Category Archives: William Burroughs


I wake up feeling cramped. The feeling stays with me all day while I work to meet a tight deadline. The project manager rushes me. When I hit send I’m at a loss. What’s been accomplished here? The work is anonymous and I don’t know who’s going to read it, if anyone. Too tired for my real work. And now the day is passing like so many others, like smoke in the wind.

I want a drink. Walking to the pub I think of those words by Burroughs that sometimes come back to me, from the book with the corny slang: ‘Kick is seeing things from a special angle. Kick is momentary freedom from the claims of the aging, cautious, nagging, frightened flesh.’ Seductive words. He was talking about drugs, about escaping the prison of the body, the sensory world – until you drop back down and want some more.

As seductive as a preacher, I think as I try to catch the bartender’s eye. Gnostic salvation from the flesh. Irreconcilable duality of elements. Spirit and matter. Soma-sema, body as tomb. Most clear perhaps in Jainism with its separation of body and soul. The body weighs the soul down, roots it in the cycle of birth and death. Most souls stay and are reborn over and over, but through severe ascetic practices some can shed the karmic matter that’s stuck to them from the beginning of time and at the moment of death fly to the top of the universe to live in eternal bliss.

Enough of that. Finish your pint, go home and say something nice to S., feed Rookie, make a good dinner. Don’t let the day pass without a trace.

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


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


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


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


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


Reality can be dreamed away.

— William Burroughs


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?’

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