Born: January 19, 1916, Taplow, United Kingdom
Died: July 13, 1986, Paris, France
Lived: Beat Hotel, Relais Hôtel du Vieux Paris, 9, rue Git-le-Coeur, 6th arr., 75006 Paris, France (48.85391, 2.34285)
Artwork: Calligraffiti of Fire, more
Movies: The Cut Ups, Flicker, Destroy All Rational Thought, William S. Burroughs: Thee Films: 1950s-1960s
Parents: Leonard Gysin, Stella Margaret Martin
The Beat Hotel was a small, run-down hotel of 42 rooms at 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur in the Latin Quarter of Paris, notable chiefly as a residence for members of the Beat poetry movement of the mid-XX century.
Address: Relais Hôtel du Vieux Paris, 9, rue Git-le-Coeur, 6th arr., 75006 Paris, France (48.85391, 2.34285)
Type: Guest facility (open to public)
Phone: +33 1 44 32 15 90
The Beat Hotel was a "class 13" hotel, meaning bottom line, a place that was required by law to meet only minimum health and safety standards. It never had any proper name – "the Beat Hotel" was a nickname given by Gregory Corso, which stuck. The rooms had windows facing the interior stairwell and not much light. Hot water was available Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The hotel offered the opportunity for a bath – in the only bathtub, situated on the ground floor – provided the guest reserved time beforehand and paid the surcharge for hot water. Curtains and bedspreads were changed and washed every spring. The linen was (in principle) changed every month. The Beat Hotel was managed by a married couple, Monsieur and Madame Rachou, from 1933. After the death of Monsieur Rachou in a traffic accident in 1957, Madame was the sole manager until the early months of 1963, when the hotel was closed. Besides letting rooms, the establishment had a small bistro on the ground floor. Due to early experiences with working at an inn frequented by Monet and Pissarro, Madame Rachou would encourage artists and writers to stay at the hotel and even at times permit them to pay the rent with paintings or manuscripts. One unusual thing that appealed to a clientele of bohemian artists was the permission to paint and decorate the rooms rented in whichever way they wanted. The hotel gained fame through the extended “family” of beat writers and artists who stayed there from the late 1950s to the early 1960s in a ferment of creativity. Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky first stayed there in 1957 and were soon joined by William S. Burroughs, Derek Raymond, Harold Norse and Gregory Corso, as well as Sinclair Beiles. It was here that Burroughs completed the text of “Naked Lunch” and began his lifelong collaboration with Brion Gysin. It was also where Ian Sommerville became Burroughs’ “systems advisor” and lover. Gysin introduced Burroughs to the Cut-up technique and with Sommerville they experimented with a “dream machine” and audio tape cut-ups. Here Norse wrote a novel, “Beat Hotel,” using cut-up techniques. Ginsberg wrote a part of his moving and mature poem “Kaddish” at the hotel and Corso wrote the mushroom cloud-shaped poem “Bomb.” There is now a small hotel, the four-star Relais du Vieux Paris, at that address. It displays photographs of several Beat personalities and describes itself as "The Beat Hotel.” In July 2009, as part of a major William Burroughs symposium, NakedLunch@50, a special tribute was held outside 9 Rue Gît-le-Coeur, with Jean-Jacques Lebel unveiling a plaque commemorative, now permanently hammered to the outside wall next to the main entrance, honoring the Beat Hotel’s seven most famous occupants: B. Gysin, H. Norse, G. Corso, A. Ginsberg, P. Orlovsky, I. Sommerville, W. Burroughs.
Who: William Seward Burroughs II (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997)
William Burroughs moved into the rundown hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris in 1959 when “Naked Lunch” was still looking for a publisher. Tangier, with its easy access to drugs, small groups of homosexuals, growing political unrest, and an odd collection of criminals, had become increasingly unhealthy for Burroughs. He went to Paris to meet Ginsberg and talk with Olympia Press. In so doing, he left a brewing legal problem, which eventually transferred itself to Paris. Paul Lund, a British former career criminal and cigarette smuggler whom Burroughs met in Tangier, was arrested on suspicion of importing narcotics into France. Lund gave up Burroughs, and some evidence implicated Burroughs in the possible importation of narcotics into France. Once again, the man faced criminal charges, this time in Paris for conspiracy to import opiates, when the Moroccan authorities forwarded their investigation to French officials. Yet it was under this impending threat of criminal sanction that Maurice Girodias published “Naked Lunch;” the publication helped in getting Burroughs a suspended sentence, since a literary career, according to Ted Morgan, is a respected profession in France. The "Beat Hotel" was a typical European-style boarding house hotel, with common toilets on every floor, and a small place for personal cooking in the room. Life there was documented by the photographer Harold Chapman, who lived in the attic room. This shabby, inexpensive hotel was populated by Gregory Corso, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky for several months after “Naked Lunch” first appeared. The actual process of publication was partly a function of its "cut-up" presentation to the printer. Girodias had given Burroughs only ten days to prepare the manuscript for print galleys, and Burroughs sent over the manuscript in pieces, preparing the parts in no particular order. When it was published in this authentically random manner, Burroughs liked it better than the initial plan. International rights to the work were sold soon after, and Burroughs used the $3,000 advance from Grove Press to buy drugs (equivalent to approximately $24,353 in today’s funds.) “Naked Lunch” was featured in a 1959 Life magazine cover story, partly as an article that highlighted the growing Beat literary movement. During this time Burroughs found an outlet for material otherwise rendered unpublishable in Jeff Nuttall’s My Own Mag. Also, some of Burroughs poetry appeared in the avant garde little magazine Nomad at the beginning of the 1960s. Ian Sommerville (1940–1976) was an electronics technician and computer programmer. He is primarily known through his association with William S. Burroughs’s circle of Beat Generation figures, and lived at Paris’s so-called "Beat Hotel" by 1960, when they were regulars there, becoming Burroughs’s lover and "systems adviser.” He died in a single-car accident due to inexperience near Bath, England in 1976 shortly after obtaining his first driving licence.
Queer Places, Vol. 3 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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