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Soft Machine Paperback – 29 Apr 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

Soft Machine + Naked Lunch: The Restored Text + Junky: The Definitive Text of 'Junk' (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; paperback / softback edition (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007341911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007341917
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘“The Soft Machine” has its background in the underwater cities of Flash Gordon serials, broken-down towns in South America, faded photos and 1920s films in seedy movie houses. Essential reading.’ Observer

‘[Burroughs’] great fictions [show] his superb, hard-edged satirical visions of cancerous and addictive consumerism; his elegiac and poetic invocations of sadness and dislocation; his enormous fertility of ideas and imagery.’ Will Self, Guardian

‘A world compounded of myth and science fiction in which freedom and order are eternally opposed. Out of the dirt, the excrement, the couplings, Burroughs makes a disgusting, exciting poetry.’ Sunday Times

Praise for William Burroughs:

'Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift.' Jack Kerouac

'Burroughs' voice is hard, derisive, inventive, free, funny, serious, poetic, indelibly American, a voice in which one hears transistor radios and old movies and all the clichés and all the cons and all the newspapers, all the peculiar optimism, all the failure.' Joan Didion

'The only American novelist who may conceivably be possessed by genius.' Norman Mailer

'In the English language, William Burroughs is the greatest writer alive. His imagination has tackled head-on the post-war world, with its huge bureaucracies and sinister complexes. He has a paranoid vision, but as he himself said: the psychotic is someone who knows what's really going on.' J. G. Ballard, Sunday Times

‘William Burroughs broadened people’s conception of what makes humanity. In that way, he really was an American hero, a hero writer, and also just a great man.’ Lou Reed

About the Author

William Burroughs was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1914. Immensely influential among the Beat writers of the 1950s – notably Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg – he already had an underground reputation before the appearance of his first important book, ‘Naked Lunch’. Originally published by the daring and influential Olympia Press (the original publishers of Henry Miller) in France in 1959, it aroused great controversy on publication and was not available in the US until 1962 and in the UK until 1964. The book was adapted for film by David Cronenberg in 1991. William Burroughs died in 1997.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Toby Dammit on 8 July 2013
Format: Paperback
I finished reading this yesterday and I was moved to write a review because the current two hardly do the book justice.

To me the book was dazzling, shocking, mind-bending and richly poetic. However, it is important to understand just a little about the cut-up technique that Burroughs used to construct this piece of work. The Soft Machine is a collage of previously written texts, in which sentence and narrative are deliberately fragmented then spliced together so that disparate images, concepts and characters are forced into juxtaposition. The results are startling, humourous and at times, nightmarish. In this method, conventional grammar and syntax fly out the window but a certain kind of poetry emerges, which could not be achieved by other means.

If you are not familiar with Burroughs' work, this might not be the best place to start, instead a novel like Junky might be a better place to begin. The Soft Machine contains all the classic Burroughs motifs: aliens, mutant insects, jaded detectives, dystopian worlds, unsavoury medical procedures and a LOT of graphic sex, most, if not all of it between men.

Without a doubt, this is not a book for everyone. When you bear in mind that W.B. set out, deliberately, at a young age, to "s*** out" what he saw as the mental and social bonds imposed on him by his middle class upbringing, this book, like everything else he wrote, can be seen as part of that process. Some people will find that an interesting concept, others will not. Reading the Soft Machine is a little like watching a screen onto which thousands of images are projected in rapid succession. Many of these images are horrific, repulsive, many are poignant, erotic or simply beautiful. It their glorious collision that makes the book such a rich and visceral experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan the Kaz on 10 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
Not knowing much about William Burroughs other than his history with drugs, I picked up `The Soft Machine' spontaneously, assuming that it would be a "normal" novel, albeit a strange one. To say the least, I certainly wasn't expecting this. One paragraph in, and I'd raised an eyebrow; one page in, and I was starting to wonder if the whole first chapter would be as seemingly nonsensical as what I'd just read. When I found that the second chapter was just as weird, I started to question whether or not it would be worth continuing to read a book that I just didn't understand, but I persevered after reading the Wikipedia article on it and finding out that some kind of sense emerges from it in chapter 7. There was a strange allure to it, after all, as I'd never read anything quite like it before. Written in the so-called "cut-up and fold-in" technique, the book consists of many different seemingly random, mostly graphic, and often horrific, scenes spliced into one another. Paragraphs go off into a tangent, sentences inexplicably merge into one another, and there's a general disregard for character, story or even grammar. I must admit, for most of the book, I found it arduous to read and I often came close to throwing in the towel and chucking it in the bin.

However, by the time I'd reached chapter 7, the only chapter to have a somewhat coherent plot, and which kind of puts the rest of the book into perspective, I'd gotten my head around the incredibly disjointed writing style, and began to appreciate it for what it was. I say "appreciated", but that's purely on an artistic level. By this point, I still didn't actually *like* the book, although some of the scenes were very funny. I also started to realise that this is a book that you have to read in small doses and really concentrate on.
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By Dave on 5 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love Burroughs. THE SOFT MACHINE is most definitely one of his harder works to consume but it's rewarding in a way that other writers rarely achieve.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miz on 17 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Said had signs of wear and tear, hardly a mark on it. I've picked up more worn books from book shop shelves.
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