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100 Top William Seward Burroughs Quotes

Famous As: Best Known for His Third Novel 'Naked Lunch'
Born On: February 5, 1914
Died On: August 2, 1997
Born In: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Founder / Co Founder: Burroughs Adding Machine company, Burroughs Corporation
Died At Age: 83
William Seward Burroughs was an acclaimed essayist, novelist, short story writer, performer and an incredible painter. Known worldwide as "William Lee", he was appreciated for his innovative arts, political views and culturally influential personality. William authored four essay collections, six short story series and eighteen novels in his life time. Even his interviews and correspondences were published in a series of five books. Lee, who had studied English at Harvard and Anthropology in Vienna, was incredibly talented in all art forms. After the U.S. Navy turned down his request of serving in World War II, he worked a variety of odd jobs in London, Mexico city, Tangier, Berlin, Paris and Amazon. The satirist rose to fame with his confessional novel Junkie in 1953. Thereafter, he produced some incredible pieces like the Nova Triology, The Red Night Triology, The Adding Machine and The Burroughs File. His controversial third novel "Naked Lunch" landed him in a court case, after it was challenged for violating the U.S. sodomy laws. The novel had startling, unconventional descriptions of weird sex and drug culture that influenced American society. However Burroughs emerged as a talented writer of Beat Generation. He's said to set a landmark in paranoid fiction genre. He shared his views and thoughts on several subjects through his writings and also through the characters of his novels and books. We have scanned his writings for his most famous quotes. We are taking you through some of William Seward Burroughs’ great quotes about writing, dreams, life, love, books, guns, and much more!
A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.

A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.

William S. Burroughs
There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.

There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.

William S. Burroughs
Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.

Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.

William S. Burroughs
Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.

Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.

William S. Burroughs
Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.

Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.

William S. Burroughs
I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it.

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it.

William S. Burroughs
Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

William S. Burroughs
Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.

Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.

William S. Burroughs
A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on.

A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on.

William S. Burroughs
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.

William S. Burroughs
If I had my way we'd sleep every night all wrapped around each other like hibernating rattlesnakes.

If I had my way we'd sleep every night all wrapped around each other like hibernating rattlesnakes.

William S. Burroughs
You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative

You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative

William S. Burroughs
The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible

The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible

William S. Burroughs
Love is a haunting melody that I have never mastered, and I fear I never will.

Love is a haunting melody that I have never mastered, and I fear I never will.

William S. Burroughs
When you stop growing you start dying.

When you stop growing you start dying.

William S. Burroughs
In the U.S. you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.

In the U.S. you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.

William S. Burroughs
There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business.

There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business.

William S. Burroughs
You know a real friend?
Someone you know will look after your cat after you are gone.

You know a real friend? Someone you know will look after your cat after you are gone.

William S. Burroughs
After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say 'I want to see the manager.

After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say 'I want to see the manager.

William S. Burroughs
Never do business with a religious son-of-a-bitch. His word ain't worth a shit -- not with the Good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.

Never do business with a religious son-of-a-bitch. His word ain't worth a shit -- not with the Good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.

William S. Burroughs
Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is.

Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is.

William S. Burroughs
Language is a virus from outer space

Language is a virus from outer space

William S. Burroughs
Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.

Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.

William S. Burroughs
Writers, like elephants, have long, vicious memories. There are things I wish I could forget.

Writers, like elephants, have long, vicious memories. There are things I wish I could forget.

William S. Burroughs
There are no innocent bystanders ... what are they doing there in the first place?

There are no innocent bystanders ... what are they doing there in the first place?

William S. Burroughs
Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.

Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.

William S. Burroughs
I am getting so far out one day I won't come back at all.

I am getting so far out one day I won't come back at all.

William S. Burroughs
The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

William S. Burroughs
Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.

Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.

William S. Burroughs
Smash the control images. Smash the control machine.

Smash the control images. Smash the control machine.

William S. Burroughs
The face of 'evil' is always the face of total need.

The face of 'evil' is always the face of total need.

William S. Burroughs
Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

William S. Burroughs
Knowing you might not make it... in that knowledge courage is born.

Knowing you might not make it... in that knowledge courage is born.

William S. Burroughs
The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time... and you can't see it if you refuse to face the possibility.

The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time... and you can't see it if you refuse to face the possibility.

William S. Burroughs
There couldn't be a society of people who didn't dream. They'd be dead in two weeks.

There couldn't be a society of people who didn't dream. They'd be dead in two weeks.

William S. Burroughs
A cat's rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.

A cat's rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.

William S. Burroughs
Whether you like it or not, you are committed to the human endeavor. I cannot ally myself with such a purely negative goal as avoidance of suffering. Suffering is a chance you take by the fact of being alive.

Whether you like it or not, you are committed to the human endeavor. I cannot ally myself with such a purely negative goal as avoidance of suffering. Suffering is a chance you take by the fact of being alive.

William S. Burroughs
Thou shalt not be such a shit, you don't know you are one.

