William Seward Burroughs (February 5, 1914 - August 2, 1997) was an American author and poet.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, William Seward Burroughs was the grandson of the William Seward Burroughs who founded the Burroughs Adding Machine company, which evolved into the Burroughs Corporation. Burroughs' mother, Laura Lee Burroughs, was the daughter of a distinguished minister whose family claimed to be descendants of Robert E. Lee.

Table of contents
1 Biography
2 External Links


He has long been associated with Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. One of his most famous works is The Naked Lunch. He is also well known for his later use of the cut-up technique of using pieces of various texts to create a new one (which Burroughs developed with the poet and artist Brion Gysin who introduced him to the idea), as well as what Burroughs called "word holes" - repeated phrases or sentences from which reading can continue at any other identical phrase or sentences in the text, a form of hypertext.

He attended Harvard University and graduated in 1936. He summarized his college experience in the prologue to Junkie, "I hated the University and I hated the town it was in. Everything about the place was dead. The University was a fake English setup taken over by the graduates of fake English public schools..."

In 1944, Burroughs began living with Joan Vollmer in an apartment they shared with Kerouac and Edie Parker, Kerouac's first wife. Burroughs divorced his first wife, IIse Krabbe, and married Vollmer in 1946. Their son, William S. Burroughs, Jr., was born in 1947 in Texas. On September 6, 1951 in Mexico City, Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his wife during a drunken attempt to imitate William Tell's feat of shooting an apple off his son's head and was charged with criminal imprudence. He was forced to leave Mexico in 1952 as a result of the shooting. He toured South America for several months, then settled in Tangier, Morocco. It was in Tangier that he and Brion Gysin developed the aforementioned 'cut-up technique'.

In 1956, Burroughs attempted to cure his ongoing drug addiction with the help of John Dent, a London physician. After completing treatment, he moved to the legendary "Beat Hotel" in Paris, eventually accumulating a trunkful of fragmentary, hallucinatory manuscripts. With the help of Ginsberg and Kerouac these were edited into Naked Lunch and sold to Olympia Press publisher Maurice Girodias. The trunk manuscripts eventually became three other novels, The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express.

After it was published, Naked Lunch was prosecuted as obscene by the state of Massachusetts, followed by other states, forcing the book to be published in Italy. In 1966 the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared the work "not obscene" based on criteria developed, largely, to defend the book. This opened the door for others works like Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, James Joyce's Ulysses, and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, to be published in the United States.

Burroughs moved to London in the early 1960s and published extensively in small underground magazines, also working on a large manuscript that was published in two parts, "The Wild Boys" and "Port of Saints." He also interacted with like-minded writers such as Alexander Trocchi and Jeff Nuttall.

In the 1970s he moved back to New York City where he was sought out by a diverse cast of New York cultural players, including Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. He began giving public readings to increasingly enthusiastic audiences.

In the 1980s and 1990s Burroughs became pop culture icon appealing to punk rock artists, appearing with recording artists ranging from Laurie Anderson to Ministry, and in films such as Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy. In 1990, he collaborated with director Robert Wilson and musician Tom Waits to create The Black Rider, a play which opened at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg on March 31, 1990, to critical acclaim, and was later performed all over Europe and the USA. Through the 1990s, Burroughs also produced several spoken word recordings of his written material.

He has been called one of the greatest writers of the 20th century - others consider his writing overrated.

William S. Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, at 6:50 p.m., August 2, 1997 from the complications of the previous day's heart attack.


'Language is a virus from outer space'.

'When I become death, death is the seed from which I grow.'

"Words, colors, light, sound, stone, wood, bronze belong to the living artist. They belong to anyone who can use them. Loot the Louvre! ... Steal anything in sight...."

General procedure: Read and learn all you can about problem. Look at problem from a point of zero preconception. Devise variations and alternative solutions. Check back to see if your solution has workable advantage over solutions previously arrived at . . . 'To carry the method a step further than solution of purely technical problem where purpose is implicit in the artifact: devising more efficient gun, tool, boat, signal system, medical or interrogation procedure.

I awoke from The Sickness at the age of forty-five, calm and sane, and in reasonably good health except for a weakened liver and the look of borrowed flesh common to all who survive The Sickness. . . When I speak of drug addiction I do not refer to keif, marijuana or any preparation of hashish, mescaline, Bannisteria Caapi, LSD6, Sacred Mushrooms or any other drugs of the hallucinogen group. . . . There is no evidence that the use of any hallucinogen results in physical dependence...

I think all novelists particularly are engaged in the creation of Tulpas. That is exactly what they are doing. Ahh.... they are trying to create characters that have an existence apart from the novel, apart from the page.


  • Minutes To Go (1950)
  • Junkie (1953) (ISBN 0142003166) - (often called Junky) published under the pen name of William Lee
  • Naked Lunch (1959) (ISBN 0802132952)
  • The Soft Machine (1961) (ISBN 0802133290)
  • The Ticket That Exploded (1962) (ISBN 0802151507)
  • Nova Express (1964) (ISBN 0802133304)
  • The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (1970) (ISBN 1559702117)
  • The Job (1970) (ISBN 0140118829)
  • The Wild Boys (1971) (ISBN 0802133312)
  • Exterminator (1973) (ISBN 0140050035)
  • Port of Saints (1975) (ISBN 0912652640)
  • Ah Pook is Here, Nova Express, Cities of the Red Night (1981) (ISBN 0312278462)
  • The Place of Dead Roads (1983) (ISBN 0312278659)
  • Queer (1985) (ISBN 0140083898)
  • The Western Lands (1987) (ISBN 0140094563)
  • Interzone (1990) (ISBN 0140094512)
  • The Adding Machine: Selected Essays (1993) (ISBN 1559702109)
  • My Education: A Book of Dreams (1996) (ISBN 0140094547)
  • The Ghost of Chance (1997) (ISBN 1852424575)
  • Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs (2001) (ISBN 0802137784)


see Web link - Hyperreal.org

External Links