Category Archives: William Burroughs

My education

I have been suffering from paralyzing depressions. Sometimes I seriously ask myself how someone can feel this bad and live. Often I simply collapse in ed. I mean bed, of course… come to think of it, never had a lover named Ed. This is not some superattenuated, arcane, exclusive depression known only to the chosen and distinguished few. It is a realization of the raw horror of the human position at this point.

– Burroughs, My Education: A Book of Dreams

Writing itself

He is perhaps the purest writer who has ever written. There is nothing there but the writing itself.

Burroughs on Beckett

A ‘biographical’ note by William Burroughs

I have no past life at all being a notorious plant or ‘intrusion’ if you prefer the archaeological word for an ‘intruded’ artefact. I walk in passport was allegedly born St. Louis, Missouri, more or less haute bourgeois circumstances – that is he could have got in the St. Louis Country Club because at that time nobody had anything special against him but times changed and lots of people had lots of things against him and he got his name in the papers and there were rumours of uh legal trouble. Remember? I prefer not to. Harvard 1936 AB. Nobody ever saw him there but he had the papers on them. Functioned once as an exterminator in Chicago and learned some basic principles of ‘force majeure’. He achieved a state of inorganic matter in Tanger with chemical assistants. Resuscitated by dubious arts he travelled extensively in all directions open to him.

In any case he wrote a book and that finished him. They killed the author many times in different agents concentrated on the road I pass, achieving thereby greyhounds, menstrual cramps and advanced yoga to a distance of two feet legitimate terrain… And never the hope of ground that is yours

william seward burroughs

Either/or

The whole concept of EITHER/OR. Right or wrong, physical or mental, true or false, the whole concept of OR will be deleted from the language and replaced by juxtaposition, by AND. This is done to some extent in any pictorial language where the two concepts stand literally side by side. These falsifications inherent in English and other Western alphabetical languages give the reactive mind commands their overwhelming force in the languages. Consider the IS of identity. When I say to be me, to be you, to be myself, to be others — whatever I may be called upon to be or say that I am — I am not the verbal label ‘myself’. I cannot be and am not the verbal label ‘myself’. The word BE in English contains, as a virus contains, its precoded message of damage, the categorical imperative of permanent condition.

– William Burroughs, The Job

Silence

Q: You often use silence as a device of terror, a ‘virus’, as you call it, which breaks down characters into meaningless ciphers. What does this silence represent?

A: I don’t think of silence as being a device of terror at all. In fact, quite the contrary. Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing. As you know they have these sense-withdrawal chambers and immersion chambers; there’s one at the University of Oklahoma. Well, they put Marines in there, and they’d be absolutely out of their minds in about ten minutes, they could not endure the silence and solitude because of the inner contradictions which words cover; but Gerald Heard got in there with a full dose of LSD and stayed three hours. Personally I find nothing upsetting about silence at all. In fact it can’t get too quiet for me. I would say that silence is only a device of terror for compulsive verbalizers…

The Job. Interview with William Burroughs

Dream

And I don’t dream, I don’t live; I dream real life. All ships are dreamed ships if we have the power to dream them. What kills the dreamer is to not live while he dreams; what hurts the man of action is to not dream while he lives. I fused the beauty of dreaming and the reality of life into a single, blissful colour.

– Pessoa

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This idea — the opposition of imagination to reality, which is also of course the opposition of art to politics — is of great importance, because it reminds us that we are not helpless; that to dream is to have power… Unreality is the only weapon with which reality can be smashed, so that it may subsequently be reconstructed.

– Salman Rushdie

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Reality can be dreamed away.

– William Burroughs

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The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, ‘Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?’

Zen Stories

Virus

Virus defined as three-dimensional coordinate point of a controller — Transparent sheets with virus perforations like punch cards passed through the host on the soft machine feeling for a point of intersection — The virus attack is primarily directed against affective animal life — Virus of rage hate fear ugliness swirling round you waiting for a point of intersection and once in immediately perpetrates in your name some ugly noxious or disgusting act sharply photographed and recorded becomes now part of the virus sheets constantly presented and represented before your mind screen to produce more virus word and image around and around it’s all around you the invisible hail of bring down word and image — What does virus do wherever it can dissolve a hole and find traction? — It starts eating — And what does it do with what it eats? — It makes exact copies of itself that start eating to make more copies that start eating to make more copies that start eating and so forth to the virus power the fear hate virus slowly replaces the host with virus copies — Program empty body –

– William Burroughs, Nova Express