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Product Description

Since its original publication in Paris in 1959, Naked Lunch has become one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.

Exerting its influence on the relationship of art and obscenity, it is one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume—that contains final-draft typescripts, numerous unpublished contemporaneous writings by Burroughs, his own later introductions to the book, and his essay on psychoactive drugs—is a valuable and fresh experience of a novel that has lost none of its relevance or satirical bite.

Review


“A masterpiece. A cry from hell, a brutal, terrifying, and savagely funny book that swings between uncontrolled hallucination and fierce, exact satire.” — Newsweek

“A book of great beauty and manically exquisite insight with a wild and deadly humor . . . The only American novelist who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” —Norman Mailer

“Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift. . . . The net result of Naked Lunch will be to make people shudder at their own lies, will be to make them open up and be straight with one another. Swift and Rabelais and Sterne accomplished a step in that direction, and Burroughs another.” —Jack Kerouac

“Booty brought back from a nightmare.” — The New York Times

“Burroughs called his greatest novel Naked Lunch, by which he meant it’s what you see on the end of a fork. He’s a writer of enormous richness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cozy conspiracy, to allow us to see what’s on the end of the fork . . . the truth.” —J. G. Ballard

“It’s a completely powerful and serious book, as good as anything in prose or poetry written by a ‘beat’ writer, and one of the most alive books written by any American for years. I don’t see how it could be considered immoral.” —Robert Lowell

“An absolutely devastating ridicule of all that is false, primitive, and vicious in current American life: the abuses of power, hero worship, aimless violence, materialistic obsession, intolerance, and every form of hypocrisy.” —Terry Southern

“Burroughs was the last great avatar of literary modernism and Naked Lunch is his most important work. Like an intrepid explorer in to the inner space of the human psyche, Burroughs was unafraid to offer up his own unconscious as a kind of test bed, within which to allow the most sinister and viral of ideas to propagate. It was this activity—part alchemical, part psychological—that allowed him to prophesy with unerring accuracy the hideous modes that human behavior would assume in the post-apocalyptic second half of the twentieth century. Naked Lunch is essential reading for anyone who maintains any illusions about anything; to quote its author: ‘Rub out the word.’” —Will Self

“Burroughs is a superb writer, and Naked Lunch a novel of revolt in the best late-modern sense. . . . If there should be a twenty-first century, this is one of the few works historians could turn to for a grasp, both imaginative and intelligent, of the strange historical phase of the human condition we are living through.” —E. S. Seldon

“A creator of grim fairy tales for adults, Burroughs spoke to our nightmare fears and, still worse, to our nightmare longings. . . . And more than any other postwar wordsmith, he bridged generations; popularity in the youth culture is greater now than during the heady days of the Beats.” — The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Only after the first shock does one realize that what Burroughs is writing about is not only the destruction of depraved men by their drug lust, but the destruc¬tion of all men by their consuming addictions. . . . He is a writer of great power and artistic integrity engaged in a profoundly meaningful search for true values.” —John Ciardi

“This book, which is not a novel but a booty brought back from nightmare, takes a coldly implacable look at the dark side of our nature. Civilization fails many; many fail civilization. William Burroughs has written the basic work for understanding that desperate symptom which is the beat style of life.” —Herbert Gold

“A landmark experimental novel.” — Los Angeles Times

“Probably the most audacious book by any American writer since Henry Miller’s celebrated pair of Tropics.” — Chicago Tribune

“ Naked Lunch is a dark, wild ride through the terror of heroin addiction and withdrawal, filled with paranoia, erotica and drug-fueled hallucinations.” —NPR

“An astonishingly lurid account of an addict on the run from the Man.” — San Francisco Weekly

“ Naked Lunch will leave the most amoral readers slack-jawed; and yet a trek beneath the depraved surface reveals interweaving caverns that ooze unsettling truths about the human spirit. . . . In the same galloping, lyrical way Walt Whitman celebrated democratic toilers of all stripes, Burroughs gleefully catalogs totalitarian spoilers and criminal types—be they human or monster, psychological or pharmacological.” — The Kansas City Star

