William Burroughs
AUTHOR

William Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs II (/ˈbʌroʊz/; also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 - August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, satirist, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author who wrote in the paranoid fiction genre, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century". His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.

He was born into a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, grandson of the inventor and founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs I, and nephew of public relations manager Ivy Lee. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence, but did not begin publicizing his writing until his thirties. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University, studied English, and anthropology as a postgraduate, and later attended medical school in Vienna. In 1942 Burroughs enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve during World War II, but was turned down by the Office of Strategic Services and Navy, after which he picked up the drug addiction that affected him for the rest of his life, while working a variety of jobs. In 1943 while living in New York City, he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the mutually influential foundation of which grew into the Beat Generation, which was later a defining influence on the 1960s counterculture.

Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris and Tangier in Morocco, as well as from his travels in the South American Amazon. Burroughs accidentally killed his second wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951 in Mexico City, and was consequently convicted of manslaughter. Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie (1953), Burroughs is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch (1959), a highly controversial work that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. With Brion Gysin, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy (1961-1964).

In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift", a reputation he owes to his "lifelong subversion" of the moral, political and economic systems of modern American society, articulated in often darkly humorous sardonicism. J. G. Ballard considered Burroughs to be "the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War", while Norman Mailer declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius".

Burroughs had one child, William S. Burroughs, Jr. (1947-1981), with his second wife Joan Vollmer. William Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, after suffering a heart attack in 1997.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Allen_Ginsberg_and_William_S._Burroughs.jpg: Marcelo Noah derivative work: Сдобников Андрей [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Read more Read less

You're getting a free audiobook.
$14.95 per month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Best Sellers

    • Naked Lunch

    • The Restored Text
    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
    • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      3.5 out of 5 stars 522
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 407
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 413

    Naked Lunch is one of the most important novels of the 20th century, a book that redefined not just literature but American culture....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Delightful rendition

    • By csk on 10-11-12

    Regular price: $20.97

    • Junky

    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: T. Rider Smith, Andrew Garman, Mark Nelson
    • Length: 7 hrs and 7 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 188
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 172
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 174

    Burroughs' first novel, a largely autobiographical account of the constant cycle of drug dependency, cures, and relapses, remains the most unflinching, unsentimental account of addiction ever written....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • I've read it twice and listened to it once

    • By Red Emma on 04-15-14

    Regular price: $20.99

    • Cities of the Red Night

    • The Red Night Trilogy, Book 1
    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Ray Porter
    • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 40
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 33
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 33

    From one of the founders of the beat generation and the 1960s counterculture comes this opening novel of a series available now in audio for the first time....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Book 1 As told by the Master

    • By DesignWise on 11-14-18

    Regular price: $24.47

    • And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

    • By: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Ray Porter
    • Length: 4 hrs and 15 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 136
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 96
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 101

    Both a fascinating piece of American literary history and an engrossing, atmospheric novel, it brings to life a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Pre-Beat Lit, instant classic!

    • By Jeff on 08-20-09

    Regular price: $12.57

    • The Yage Letters Redux

    • By: William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Oliver Harris
    • Narrated by: Andrew Garman, Luis Moreno, Mark Nelson
    • Length: 4 hrs and 45 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 24
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 23
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 23

    William Burroughs closed his classic novel, Junky, by saying he had determined to search out a drug he called 'Yage', a drug that could be 'the final fix'....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Lyrical passages by Allen Ginsberg

    • By Wildfire on 04-24-18

    Regular price: $17.49

    • Wild Boys

    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Luis Moreno
    • Length: 5 hrs and 46 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 29
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 26
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 26

    In this funny, nightmarish masterpiece of imaginative excess, grotesque characters engage in acts of violent one-upmanship, boundless riches mangle a corner of Africa into a Bacchanalian utopia....

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Not for the faint hearted

    • By Megarian on 06-27-13

    Regular price: $20.99

    • The Soft Machine: The Restored Text

    • The Nova Trilogy, Book 1
    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Ramiz Monsef
    • Length: 6 hrs and 18 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 18
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 16
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 16

    In The Soft Machine, William S. Burroughs begins an adventure that will take us into the dark recesses of his imagination, a region where nothing is sacred, nothing taboo....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Breathe in Johnny -- Here Goes --

    • By Darwin8u on 02-13-17

    Regular price: $17.47

    • Queer

    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: T. Ryder Smith, Andrew Garman
    • Length: 4 hrs and 43 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 39
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 36
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 38

    Set in the corrupt and spectral Mexico City of the '40s, Queer is the story of William Lee, a man afflicted with both acute heroin withdrawal and romantic and sexual yearnings for an indifferent user named Eugene Allerton....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Junky 2

    • By Matt on 09-14-16

    Regular price: $17.49

    • The Place of Dead Roads

    • The Red Night Trilogy, Book 2
    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Ray Porter
    • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      5 out of 5 stars 16
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 13
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 13

    Fantastical and humorous, The Place of Dead Roads continues William S. Burroughs' exploration of society's controlling forces....

    Regular price: $24.47

    • The Ticket That Exploded: The Restored Text

    • The Nova Trilogy, Book 2
    • By: William S. Burroughs
    • Narrated by: Ramiz Monsef
    • Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 10
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 9
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 10

    In The Ticket That Exploded, William S. Burroughs' grand "cut-up" trilogy that starts with The Soft Machine and continues through Nova Express reaches its climax....

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Lust for Life

    • By Darwin8u on 12-28-17

    Regular price: $24.47

Are you an author?

Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography.