Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 15 : Islam Incorporated and the Parties of Interzone | Summary



The narrator describes his work as an agent for Islam Inc., a nebulous organization "financed by A.J. the notorious Merchant of Sex." A.J. maintains a cover as "an international playboy and harmless practical joker." One of his notorious pranks involves spiking the punch at a U.S. Embassy function with an aphrodisiac concoction and sparking an orgy. Later, A.J. causes the death of a prominent chef. He does so by requesting ketchup with his meal and releasing hogs into the restaurant during the outraged melee that follows the request. A.J. also takes a baboon to a New York nightclub and sews chaos among the prostitutes in Venice. A.J. opens a boys' school, and at the opening ceremony he unveils a statue of two boys in a sexually suggestive pose, engraved with the school motto, "With it and for it."

Salvador Hassan O'Leary, known by all his names as well as a score of aliases, also works for Islam Inc. He made his fortune dealing in "slunks," the afterbirth of cattle, and a number of other drugs. He has invested in several illicit trades after starting his career extorting money from "fetishists in shoe stores."

Clem and Jody are a former vaudeville act who work as Russian agents "whose sole function is to represent the U.S. in an unpopular light." To this end they travel around the world engaging in sodomy and other acts with locals.

Everyone involved with Islam Inc. has a different goal. A.J. wants to destroy Israel. Clem and Jody want to destroy Middle Eastern oil fields "to boost the value of their Venezuelan holdings." Hassan's goals are related to his political beliefs as a Liquefactionist.

Similarly, the political parties of Interzone have differing goals. Liquefactionists are interested in physically absorbing everyone into their party. Their primary opposition is the Senders, who attempt to control populations through telepathy, beaming their ideas to their followers. Somewhere between these two groups are the Divisionists, who seek to grow duplicates of themselves from their own flesh and flood the world with replicas. The Factualists exist primarily to oppose all these groups.


A.J.'s pranks aren't really pranks at all. They are sometimes dangerous acts that aim to upset the natural order. They seek to bring people with high social status—or people who believe they have high social status—down a level. His activities strip away pretensions through sometimes humiliating means. In these activities he is able to expose the hypocrisy of anyone who believes appearance matters more than substance. He targets the fancy restaurant and the nightclub because these are places that rely on a certain level of exclusivity for their commercial survival. He opens the boys' school with a statue referencing common rumors about single-sex boarding school culture. Everything A.J. does is subversive, and nothing is sacred to him. In this sense he embodies the satirical ethos driving Naked Lunch.

Hassan has already been established as a Liquefactionist and subscriber to a variety of vices. In his characterization here, the reader learns he has made his fortune on said vices, rising from humble origins to become a prominent and powerful man. The description of Clem and Jody explains their activities in Chapter 13. Like A.J., they exist to sew chaos wherever they go, but their purpose is very different. A.J. thrives on chaos as a means of defanging the powerful and arrogant. Clem and Jody have much more specific political and personal economic motives for their subversive activities.

Three of the major parties of Interzone espouse different means to achieve the same end: total control over the populace. The Liquefactionists seek control through physical means. The Senders seek control through psychological means. The Divisionists seek control through superior numbers. Each of these three systems also lead toward self-destruction. The Liquefactionist approach leads to only one man standing at the end, although nobody knows which man. The Senders engage in mind control, but eventually each Sender must be replaced by another. The Divisionists have no way of knowing which of them is the real thing and which are replicas; thus, they feel forced to destroy themselves to keep the replicas from gaining too much power. Only the Factualists oppose these parties and their desire for control. That opposition means the Factualists espouse a total absence of control, which is also an unsustainable system. The portrayals of these parties reveal a cynical view about political preferences and ideologies, showing them as ultimately interchangeable because they seek the same ends.

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