After Naked Lunch was published in 1959, Burroughs graduated from unknown writer to literary celebrity. Today he is widely regarded, along with Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, as one of the three towering figures of the Beat movement. He was one of the most prominent figures in the emergence of the postwar counterculture, and his influence stretches well beyond the Beats to the bohemias of the '60s, the '70s, and beyond. In 2014, a century after his birth in St. Louis, his work remains a touchstone for alienated cynics of all kinds.
But Burroughs' worldview was miles from the peace-and-love socialism that our cultural clichés tell us to expect from a hippie hero. In 1949, according to Barry Miles' new biography Call Me Burroughs, he complained to Kerouac that "we are bogged down in this octopus of bureaucratic socialism." When he was a landlord in New Orleans he sent Ginsberg a rant against rent control, and when he found himself owning a farm in Texas he gave Ginsberg an earful about the evils of the minimum wage. Eventually he departed for Mexico, and there he wrote to Ginsberg again. "I am not able to share your enthusiasm for the deplorable conditions which obtain in the U.S. at this time," he told his leftist friend. "I think the U.S. is heading in the direction of a Socialistic police state similar to England, and not too different from Russia....At least Mexico is no obscenity 'Welfare' State, and the more I see of this country the better I like it. It is really possible to relax here where nobody tries to mind your business for you." He added that Westbrook Pegler, a hard-right pundit who would soon be a vocal defender of Sen. Joe McCarthy, was "the only columnist, in my opinion, who possesses a grain of integrity."
Two decades later, covering the Democratic Party's bloody 1968 convention for Esquire, Burroughs manifested a more left-wing aura. A day after his arrival he donned a McCarthy button—the antiwar insurgent candidate Eugene McCarthy, that is, not Pegler's pal Joe. When cops started assaulting protesters outside the convention hall, Burroughs immediately aligned himself with the radicals in the streets, declaring in a public statement that the "police acted in the manner of their species" and asking, "Is there not a municipal ordinance that vicious dogs be muzzled and controlled?" (...)
So had the aging artist shifted from the far right to the far left? (...)
Burroughs was no conventional conservative. As a bisexual, a drug user, and a writer whose work was regularly damned as "obscene," he came to regard the right as a gang of bigots and busybodies. But he was no conventional radical either. (...)
Another revolutionary fantasy opens Burroughs' 1981 novel Cities of the Red Night. Here again the heroes are outlaws. Burroughs had discovered the legend of Captain Misson, a probably-fictional pirate whose self-governing, freedom-loving crew was said to have targeted slave ships, liberating the cargo and inviting them to join Misson's buccaneers as equals. According to legend, they eventually established an anarchistic colony on Madagascar called Libertatia. Burroughs imagines an alternate history where Libertatia survived and inspired imitations. "Imagine a number of such fortified positions all through South America and the West Indies, stretching from Africa to Madagascar and Malaya and the East Indies, all offering refuge to fugitives from slavery and oppression," Burroughs writes. "Imagine such a movement on a world-wide scale. Faced by the actual practice of freedom, the French and American revolutions would be forced to stand by their words. The disastrous results of uncontrolled industrialization would also be curtailed, since factory workers and slum dwellers from the cities would seek refuge in [the pirate colonies]. Any man would have the right to settle in any area of his choosing. The land would belong to those who used it. No white-man boss, no Pukka Sahib, no Patrons, no colonists."
In a sense this was a new Burroughs: The onetime landlord and employer was now dreaming of a world without landlords or bosses. But the mechanism he imagined didn't resemble the rent-control and minimum-wage laws he denounced in the '40s. If anything, he was calling for something even more anti-statist. Burroughs didn't want a bureaucracy; he wanted a world without control systems.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 10:15