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Authors: William Burroughs

Naked Lunch

BOOK: Naked Lunch
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William Burroughs




Title Page

Introduction by J. G. Ballard


Afterthoughts on a Deposition

I can feel the heat closing in


Atrophied Preface



About the Author

By the Same Author


About the Publisher

Introduction by J. G. Ballard

Naked Lunch
is a banquet you will never forget. This extraordinary novel is a comic apocalypse, a roller-coaster ride through hell, a safari to the strangest people of the strangest planet, ourselves. It is said of literary masterpieces that their genius is stamped into every line, and this is nowhere so true as it is of
Naked Lunch.
From its opening words we are
aware that a unique world – comic, paranoid, visionary, delirious – is being revealed to us. Bizarre and nightmarish scenes flash by, like glimpses of some exotic and decadent city. Only later do we realise that this strange city is the one we all inhabit in our waking lives.

At first sight
Naked Lunch
is dominated by two closely linked themes, drugs and homosexuality, about which Burroughs is
unsparingly frank. The landscape of subway dawns and cheap hotels, the numbing wait for the next fix, and the melancholy quest for an ever-elusive sexual happiness together describe the world through which Burroughs moved in the 1950s, in New York, Mexico and Tangier. Drugs are the ultimate merchandise, Burroughs has written, and he sees addiction as part of the global conspiracy by the presiding
powers of our world – the media conglomerates, the vast political and commercial bureaucracies, and a profit-driven medical science – which are determined to reduce us to the total dependency of addicts, while teasing us with the mirage of transgressive sex.

Burroughs chooses to explode this conspiracy by inviting us all to lunch, and his menu is a novel that I believe to be the most important
and original work of fiction by an American writer since the Second World War.
Naked Lunch
is both the addict’s fix, the rush of pure sensation through the brain, and also the stark and unsentimental truth about ourselves, our self-delusions and deceits, served with a dressing of the spiciest humour. Here you will find a host of hilarious chracters, led by the egregious Dr Benway, the most corrupt
and charming physician in twentieth-century literature.

After the anaemic fare of most contemporary fiction, sit back and gorge yourself on this feast of a novel.


deposition: testimony concerning a sickness

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 … Most survivors do not remember the delirium in detail. I apparently took detailed notes on sickness and delirium. I have no precise memory of
writing the notes which have now been published under the title
Naked Lunch.
The title was suggested by Jack Kerouac. I did not understand what the title meant until my recent recovery. The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch – a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.

The Sickness is drug addiction and I was an addict for fifteen years. When I say addict
I mean an addict to junk (generic term for opium and/or derivatives including all synthetics from demerol to palfium). I have used junk in many forms: morphine, heroin, dilaudid, eukodal, pantopon, diocodid, diosane, opium, demerol, dolophine, palfium. I have smoked junk, eaten it, sniffed it, injected it in vein-skin-muscle, inserted it in rectal suppositories. The needle is not important.
Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction. 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 drug of the hallucinogen group … There is no evidence that the use of any hallucinogen results in physical dependence. The action of these
drugs is physiologically opposite to the
action of junk. A lamentable confusion between the two classes of drugs has arisen owing to the zeal of the U.S. and other narcotic departments.

I have seen the exact manner in which the junk virus operates through fifteen years of addiction. The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below (it is no accident that junk higher-ups are always fat and
the addict in the street is always thin) right up to the top or tops since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principles of monopoly:

1 Never give anything away for nothing.

2 Never give more than you have to give (always catch the buyer hungry and always make him wait).

3 Always take everything back if you possibly can.

The Pusher always get
it all back. The addict needs more and more junk to maintain a human form … buy off the Monkey.

Junk is the mold of monopoly and possession. The addict stands by while his junk legs carry him straight in on the junk beam to relapse. Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use. All the hallucinogen drugs are considered
sacred by those who use them – there are Peyote Cults and Bannisteria Cults, Hashish Cults and Mushroom Cults – ‘the Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico enable a man to see God’ – but no one ever suggested that junk is sacred. There are no opium cults. Opium is profane and quantitative like money. I have heard that there was once a beneficent non-habit-forming junk in India. It was called
and is pictured
as a beautiful blue tide. If
ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK.

Junk is the ideal product … the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a
sewer and beg to buy.… The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not
improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff in junk.

