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Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1959 publication of William S. Burroughs’ Naked LunchHome • About • Contact • RSS • Updates • Press  

Naked Lunch @ 50

“I can feel the heat closing in . . .”

Welcome to nakedlunch.org, the resource for admirers and fans, scholars and students and afficianados ofNaked Lunch, and for all those who wish to find out more about Burroughs’ most influential work.

Special features on the history, reception, and influence of Naked Lunch, and testimonials and critiques will appear on this site as well as previously unseen photographs and artworks. We welcome critical and creative contributions, and questions and insights from readers of Naked Lunch, as part of the creation of an archive on the difficulties and delights of Burroughs’ mysterious and terrifying masterpiece — a book unlike any other.

“‘Disgusting,’ they said . . . ‘Pornographic’ . . . ‘Un-American trash’ . . . ‘Unpublishable’ . . . Well, it came out in 1959, and it found an audience . . . Town meetings . . . Book burnings . . . And an Inquiry by the State Supreme Court . . . That book made quite a little impression . . .” — William Burroughs

Anniversary Homage

Rue Git-le-coeur sign
Home of the Beat Hotel where Burroughs completed Naked Lunch.

2009 marks the 50th Anniversary of the first edition of Naked Lunch, which was published in Paris in July 1959 by Olympia Press. To celebrate, Southern Illinois University Press has just published Naked Lunch@50: Anniversary Essays, edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen. The book, the first ever dedicated entirely to the study of Naked Lunch, includes contributions by over twenty writers, scholars, musicians and artists.

In addition to the publication of Naked Lunch@50: Anniversary Essays, a series of homages is being held in locations around the world. Participants in the events include: John GIORNO, Anne WALDMAN, Eric ANDERSEN, Barry MILES, Peter WELLER, Terry WILSON, Penny LANE, Michael MCCLURE, James GRAUERHOLZ, Thurston MOORE, Genesis P-ORRIDGE, Barney ROSSET, Hal WILLNER, Harold CHAPMAN, RADIO JOY, Davis SCHNEIDERMAN, RB MORRIS, Bradford MORROW, and many others.

For information on these festivities, you can refer to the Events page or jump directly to the city of your interest:

Nakedlunch.org will continue beyond the homage festivities, creating not a critical consensus or a litany of panegyrics, or an historical record for its own sake, but a presentation of the disparate ways in which the book is read and understood right now, in our own separate but connected spaces, through our own unique yet shared experiences of time, to bring together the fractured and intermittent possibilities of this magical and discomfiting text.

As a homage to Naked Lunch and its fifty-year history, the site features material about the text itself, the scenes of its writing in Tangier and Paris, the music which runs through the book, attempts to film the novel in the 1960s and 70s, as well as an open space for tributes and comments from readers.

Burroughs in Rothschild suitWilliam Burroughs, Paris, 1959. Burroughs is wearing what he called his “Rothschild suit”. One of a number of images taken of Burroughs by Brion Gysin in the streets of Paris. Gysin told writer Terry Wilson that the series was an ironic magical operation intended to procure Burroughs’ entry into the French Academy. Note the ripped, torn and detourned posters calling for a lasting peace agreement in Algiers, and the peeling upper walls in which the image of Africa serendipitously appears.

Naked Lunch On and Off Film — An essay on the attempts of William Burroughs, Tony Balch and Brion Gysin to realise their collective vision ofNaked Lunch through the medium of film. Based upon documents, letters and screenplay manuscripts from the collection of writer Terry Wilson, a close friend of Burroughs, Balch and Gysin, Ian MacFadyen’s detailed documentary essay corrects existing notions about the failure of the original Naked Lunch movie project and re-addresses the “doomed attempt” to “film the un-filmable” by looking in detail at Gysin’s different versions of the screenplay and by examining the historical context and the finance and operation of cinema during that time. Illustrated with previously unseen manuscript pages and images.

Naked Lunch Discography: A Musical Guide — Burroughs loved Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust (1927), and it was the music of the Jazz Age which touched him, and to which he was nostalgically attached. This was Burroughs’ true musical era — the era of sheet music, piano rolls, and the phonograph, vaudeville theatres and nightclubs, radio broadcasts, player pianos and song lyrics projected on cinema screens to piano, organ and orchestral accompaniment. Complementing Ian MacFadyen’s important chapter on this music in Naked Lunch@50: Anniversary Essays, nakedlunch.org will feature a series of pieces on the music actually referenced, detourned, mocked and ridiculed in Naked Lunch, with detailed historical and musicological information on those songs and tunes which constitute the book’s significant and omnipresent soundtrack.

Space-Time Travel: Tangier Posts — Oliver Harris goes in search of Tangier, one of the great historic cities transformed by Burroughs into the phantasmagoric Interzone. Through photographs, postcards, maps and texts, this is an attempt to explore the links between the documentary and the topographic and the territory that lies beyond the map.

Naked Lunch: A Bibliographic Reference And Guide — Naked Lunch is an extraordinarily referential text though Burroughs most often does not cite his sources in the text and was sometimes reluctant to admit his influences. This section of the site will create a reference guide with key textual annotations and will include both identifiable and felt connections. Works by Henry Miller, David Maurer, David Lindsay, Charles Hoy Fort, Herbert Asbury, Henri Michaux, Frazer, Eliot, Rimbaud, Celine, Fitzgerald, Bowles and many more will be featured, as well as film noir, pulp and magazine sources.

Guide Bleu : William Burrough Et Paris — This guide to the French capital and France in the 1950s and early 1960s gives a flavour and savour of a vanished milieu and moment in time. It includes archive photographs of Paris and the bohemian scene, and places Naked Lunch in its social-historical context. In French and English.