‘William Burroughs—extremely gifted writer—almost a giant compared with Kerouac, etc—correctly described by the introduction as being in the tradition of Dostoievsky, Kafka and Beckett—his unbridled intellective violence and genuinely modern imagination make him a good interpreter and excellent poet of this epoch of ours: an epoch which projects itself beyond the planet Earth with the very bodies of human beings while it is at the same time more than ever confused and troubled about its own resources, about its own capacity not to collapse into something subterranean and subhuman. Burroughs’ narrative offers the spectacle and the meaning of a world which is far from being reduced to a sanctuary for insects, but which is struggling in a vortex of force and weakness in which man is still the protagonist, striving to reaffirm in a manner stronger and more free than hitherto his authority as miracle-animal, as rational being, poetic, formed by history.’
Not extracts from a beat magazine. Not a eulogy by a young devotee. These quotations are translated from a two-page spread in Rinascita, the official weekly of the Italian communist party, on the occasion of the publication of the Naked Lunch in Italy. The three thousand word article gives a biography of Burroughs; an account of those of his works already translated in Italy (Junkie, Naked Lunch, and an article on addiction), and shows considerable familiarity with his other works (the titles are given, and even the famous article in the British Journal of Addiction is mentioned).
This article is not perhaps significant for the favourable judgement on the work of William Burroughs. It is significant for its serious approach to an artist of the extreme avant-garde of ‘bourgeois culture’ (length of the article, biographical and bibliographical material, attempt to differentiate between Burroughs and the beats, attempts at an immanent critique, etc). And it is significant, and very welcome, for its implied rejection of the old unthinking hostility which has now lasted for more than a generation between ‘vanguard’ politics (and this term, of course, embraces more than the communist movement) and vanguard culture.