Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 17 : Interzone | Summary



Aracknid is a chauffeur in Interzone, known for being the only native who is both straight and unavailable. He works for a novelist named Andrew Keif, who forgives Aracknid's poor chauffeuring skills because Aracknid provides a useful excuse for him to avoid social interactions. The narrator describes "the Zone" as a large building with flexible walls, crammed full of people. He describes a lengthy business deal conducted by two merchants, Leif and Marvie, involving a large shipment of K.Y. personal lubricant. The deal drags on for 11 months before payment clears for the Expeditor who handles the details of importation.

Off the coast of Interzone is the Island, run by the British, who demand a ceremonial handover of power from the Island's president every year. The position of president is humiliating, so it is "forced on some particularly noxious and unpopular citizen." Most presidents die of "a broken spirit" soon after being elected, but the Expeditor serves five years, the full term. Then he changes his name, gets plastic surgery, and assumes his post as Expeditor. Leif and Marvie, near the end of their dealings with him, reference his Islander past and send the Expeditor into a rage.


This chapter provides a few more insights about the state of life in Interzone. The example of Aracknid demonstrates how a person's place in the social order is far more important than any real skill. In Aracknid's case, his ability is to lubricate interactions by giving his employer an easy way to end them. This philosophy is amplified by the story of Leif and Marvie, who are trying to move a shipment of actual lubricant. Because they lack the right connections and good fortune—the essential elements of doing business in Interzone—their deal gets delayed for almost a year.

The background of the Expeditor reveals his inadequacies at his chosen profession. The story of the Island harkens back to the colonial resentment made clear in Chapter 13. This time the colonial resentment is aimed at the British, who still have a stranglehold on the local government. Their humiliating treatment of the Island's citizens and government exposes the demoralizing nature of colonial rule. The Expeditor is better at accepting and coping with this humiliation while he is in office. Still, his reaction to Leif and Marvie's talk about his Island background shows he bears deep scars from his former life.

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