Thou shalt not be such a shit, you don't know you are one.

William S. Burroughs
How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity.

How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity.

William S. Burroughs
I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, accute pain. I don't mean sexually. I mean in connection with my writing.

I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, accute pain. I don't mean sexually. I mean in connection with my writing.

William S. Burroughs
Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.

Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.

William S. Burroughs
The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set-up by the non-dreamers

The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set-up by the non-dreamers

William S. Burroughs
Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

William S. Burroughs
There is in fact something obscene and sinister about photography, a desire to imprison, to incorporate, a sexual intensity of pursuit.

There is in fact something obscene and sinister about photography, a desire to imprison, to incorporate, a sexual intensity of pursuit.

William S. Burroughs
Open your mind and let the pictures out

Open your mind and let the pictures out

William S. Burroughs
In homosexual sex you know exactly what the other person is feeling, so you are identifying with the other person completely. In heterosexual sex you have no idea what the other person is feeling.

In homosexual sex you know exactly what the other person is feeling, so you are identifying with the other person completely. In heterosexual sex you have no idea what the other person is feeling.

William S. Burroughs
As soon as you know you are in prison, you have a possibility to escape.

As soon as you know you are in prison, you have a possibility to escape.

William S. Burroughs
That old feeling is still in my leaking heart.

That old feeling is still in my leaking heart.

William S. Burroughs
It's the little touches that make a future solid enough to destroy.

It's the little touches that make a future solid enough to destroy.

William S. Burroughs
Cheat your landlord if you can -- and must -- but do not try to shortchange the Muse.

Cheat your landlord if you can -- and must -- but do not try to shortchange the Muse.

William S. Burroughs
Confusion hath fuck his masterpiece.

Confusion hath fuck his masterpiece.

William S. Burroughs
In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen

In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen

William S. Burroughs
Paranoia is just having the right information.

Paranoia is just having the right information.

William S. Burroughs
The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.

The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.

William S. Burroughs
How long does it take man to realize that he cannot want what he wants? You have to live in hell to see heaven.

How long does it take man to realize that he cannot want what he wants? You have to live in hell to see heaven.

William S. Burroughs
Danger is a biologic necessity, like dreams. if you face death, for that time, for the period of
direct confrontation, you are immortal.

Danger is a biologic necessity, like dreams. if you face death, for that time, for the period of direct confrontation, you are immortal.

William S. Burroughs
Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.

Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.

William S. Burroughs
As one judge said to another judge: be just. And if you can’t be just, be arbitrary

As one judge said to another judge: be just. And if you can’t be just, be arbitrary

William S. Burroughs
When I become death. Death is the seed from which I grow.

When I become death. Death is the seed from which I grow.

William S. Burroughs
I began to get a feeling (...) of being the only sane man in a nut house. It doesn't make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.

I began to get a feeling (...) of being the only sane man in a nut house. It doesn't make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.

William S. Burroughs
The American uppermiddle-class citizen is a composite of negatives. He is largely delineated by what he is not.
- pg. 41

The American uppermiddle-class citizen is a composite of negatives. He is largely delineated by what he is not. - pg. 41

William S. Burroughs
Too perfect to be sexually attractive.

Too perfect to be sexually attractive.

William S. Burroughs
In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality. It is as final as the mountains: a fact. There it is. When you realize it you cannot complain.

In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality. It is as final as the mountains: a fact. There it is. When you realize it you cannot complain.

William S. Burroughs
What a horrible loutish planet this is. the dominant species consists of sadistic morons, faces bearing the hideous lineaments of spiritual famine swollen with stupid hate. hopeless rubbish.

What a horrible loutish planet this is. the dominant species consists of sadistic morons, faces bearing the hideous lineaments of spiritual famine swollen with stupid hate. hopeless rubbish.

William S. Burroughs
Dream long enough and dream hard enough
you will come to know
dreaming can make it so...

Dream long enough and dream hard enough you will come to know dreaming can make it so...

William S. Burroughs
I am not a person and I am not an animal. There is something I am here for something I must do before I can go.

I am not a person and I am not an animal. There is something I am here for something I must do before I can go.

William S. Burroughs
If, after spending time with a person, you feel as though you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that person in the future.

If, after spending time with a person, you feel as though you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that person in the future.

William S. Burroughs
A writer does not own words any more than a painter owns colors. So lets dispense with this originality fetish… Look, listen and transcribe and forget about being original.

A writer does not own words any more than a painter owns colors. So lets dispense with this originality fetish… Look, listen and transcribe and forget about being original.

William S. Burroughs
When he smiled the fear flew away in little pieces of light...

When he smiled the fear flew away in little pieces of light...

William S. Burroughs
And if you're doing a deal with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing.

And if you're doing a deal with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing.

William S. Burroughs
Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has.

Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has.

William S. Burroughs
Last night I woke up with someone squeezing my hand. It was my other hand.

Last night I woke up with someone squeezing my hand. It was my other hand.

