Naked Lunch

William Burroughs

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William Burroughs

Year Published






Perspective and Narrator

Naked Lunch uses a first-person narrator with limited perspective for most sections, although several chapters feature third-person narration. The narrator is deep in the throes of drug addiction, which leads to a highly unreliable, surreal, and grotesque presentation of his experiences.


Naked Lunch is written in the present tense.

About the Title

William S. Burroughs credits the title Naked Lunch to fellow Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac in "Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness." This 1960 essay accompanies later editions of the novel. Burroughs adds, "The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch—a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." Burroughs's explanation urges careful examination of food, composed of the dead flesh of animals and cooked or dying plant matter. The lunch is symbolic of the decay and waste present in daily life, especially the daily life of a drug addict.

The editors of Naked Lunch: The Restored Text, James Grauerholz and Barry Miles, reference a 1960 letter from Kerouac to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac credits Ginsberg with inventing the title while the two of them prepared Burroughs's manuscript for publication. In this letter Kerouac says "naked lunch" originates from Ginsberg's misreading of the words "naked lust."


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