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William S. Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs (1914 - 1997) is an experimental novellist who belongs to the Beat Generation of the 1950s. He grew up middle-class and studied anthropology and ethnology at Harvard University. A few years later he went to New York City, where he met Beat Generation poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, as well as slipping into drug addiction. In 1949 he went to Mexico with his then-wife, whom he accidentally shot during a drunken prank. He fled to South America, traveling in the years that followed and changing his residence between London, Paris, New York City and Tangier before settling in Lawrence, Kansas in 1981.

During his travels, he was often in contact with Allen Ginsberg. The letters from this connection resulted in the publication The Yage Letters, which includes many details of Burroughs' destructive lifestyle. In his works, some of which he published under the pseudonym William Lee, he dealt particularly with dystopian, apocalyptic themes with reference to his own experiences with homosexuality and drug addiction, oppression, and police persecution. Burroughs testified that drug addiction hindered his activity as a writer, but the social and bizarre scenes and networks into which he was drawn as a result gave him inspiration and source material for his creative activities. His absurd experiences found particular expression in the publication of Naked Lunch.


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