companions. There are quite a few parts that I can't make any head or heel of but they for once - and it surprises me - they don't matter; they don't dampen anything that is beautiful about the stream of consciousness I was riding on.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I realised I really don't like the stream of consciousness writing style after reading this. And Jack's (the name of both the protagonist and the author) drug-induced thoughts are incoherent and sometimes intelligible, that I don't even know what's going on half the time.
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Just 96 pages. 96 pages usually just takes me an hour and a half to read, but this one took me days. This book was making my head spin. I need books with punctuation! Maybe Kerouac's head was spinning too (from all that morphine?) when he wrote this book.
Nate Jordon
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Nate by: An advertisement from GAP...
The first book I ever read of Kerouac's - I had no idea who he was at the time - and the first paragraph of this little book had such a profound impact on me, it changed the way I looked at writing immediately, and forever.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat-generation
The ending is like a crescendo of rhyme and fast spitted words, and then it just ends. With no period. I could almost hear the music of it, like a jazz piano that tinkles along until it hits this brief, final note. Kerouac still intrigues me, particularly with the scenes where he's attempting to bond with the animals in contrast to how he's attempting to do the same with the junkies. I am beginning to find his character immature though, but I still enjoy the dare I say self indulgent way he cons ...more
Dan Leo
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I recently had a bit of a Kerouac binge, and finally got around to "Tristessa" for the first time, which has about zero "story" in it, and, sure, a lot of it is gibberish, because it's classic "first and only draft" Kerouac spontaneous writing, probably fueled by bennies and pot, but it also has some great poetry in there. The sort of writing that is very easy to criticize and dismiss – its faults are all right there on the surface – but it has the value of originality and a sad broken beauty. I ...more
Sep 08, 2018 added it
Probably the first time I have ever read any book in one sitting. Second time through this one and it was even better than the first. Kerouac's prose is at his absolute peak here, my god. 100% perfect.
Cagdas Akdemir
Keşke arada noktalama işareti de kullansaymış!
Brad Hodges
May 15, 2014 rated it it was ok

Truman Capote said of Jack Kerouac's work, "That's not writing, that's typing." Up to now I would have disagreed with him, as I found On the Road and The Dharma Bums to be engaging and at times thrilling well written, but as for Tristessa, a novella he wrote in 1960, well, it seems more like typing.

Ostensibly, it is about Kerouac's fascination with a prostitute and morphine addict in Mexico City. Her name is Esperanza (which means "hope"), but he dubs her Tristessa (which means "sorrow"). For 96
Christopher Newton
May 23, 2016 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kerouac fans, Beat Generation fans
I've been reading Jack since I was sixteen, and I've never broken the habit, although a year or two may go by between dips. He just eases my writer's mind. I feel that fresh rush of words and my own writer instincts start laughing at me again.

This time Tristessa, one of the road novels (this one is more of a novelette) he wrote before he got famous. He's in Mexico City, living with Old Bull Lee, a pseudonym Beat Generation readers will recognize. Neither are famous yet. Old Bull is still a morph
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
review of peoples reviews 2 18 May 18, 2012 03:06PM  
  • Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster
  • Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac
  • Go
  • Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac
  • The Happy Birthday of Death
  • The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso in Paris, 1957-1963
  • The Yage Letters
  • Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, And America
  • Planet News
  • First Third & Other Writings - Revised & Expanded Edition Together With A New Prologue
  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
  • Kerouac: A Biography
  • The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation
  • Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution
  • Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of on the Road (They're Not What You Think)
  • You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac
  • Memoirs of a Beatnik
  • Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir
Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.

Other books in the series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
  • Visions of Gerard
  • Dr. Sax
  • The Town and the City
  • Maggie Cassidy
  • Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46
  • On the Road
  • Visions of Cody
  • The Subterraneans
  • The Dharma Bums
“The beauty of things must be that they end.” 163 likes
“I'll go to the south of Sicily in the winter, and paint memories of Arles – I'll buy a piano and Mozart me that – I'll write long sad tales about people in the legend of my life – This part is my part of the movie, let's hear yours” 30 likes
More quotes…