William S. Burroughs
Is Control controlled by its need to control? Answer: yes.

Is Control controlled by its need to control? Answer: yes.

William S. Burroughs
I know this one pusher walks around humming a tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey and spectral and anonymous they don't see him and think it is their own mind humming the tune.

I know this one pusher walks around humming a tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey and spectral and anonymous they don't see him and think it is their own mind humming the tune.

William S. Burroughs
If all pleasure is relief from tension, junk affords relief from the whole life process, in disconnecting the hypothalamus, which is the center of psychic energy and libido.

If all pleasure is relief from tension, junk affords relief from the whole life process, in disconnecting the hypothalamus, which is the center of psychic energy and libido.

William S. Burroughs
People have nothing to say, but they are afraid of saying nothing, so what they do say comes out flat and vapid and meaningless. The shadow of death is on every face.

People have nothing to say, but they are afraid of saying nothing, so what they do say comes out flat and vapid and meaningless. The shadow of death is on every face.

William S. Burroughs
Like Spain, I am bound to the past.

Like Spain, I am bound to the past.

William S. Burroughs
The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets.

The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets.

William S. Burroughs
I prefer cats to people, for the most part. Most people aren't cute,
& if they are cute they rapidly outgrow it

I prefer cats to people, for the most part. Most people aren't cute, & if they are cute they rapidly outgrow it

William S. Burroughs
Jesus Christ said 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' not by their disclaimers.

Jesus Christ said 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' not by their disclaimers.

William S. Burroughs
Tell the truth once and for all and shut up forever.

Tell the truth once and for all and shut up forever.

William S. Burroughs
If I knew how much you loved me, I would’ve shot you sooner.

If I knew how much you loved me, I would’ve shot you sooner.

William S. Burroughs
Cowboy: New York hood talk means kill the mother fucker wherever you find him. A rat is a rat is a rat is a rat. Is an informer.

Cowboy: New York hood talk means kill the mother fucker wherever you find him. A rat is a rat is a rat is a rat. Is an informer.

William S. Burroughs
Well as, one judge said to the other, 'Be just and if you can't be just be arbitrary.' Regret cannot observe customary obscenities.

Well as, one judge said to the other, 'Be just and if you can't be just be arbitrary.' Regret cannot observe customary obscenities.

William S. Burroughs
You see, control can never be a means to any practical end...It can never be a means to anything but more control...like junk..

You see, control can never be a means to any practical end...It can never be a means to anything but more control...like junk..

William S. Burroughs
You need a good bedside manner with doctors or you will get nowhere.

You need a good bedside manner with doctors or you will get nowhere.

William S. Burroughs
It is not the intensity but the duration of pain that breaks the will to resist.

It is not the intensity but the duration of pain that breaks the will to resist.

William S. Burroughs
Cat hate reflects an ugly, stupid, loutish, bigoted spirit. There can be no compromise with this Ugly Spirit.

Cat hate reflects an ugly, stupid, loutish, bigoted spirit. There can be no compromise with this Ugly Spirit.

William S. Burroughs
America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians... the evil was there... waiting.

America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians... the evil was there... waiting.

William S. Burroughs
Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

William S. Burroughs
When you cut into the present, the future leaks out

When you cut into the present, the future leaks out

William S. Burroughs
Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts.

Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts.

William S. Burroughs
Fear of death is form of stasis horrors. The dead weight of time.

Fear of death is form of stasis horrors. The dead weight of time.

William S. Burroughs
NOTHING happens by coincidence.

NOTHING happens by coincidence.

William S. Burroughs
He is a boy sleeping against the mosque wall, ejaculates wet dreaming into a thousand cunts pink and smooth as sea shells...

He is a boy sleeping against the mosque wall, ejaculates wet dreaming into a thousand cunts pink and smooth as sea shells...

William S. Burroughs
Tell Allen I plead guilty to vampirism and other crimes against life. But I love him and nothing else cancels love.

Tell Allen I plead guilty to vampirism and other crimes against life. But I love him and nothing else cancels love.

William S. Burroughs
O death where is thy sting? The man is never on time...

O death where is thy sting? The man is never on time...

William S. Burroughs
The broken image of Man moves in minute by minute and cell
by cell.... Poverty, hatred, war, police-criminals, bureaucracy,
insanity, all symptoms of The Human Virus.

The broken image of Man moves in minute by minute and cell by cell.... Poverty, hatred, war, police-criminals, bureaucracy, insanity, all symptoms of The Human Virus.

William S. Burroughs
He remembers his fathers last words: “Stay out of churches, son. All they got a key to is the shit house. And swear to me you’ll never wear a lawman’s badge.

He remembers his fathers last words: “Stay out of churches, son. All they got a key to is the shit house. And swear to me you’ll never wear a lawman’s badge.

William S. Burroughs
A phenomenon must be to some extent comprehensible to be perceived at all.

A phenomenon must be to some extent comprehensible to be perceived at all.

William S. Burroughs