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William Burroughs


William Burroughs (often known as William S. Burroughs) was born in St. Louis in 1914. His father’s family were from the Burroughs adding machine family, while his mother was a descendant of Robert E. Lee. His father ran an antique shop. After attending private schools, he went to Harvard. On graduation, his parents made him an allowance which enabled him to live without working. He briefly studied medicine in Vienna and then returned to Harvard where he did graduate studies in anthropology but then dropped out. Apart from a brief spell in the army in 1942, from which he was discharged for psychological reasons, he did a variety of odd jobs before moving to New York in 1943, where he started associating with the The Beats. It was at this time that he also became a heavy drug user. After various run-ins with the police, he moved to Mexico, where he carried a gun because of the danger there. It was at this time that he accidentally shot and killed his wife. He was not prosecuted but left the country and, after travelling to Colombia and Morocco, returned to New York. It was in New York, that he started writing the novels that would bring him fame. He later moved to Paris and then to London, partially to receive a cure for his drug addiction. His first novel – Junkie – was published in 1953 but received little attention. However, his second novel, Naked Lunch, published in Paris by Olympia Press, received a lot of publicity because of its notoriety. However, he still had financial problems. On returning to New York, he tried teaching but didn’t like it. He made some money by appearing at conventions and cashing in on his fame as a counterculture hero, though he still continued to publish. In 1971 he moved to Kansas, where he spent the rest of his life, dying there in 1997. He will be remembered for his counterculture work, his association with The Beats and for his drug-induced novels. However, critics remain divided over his literary worth.

Books about William Burroughs

Graham Caveney: Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs
Ted Morgan: Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs

Other links

William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
Featured Author: William S. Burroughs
RealityStudio, a William S. Burroughs Community
Burroughs in Lawrence (Kansas)
Burroughs Publications Index
Remembering William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg
William Burroughs graphic novel to be published for first time
Obituary (by J G Ballard)


1953 Junkie (later: Junky)
1959 Naked Lunch
1960 The Exterminator (with Brion Gysin)
1960 Minutes to Go (with Sinclair Beiles, Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin)
1961 The Soft Machine
1962 The Ticket That Exploded
1963 Dead Fingers Talk
1963 The Yage Letters (with Allan Ginsberg)
1964 Nova Express
1964 Roosevelt after Inauguration (later: Roosevelt after Inauguration and Other Atrocities)
1965 Health Bulletin: APO-33, a Metabolic Regulator (later: APO-33 Bulletin: A Metabolic Regulator)
1965 Time
1965 Valentine’s Day Reading
1967 So Who Owns Death TV? (with Claude Pelieu, and Carl Weissner)
1969 The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs
1969 The Last Words of Dutch Schultz
1970 Jack Kerouac
1971 The Electronic Revolution
1971 Ali’s Smile
1971 The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead
1971 Electronic Revolution 1970-71
1973 Port of Saints
1973 Exterminator!
1973 Mayfair Academy Series More or Less
1973 White Subway
1975 The Book of Breeething
1975 Sidetripping (with Charles Gatewood)
1975 Snack. . . (with Eric Mottram)
1976 Cobble Stone Gardens
1976 Letters to Allen Ginsberg 1953-1957
1976 The Retreat Diaries
1978 The Third Mind (with Brion Gysin)
1979 Doctor Benway: A Passage from The Naked Lunch
1979 Ah Pook Is Here and Other Texts
1979 Blade Runner (A Movie)
1981 Cities of the Red Night
1981 Early Routines
1981 The Streets of Chance
1982 A William Burroughs Reader
1983 The Place of Dead Roads
1984 The Burroughs File
1985 Queer
1985 The Adding Machine: Collected Essays (US: The Adding Machine: Selected Essays)
1986 The Cat Inside
1987 The Western Lands
1989 Interzone
1989 Tornado Alley
1991 Ghost of Chance
1993 The Adding Machine : Selected Essays
1993 Speed; Kentucky Ham (novels)
1994 My Education: A Book of Dreams
1998 Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader
2000 Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs
2000 Burroughs Live: The Collected Interviews of William S. Burroughs, 1960-1997
2007 Everything Lost: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs
2008 And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tank
2012 Rub Out the Words : The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1959-1974
2010 Rules of Duel (with Graham Masterton)
2016 Come in with the Dutchman : a Revised Screenplay Version of the Last Words of Dutch Schultz
2018 The Finger (stories)
2018 Don’t Hide the Madness : William S. Burroughs in Conversation with Allen Ginsberg
2018 Dinner at Pat’s : A Conversation with W.S. Burroughs
2018 The Revised Boy Scout Manual: An Electronic Revolutions