“ Naked Lunch still delivers the gut-grabbing jolt of the autoerotic hangings that punctuate its pages, every death erection and post-mortem ejaculation described with a grim relish that walks the line between cry of conscience and shudder of fetishistic pleasure. . . . Burroughs . . . shoves America headfirst into the bilge of its hypocrisies.” — Las Vegas Weekly

“[ Naked Lunch] made Burroughs’s reputation as a leader of the rebels against the complacency and conformity of American society. . . . An outrageous satire on the various physical and psychological addictions that turn human beings into slaves. . . . Burroughs’s vision of the addict’s life, by which we may infer the lives of all of us in some sense, is a vicious death-in-life of unrelieved abnegation, utter enervation and baroque suffering. Dante could not have envisioned such a post-Holocaust, post-apocalyptic circle of hell.” — The Commercial Appeal

About the Author

William S. Burroughs was born in St. Louis in 1914 and lived in Chicago, New York, Texas, Paris, Tangier, London, and Lawrence, Kansas, where he died in August 1997. He was the author of numerous books, including Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine, Nova Express, The Ticket that Exploded, and The Wild Boys, and was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. James Grauerholz was William Burroughs’s longtime manager and editor, and is now his literary executor.

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4.2 out of 54.2 out of 5
756 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

Sara
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It’s very easy to criticize someone if you’ve never been in the ...
Reviewed in the United States on April 12, 2018
It’s very easy to criticize someone if you’ve never been in the same position. While I will agree with some things stated above I think Naked Lunch was a view inside the mind of a man born before his time. If this book would have been written in the last 10 years or so I... See more
It’s very easy to criticize someone if you’ve never been in the same position. While I will agree with some things stated above I think Naked Lunch was a view inside the mind of a man born before his time. If this book would have been written in the last 10 years or so I don’t think it would’ve had as much negativity and frankly wouldn’t have gotten such a poor mix of reviews. This book is in its own category compared to others. I think William Burroughs was a brilliant writer and was going for the shock value that he had so eloquently written. Naked Lunch was a work of art put into words. And the good thing about art is that its objective. It doesn’t have to make sense it just is what it is.
He seemed to be a very sick man mentally as well as being spun out of his mind when writing Naked Lunch. However, I think being an avid drug user helped him to write a lot of what we don’t see inside the drug world that does happen. He takes you into the underground world of fetish and S&M lifestyle mixed with a beautiful cocktail of drugs swimming on the pages around you. He is like the Andy Warhol of writing, the Willy Wonka of stories. His imagination is truly unique. Whether it’s all true or not doesn’t matter. He has written something that no other authors can ever come close to.
I don’t think when William wrote Naked Lunch he would have ever imagined the amount of value he added to the writing community. I also believe he opened the doors on homosexuality that he himself had hidden from everyone out of fear of being locked away in a nut house. What people don’t understand scares them and not understanding the pain and grief he must’ve felt hurts me. So many times, out of fear we don’t often say how we feel and I’m sure it was quite hard for him to put this book into words. Even more so how hard it was for him to hide who he really was.
58 people found this helpful
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B. Wells
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Road Trip Through Hell
Reviewed in the United States on March 21, 2018
To say that I didn''t like William S. Burroughs'' classic head trip of a novel is vastly understating my reaction. Yes, I realize that "Naked Lunch" is widely considered to be one of the 100 best books of the 20th Century, and I really expected to appreciate the book... See more
To say that I didn''t like William S. Burroughs'' classic head trip of a novel is vastly understating my reaction. Yes, I realize that "Naked Lunch" is widely considered to be one of the 100 best books of the 20th Century, and I really expected to appreciate the book on its own terms, since I''ve read my fair share of subversive fiction and have a fairly high tolerance for the offbeat, grotesque and obscene. I''d heard that "Naked Lunch" was (and possibly still is) required reading for students in some colleges and universities, so when I picked it up I was filled with eager curiosity to see what I''d missed back in my own college days when the most subsersive item on our reading list was "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess. As it turns out, I find that it comes as no surprise that our curriculum did not include "Naked Lunch": I''m pretty sure that none of the learned faculty at that small, conservative enclave (with one or two exceptions) had the stomach, the patience and/or the intestinal fortitude to bother with it. It would almost certainly have sent some of them into spasms of outrage, if not cardiac arrest. Yet "Naked Lunch" is entirely a product of my parents'' generation, that problematic group that publicly embraced fifties-style uniformity while a great unrest bubbled just beneath a bland surface, provoking the writings of Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsburg and others of what came to be known as The Beat Generation. With "Naked Lunch" Burroughs shakes up that inherent conservatism, morality and sameness pervasive in American culture at the time and graphically explores his own drug addictions. But, to what end? There had been many controversial books published before this and many would come after, but for some reason "Naked Lunch" has endured as a classic with countless admirers (of which I am not one).

