The Significance of Naked Lunch

Posted June 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 2 Comments

Before I review William S. Burroughs seminal Naked Lunch I thought I would write about the historical significance of this extremely controversial novel. I know Adam from Roof Beam Reader did an interesting post (sadly it no longer exists) on Burroughs but I just want to talk about why this one book is so important to literature. Naked Lunch was originally published by European publishers Olympia Press as The Naked Lunch in 1959 and it wasn’t until 1962 that the book ever published in America. The US obscenity laws prevented this book from publication in Burroughs’ homeland until then.

The book was then banned because of obscenity in Boston, which was eventually repealed. The trial of Naked Lunch was the last significant obscenity trial in American literature. The ban was repealed in 1966 as a result of the trial which found that while there are mentions of child murder and acts of paedophilia in this book, it  not considered obscenity but has some social value. Among the people instrumental in fighting the obscenity charges include Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer.

This was huge win for both free speech and the arts. While book banning and censorship is still a hot topic (especially in America); Naked Lunch was the last major obscenity trial involving literature. As another interesting fact, the title of this book was suggested by Jack Kerouac but apparently Allen Ginsberg misread the title on the manuscript which was originally Naked Lust. While not hugely significant to the history of this Beat novel, it helps with the overall understanding of where the name came from. Check out my post on the book Naked Lunch here.

2 responses to “The Significance of Naked Lunch

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