William Burroughs, Paris, 1959

LIFE: “William S. Burroughs in Paris, 1959 — the year his novel Naked Lunch was published”. © Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

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Last year marked the 100 anniversary of William S. Burroughs’s birthday: he was born on February 5, 1914. Many events marked the occasion throughout the year. Some of those were listed at the official Burroughs 100 website, maintained in collaboration with the estate of William S. Burroughs.

Archive on 4 took the opportunity to coproduce an exceptional documentary titled “Burroughs at 100”. It was first broadcasted on February 15, 2014. From BBC’s website:

Whizzing from Mexico to South America to Tangier to Paris to London, then finally back to the States, Burroughs forged an influential body of work. With Junkie, Queer, Naked Lunch, the “Cut-Up Trilogy”, the “Red Night Trilogy”, paintings, audio recordings and films, Burroughs became the only name worth checking in the counterculture.

Iggy Pop reflects on Burroughs’ extraordinary life with close friends and artists that felt his influence. Contributors include James Grauerholz, Will Self, Victor Bockris, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Genesis P-Orridge and John Waters. (read more)

The award-winning show offers a compelling, but unapologetic presentation of Burroughs’s life through the creative use of archive materials and original interviews. Those who are already familiar with Burroughs’s colorful and complicated life will likely know most of the facts presented during the hour-long documentary. But for the others, it represents an excellent opportunity to learn more about the context in which Burroughs came to be known as an iconic, although ambiguous figure.

Aside from its masterful editing job, the documentary features the noteworthy participation of Iggy Pop. Acting as the show’s presenter, the notorious musician delivers a convincing performance. Far from indulging in a conventional narration, Iggy Pop regularly sidesteps the script in order to voices some concerns regarding the producer’s plans. In the process, he provides the documentary with a well-suited touch of derision.

Although the show isn’t available at BBC’s website anymore, it can be found elsewhere. In January of 2015, This American Life re-broadcasted the entire documentary: Episode 546: “Burroughs 101”. The file can also be found at Third Coast International Audio Festival website, where the show won a “Directors’ Choice” award in 2014.

Additionally, HowSound podcast has a 30-min episode recorded on January 13, 2015, where host Rob Rosenthal discusses with the producer of Burroughs at 100, Colin McNulty. They talk about how the show came together, what it was like working with Iggy Pop, and the differences between producing audio documentaries in the U.K. and the U.S.

Iggy Pop with a photo of William Burroughs. Retrieved from Third Coast Festival.
Iggy Pop with a photo of William Burroughs. Retrieved from Third Coast Festival.

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