To try and recount the plot of "Naked Lunch" is an exercise in frustration. It begins in New York with a junkie named William Lee who goes on the run from a pair of narcotics cops. The entire book is like a road trip through hell--or the disheveled mind of a junkie. Lee leaves New York and travels to Mexico and points beyond, hooking up with various unsavory characters along the way while he looks for drugs in a grotesque landscape of endless carnage and squalor. It really is the ugliest book I''ve ever read, and there are some (many?) scenes likely to test the reader''s gag reflex. At first, Burrough''s tale is descriptive and effective, and there is an absurd humor evident in his writing. But, further into it, "Naked Lunch" becomes unbearably repetitive until even the determined ugliness and outrageous horrors become downright boring. And it stays that way. By the time I was finished with the book, I realized that I could have read the first 30 pages and stopped there: I gained nothing from reading through to the end (other than the need to take a shower each time I put it down). For me, "Naked Lunch" represents approximately 8 hours of my life that I''ll never get back.
46 people found this helpful
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John H.
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I read this 30 years ago - and now
Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2020
This is a good version of a classic book from a few decades ago. This is definitely not for everyone - just as the movie was not for almost anyone. The movie left a lot out of the story and missed the real meat of the horrific tale told. The suggestion has been made that... See more
This is a good version of a classic book from a few decades ago. This is definitely not for everyone - just as the movie was not for almost anyone. The movie left a lot out of the story and missed the real meat of the horrific tale told. The suggestion has been made that some of the horrific tales told in the book were not actual "events'', but rather crazy imagined dreams that stuck in the lead character''s head. After reading the book the second time, I have to agree that the nightmarish stories described in some of the chapters - were, in fact, supposed to be nightmares. You''ll get a kick out of almost everything in the book is described in ways that you find in an Avant-Garde clothing catalogue. While it is gross at times, it is still a good view of commercialism and self-importance found in much of our current society.
6 people found this helpful
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Connor Burnett
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Work Of Great Shock And Graphic Depiction
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2020
Arguably William S. Burroughs most recognized book, "Naked Lunch" is easily a piece of literature that one can get quite literally lost in, as it can be incredibly difficult to follow and understand what is going on at times. The book is told in short stories scattered... See more
Arguably William S. Burroughs most recognized book, "Naked Lunch" is easily a piece of literature that one can get quite literally lost in, as it can be incredibly difficult to follow and understand what is going on at times. The book is told in short stories scattered throughout and all in incredibly random context. So what''s the appeal then, you might ask? The appeal is that this book is so crazy at times that you begin to profile Burroughs in a way that you eventually understand that he was the only kind of guy that could''ve written this. It takes a certain kind of mind to be able to come up with the material that is present here. I don''t believe an everyday individual could come up with the situations in this book on their own. This book isn''t famous for being some magnificent piece of literature with a complex story and intriguing characters, it''s famous for its showing of how far a messed up mind can go if it was all written down. By the end of this book, you aren''t suppose to be fully satisfied and go "Wow, that was so amazing" you''re suppose to go "What in the world did I just read?" and if you find yourself going with the latter statement, Burroughs would say "Mission Accomplished"
3 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Honestly hard to read
Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2018
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend because they know I am a fan of Hunter S. Thompson. This book is honestly difficult to read. It''s like someone dumped a bunch of words into a book and then published it. I am halfway through and can''t bring... See more
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend because they know I am a fan of Hunter S. Thompson.
This book is honestly difficult to read. It''s like someone dumped a bunch of words into a book and then published it.
I am halfway through and can''t bring myself to finish reading it.
18 people found this helpful
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Huntsta4
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A mess of words
Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2019
While I enjoyed “Junky” by William S. Burroughs “Naked Lunch” was far less coherent. It is obvious that it was written during the height of his opium addiction as there is barely any way to follow the events that play out. It’s written in chunks of different “stories” that... See more
While I enjoyed “Junky” by William S. Burroughs “Naked Lunch” was far less coherent. It is obvious that it was written during the height of his opium addiction as there is barely any way to follow the events that play out. It’s written in chunks of different “stories” that are more like drug induced fever dreams or ravings of madmen. Whilst entertaining albeit in a difficult and confusing way, the entertainment value dips quick as the graphic imagery and vulgar dialogues never develop and no characters connect to an overlaying plot. I wish I knew what makes this book so renowned because from what I had read, I see little value in this “novel”.
3 people found this helpful
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A. C. Davis
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
then parts of it in random order--which may be the best way to read it
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2014
This is either a work of genius or self-indulgent trash--my opinion of it keeps shifting, each time I read it. (I read it first from beginning to end, then parts of it in random order--which may be the best way to read it, considering what Burroughs himself said about it.)... See more
This is either a work of genius or self-indulgent trash--my opinion of it keeps shifting, each time I read it. (I read it first from beginning to end, then parts of it in random order--which may be the best way to read it, considering what Burroughs himself said about it.) It''s a disturbing book, for sure, which is probably a good thing, and certainly it''s worth reading for its historical importance. But it seems shallow and obvious when compared, for instance, with "Ulysses," another oft-banned book of the 20th century. Kerouac and McCarthy compared Burroughs with Swift, and the comparison is interesting, because both writers were horrified and revolted by many of the objects they write about. But, first of all, Swift is much funnier than Burroughs; and, secondly, Burroughs'' Bad Guys are mainly the people who get in the way of, or who profit from, his drug habit--a part of his life about which he was himself (to put it mildly) conflicted. And, sure, you can argue that the lack of control in the man''s writing is just part of the "Beat aesthetic." Still, I miss in Burroughs the self-irony and life-affirming energy that I see abundantly in, say, Kerouac and Ginsberg.
11 people found this helpful
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Vanessa
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Horrible
Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2021
Maybe it''s just me......I had to read the 1st 3 pages over and over.....I got this for a book club and ended up opting out. I prefer books to be enjoyable....not work....it was a chore to try to read this.
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Top reviews from other countries