Junk yields a basic formula of ‘evil’ virus:
The Algebra of Need.
The face of ‘evil’ is always the face of total need. A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: ‘
Wouldn’t you
?’ Yes you would.
You would lie, cheat, inform on your friends, steal, do
to satisfy total need. Because you would be in a state of total sickness, total possession, and not in a position to act in any other way. Dope fiends are sick people who cannot act other than they do. A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. Assuming a self-righteous position is nothing to the purpose unless your purpose be to keep the
junk virus in operation. And junk is a big industry. I recall talking to an American who worked for the Aftosa Commission in Mexico. Six hundred a month plus expense account:

‘How long will the epidemic last?’ I enquired.

‘As long as we can keep it going.… And yes.…maybe the aftosa will break out in South America,’ he said dreamily.

If you wish to alter or annihilate a pyramid of numbers in
a serial relation, you alter or remove the bottom number. If we wish to annihilate the junk pyramid, we must start with the bottom of the pyramid:
the Addict in the Street
, and stop tilting quixotically for the ‘higher ups’ so called, all of whom are immediately replaceable.
The addict in the street who must have junk to live is the one irreplaceable factor in the junk equation.
When there are
no more addicts to buy junk there will be no junk traffic. As long as junk need exists, someone will service it.

Addicts can be cured or quarantined – that is, allowed
a morphine ration under minimal supervision like typhoid carriers. When this is done, the junk pyramids of the world will collapse. So far as I know, England is the only country to apply this method to the junk problem. They have
about five hundred quarantined addicts in the U.K. In another generation when the quarantined addicts die off and pain killers operating on a non-junk principle are discovered, the junk virus will be like smallpox, a closed chapter – a medical curiosity.

The vaccine that can relegate the junk virus to a landlocked past is in existence. This vaccine is the Apomorphine Treatment discovered by an
English doctor whose name I must withhold pending his permission to use it and to quote from his book covering thirty years of apomorphine treatment of addicts and alcoholics. The compound apomorphine is formed by boiling morphine with hydrochloric acid. It was discovered years before it was used to treat addicts. For many years the only use for apomorphine which has no narcotic or pain-killing
properties was an emetic to induce vomiting in cases of poisoning. It acts directly on the vomiting center in the back brain.

I found this vaccine at the end of the junk line. I lived in one room in the Native Quarter of Tangier. I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of terminal addiction. I
never cleaned or dusted the room. Empty ampule boxes and garbage piled up to the ceiling. Light and water had been long since turned off for non-payment. I did absolutely nothing. I could look at the end of my shoe for eight hours. I was only roused to action when the hourglass of junk ran out. If a friend came to visit – and they rarely did since who or what was left to visit – I sat there not caring
that he had entered my field of vision – a grey screen always blanker and fainter – and not caring when he walked out of it. If he had died on the spot I would have sat there
looking at my shoe waiting to go through his pockets. Wouldn’t you? Because I never had enough junk – no one ever does. Thirty grains of morphine a day and it still was not enough. And long waits in front of a drugstore.
Delay is a rule in the junk business. The Man is never on time. This is no accident. There are no accidents in the junk world. The addict is taught again and again exactly what will happen if he does not score for his junk ration. Get up that money or else. And suddenly my habit began to jump and jump. Forty, sixty grains a day. And it still was not enough. And I could not pay.

I stood there
with my last check in my hand and realized that it was my last check. I took the next plane for London.

The doctor explained to me that apomorphine acts on the back brain to regulate the metabolism and normalize the blood stream in such a way that the enzyme system of addiction is destroyed over a period of four or five days. Once the back brain is regulated apomorphine can be discontinued and
only used in case of relapse. (No one would take apomorphine for kicks.
Not one case of addiction to apomorphine has ever been recorded
.) I agreed to undergo treatment and entered a nursing home. For the first twenty-four hours I was literally insane and paranoid as many addicts are in severe withdrawal. This delirium was dispersed by twenty-four hours of intensive apomorphine treatment. The doctor
showed me the chart. I had received minute amounts of morphine that could not possibly account for my lack of the more severe withdrawal symptoms such as leg and stomach cramps, fever and my own special symptom, The Cold Burn, like a vast hives covering the body and rubbed with menthol. Every addict has his own special symptom that cracks all control. There was a missing factor in the withdrawal
equation – that factor could only be apomorphine.

BOOK: Naked Lunch
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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