Biological Disaster Story

“Burroughs imagines the beginning of humanity as a biological disaster story. Apes become human as a result of a virus infection that kills most of the species and mutates the rest. The survivors feel a painful invasion of their bodies by an external force that gradually produces human behavior. Humanity develops from language (“the talk sickness”), eating flesh and excrement (cannibalism is implied), and sexuality… [and] must adapt to painful mutations as they become “soft machines.” The soft machine is the human body controlled by physical needs, which can be manipulated through language. The body itself is not evil, but the psychophysical control mechanisms are, and it is these that make bodily existence a trap…”1

  1. Jenny Skerl, “William S. Burroughs,” Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1985 []
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