Gautam
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
On the fence
Reviewed in Canada on December 5, 2018
On the one hand, I’m beyond intrigued and open to what this book has to offer. On the other hand, I am unable to understand much of it.
On the one hand, I’m beyond intrigued and open to what this book has to offer. On the other hand, I am unable to understand much of it.
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Diego López Valencia
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
En general, buena compra
Reviewed in Mexico on November 19, 2017
Buena edición, buena imagen, buen material; y a muy buen precio, lo recomiendo, llevo un buen rato buscando este libro, así que estoy muy satisfecho
Buena edición, buena imagen, buen material; y a muy buen precio, lo recomiendo, llevo un buen rato buscando este libro, así que estoy muy satisfecho
One person found this helpful
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Carrie Lynn
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Naked emperor, more like it ...
Reviewed in Canada on September 8, 2018
God I hate this book. Why is it on university courses?
God I hate this book. Why is it on university courses?
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Miguel Garrido
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great reading
Reviewed in Spain on June 6, 2014
Impecable quality the one of these paperback edition. You''ll really appreciate the footnotes on these edition. Personally I highly recommend buying this one.
Impecable quality the one of these paperback edition.
You''ll really appreciate the footnotes on these edition.

Personally I highly recommend buying this one.
One person found this helpful
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Donald Stabler
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
the bear facts! hubba
Reviewed in Canada on June 23, 2016
What a heavy book.
What a heavy book.
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