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Downing, D.L. Kerbis, K. (1998). Exterminate All Rational Thought: David Cronenberg'S Filmic Vision Of William S. Burroughs'S Naked Lunch. Psychoanal. Rev., 85(5):775-792.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Review, 85(5):775-792

Exterminate All Rational Thought: David Cronenberg'S Filmic Vision Of William S. Burroughs'S Naked Lunch

David L. Downing, PsyD and Kim Kerbis, M.A.

Filmic Analysis

A brief discussion of Naked Lunch, the novel and film, provides a context for material to be presented later. The writing of the novel Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs took place primarily between 1954 and 1958, when Burroughs was living in the coastal city of Tangier, on the north coast of Africa. At the time, Tangier was much like the Casablanca inhabited by “Rick” and “Ilsa” in the movie of that name.

Tangier was an international city. Yet even within this cosmopolitan and “stateless” place, there was an even more defined “international zone” or “Interzone.” Here, deadbeats, drug addicts, and other “shady” characters, as well as members of the emerging international jet set lived, but more particularly, played. It was an open city, a polyglot of cultures, religions, and languages. There were no onerous taxes. In short, it was a place where “Everything Is Permitted.” Interzone, in both novel and film, is as much a state of mind as a place.

The writing of the novel was Burroughs's attempt to exorcise his demons. In September 1951, in Mexico City, Burroughs had killed his wife, Joan, “by accident.” But for Burroughs, as well as psychoanalysts, “There are no accidents.” Most agree, even Burroughs, that Joan's death gave Burroughs the impetus to write.

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