Title: Queer

Author: William S. Burroughs

Publication Date: 1985

Genre: Fiction

Page Length: Approximately 200 pages


Queer, written by William S. Burroughs and published in 1985, is a work of fiction that delves into the life of a young American man named William Lee. This novel is a continuation of Burroughs’ earlier work, Junkie, which explored the drug underworld of New York City and other themes related to addiction. Queer can be seen as a semi-autobiographical account of Burroughs’ personal experiences and holds great significance in the realm of LGBTQ+ literature.

Set in the 1950s, the novel starts with William Lee arriving in Mexico City in search of his male lover, Eugene Allerton. Lee’s obsession with Eugene drives him to embark on a transformative journey filled with introspection and self-discovery. Burroughs takes readers on a raw and unflinching exploration of Lee’s sexual desires and struggles with acceptance in a conservative society.

Burroughs divides the novel into several sections, each highlighting various stages of Lee’s voyage. In the prologue, Lee explains his motivation for traveling to Mexico, revealing his longing for Eugene and hoping to find clarity and resolution regarding their relationship. This prologue sets the tone for the complex emotional landscape explored throughout the book.

As Lee delves deeper into his experiences in Mexico City, the novel unravels the inner workings of his mind and the challenges he faces as a queer individual. Lee’s encounters with various characters, such as Allerton’s former lover, Gaston, and other expatriates, expose him to diverse perspectives on sexuality and identity. These interactions contribute to his evolving understanding of his own desires and the societal constraints placed upon them.

Themes of desire, self-realization, and the search for connection permeate the narrative. Burroughs vividly portrays the anguish and confusion Lee experiences as he grapples with societal norms and battles with his own internalized shame. Throughout the novel, the exploration of queer identity transcends the confines of the 1950s and addresses the dissonance between one’s true self and the expectations of society.

Burroughs’ writing style is characterized by its raw and fragmented nature. His prose effectively captures the disjointed emotional state of the protagonist, reinforcing the struggle Lee undergoes to understand and accept his desires. While the narrative occasionally includes flashbacks and dream-like sequences, the overall structure propels the story forward in its quest for resolution.

Queer captures the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals during a time when social acceptance was far from the norm. By offering an unflinchingly honest account of Lee’s inner turmoil and personal growth, Burroughs illuminates the struggles of queer individuals striving to reconcile their desires and societal expectations.

This novel stands as a testament to the power of literature to convey marginalized voices and experiences, creating a space for empathy and understanding. Queer serves as a historical touchstone, reminding readers of the progress made in recent decades and shedding light on the ongoing journey toward inclusivity and acceptance.

In conclusion, William S. Burroughs’ Queer provides an intimate view into one man’s journey to embrace his sexual identity against the backdrop of societal norms. Through Lee’s experiences, Burroughs offers readers a poignant exploration of desire, self-acceptance, and the struggles faced by queer individuals in the mid-20th century. Queer continues to serve as an important piece of literature that not only sheds light on historical perspectives but also fosters empathy and understanding in our ever-evolving society.