Fragment of an Interview with Allen GinsbergTags: Allen Ginsberg, Interview, William Burroughs
(Originally appeared in the Berkeley Barb, 1974)
Interviewer: I’d like to return to Burroughs’ theory of evil. What would you say is its source?
Ginsberg: Well, originally it was analyzed by William Lee the factualist (perhaps representative of a trust of giant insects from another galaxy) in Naked Lunch. But since then in Nova Express and Ticket That Exploded, and more recently in Exterminator! and The Job and The Wild Boys, the agency of the hallucinating Word is a virus from Venus so it’s not other galaxies anymore — it’s an external, extraterrestrial threat from within our own solar system.
Interviewer: Would you go along with the notion that madness is the norm in Burroughs’ fiction?
Ginsberg: I would say the norm is metamorphosis. In Burroughs’ fission madness is the normal behavior of the political world, but it’s also a medium that A.J. Benway and the factualists are able to handle and deal with and use as the material for their examination… and sometimes get caught in, as is possible for an explorer to get caught in a sticky wicket, or as Burroughs himself feels he’s been caught in certain areas he could not handle with drugs like psilocybin and LSD, or yage originally.
But madness is not his ultimate goal, just the obstacle. That is why Burroughs’ geography is so similar to gnostic and Tibetan procedural maps. The wrathful deities are the guardians of the gate to sunyala, blue space… except Burroughs is ascribing all these wrathful deities to a plot by the Control Forces. So his books are really investigations of his consciousness to “trace along the word lines” to the source of control.
Interviewer: Is this terrifying chaos in Burroughs’ fiction purposeful?
Ginsberg: I think so. He would maintain that he is making propositions and hypothesis which he examines by means of language and imagination. So chaos — transfiguration is a better word, really — is only the preliminary guardian of the sacred extraterrestrial area of consciousness. The end is not déregelement de tous les sens but clear vision, not chaos but total silence and calm like a great blue tide flooding the body. And déregelement de tous les sens is not even so much as a means as it is a by-product of the pursuit through to the other side of phenomenon, the disruption of the apparently normal order determined by the CIA and the Control Forces.
In fact, he feels that they are responsible for the chaotic apparitions, the fear of the Ovens, the images of death. What he is saying over and over, also, is that death is the greatest con, that it has been created by the Controllers to scare everybody, and there is really nothing to fear.
Interviewer: How does Burroughs see his own function as a writer relating to this control system?
Ginsberg: The virus from Venus (as before a trust of giant insects from another galaxy) or as in other times the CIA, or the economic control monopolists, or the antisex forces, are all resumed in terms of Power Addiction. So Burroughs wants to discover the source where the original imposition of brainwash comes from. He sees his job as an explorer and inventor of how-to books, how to combat brainwash, how to liberate consciousness from the conditioning imposed on it by the Control Forces.