Author. Also known as his pen name William Lee. He was born to Laura Lee and Mortimer Burroughs. William was named after his famous grandfather, an inventor who was a pioneer in adding-machine technology. William attended prep schools and later studied English literature at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1936. He travelled to Europe and met and married Ilse Klapper for the purpose of allowing her entry into the U.S. The two ended the union upon their entry into the states. He eventually traveled to New York and met writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the mid-1940s. The three would be heralded as starting the Beat Movement, an artistic outpouring of nontraditional, free expression. Much of his work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris, Berlin, the South American Amazon and Tangier in Morocco. In the introduction to Queer, a novel written in 1953 but not published until 1985, William states, "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan's death, so the death of Joan brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out". William accidentally killed his second wife, the brilliant Joan Vollmer, in 1951 in Mexico City, and was consequently convicted of manslaughter. Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie in 1953, he is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch in 1959, a controversy and fraught work that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. With Brion Gysin, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy. In 1983, William was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. William would face family tragedy again as his only child, William Seward Burroughs III, also a writer, succumbed to substance addiction and died from alcohol-related trauma in 1981. William died at his home at the age of 83.
Bio by: Shock
Joan Vollmer Burroughs