Authors: William Burroughs and Brion Gysin
Edited and introduced by Oliver Harris
Press: Moloko Plus, Schönebeck
Year: 2020, second printing
Size: 210 x 140 x 15 mm
Pages: 184, offset printed and perfect bound
Design: Robert Schalinski
From Oliver Harris’ introduction:
A unique lost manuscript pieced together from the archives, BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS weaponises the methods of radical art for acts of anarchic insurrection against the global elites and alien powers that rule our planet. Just as fresh and ferocious as when it was written in 1960, it reveals Burroughs the polemicist and prophet at his most revolutionary, the cut-up guerrilla tactician and man of ideas at his most incendiary, a surprise to even dedicated followers and a spectacular introduction for new readers. But don’t be misled by the publicity puff and scholarly spin, for this isn’t a minor masterpiece recovered from the past to celebrate or study; it’s something far more ambivalent and important. This is the Real Thing we thought we always wanted, Burroughs absolutely unbound, radical in tooth and claw—which forces us to wonder: is this what we wanted after all?
BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS mirrors back the hypocrisy of our desire, because we don’t want Burroughs redacted or recuperated into just another canonical figure, an airbrushed icon of iconoclasm: we want our Burroughs uncompromisingly corrosive and experimentally far out, beyond the pale of life and literature—but only up to a certain point. BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS exceeds that point and presses uncertainty to the limit. It’s hard to say whether what we’re reading is blistering or boring, mesmerising or moronic, a work of literature or ranting naked polemic, a hex or a hoax, while it seems as reactionary as it is revolutionary, as stupidly repetitive as anything by Gertrude Stein, as virulently anti-Semitic as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and as psychotic as Robert De Niro’s vigilante killer in Taxi Driver, talking to himself in the mirror with guns up his sleeves. Even Burroughs quickly had second thoughts, at the time conceding it was “just as well” that it wasn’t published, and readers sixty years later might at first sight agree that it would have been better off left in bits and pieces in the archival vaults.
Oliver Harris’ life as a Burroughsian began in 1984 with a PhD at Oxford that nobody would supervise. He has since gone on to publish and edit more than a dozen books about and by Burroughs, including William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination and new editions of three trilogies: Junkie Queer, The Yage Letters: Restored versions of Nova Express, The Soft Machine and The Ticket that exploded; and in 2020 Minutes to go redux, The Exterminator redux and BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS. He is Professor of American Literature at Keele University and President of the European Beat Studies Network.