The Yage Letters by William Burroughs & Allen Ginsberg


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City Light Books, 1965. First Edition, Second Printing. 68 pages.

'In The Yage Letters , a mix of travel writing, satire, psychedelia and epistolary novel, Burroughs journeys through South America, writing to his friend Allen Ginsberg about his experiments with the strange drug, using it to travel through time and space, to derange his senses. Years later, Ginsberg writes back as he follows in Burroughs' footsteps, and the drug is worse and more profound than he had imagined.
In letters to Allen Ginsberg, 'an unknown young poet in New York', his journey to the Amazon jungle is recorded, detailing picaresque incidents of a search for a telepathic-hallucinogenic-mind-expanding drug called yage (Ayahuasca, or Banisteripsis Caape), used by Amazonian Indian doctors for finding lost objects; mostly bodies and souls.
Author and recipient of these letters met again in New York, Christmas 1953, and edited the writings to form this single book. The correspondence contains the first seeds of the later"Naked Lunch". Seven years later Ginsberg in Peru writes his old guru an account of his own visions and terrors with the same drug, appealing for further counsel. Burroughs' mysterious reply is sent.
The volume concludes with two epilogues: a short note from Ginsberg on his return from the Orient years later reassuring Self that he is still here on earth, and a final poetic cut-up by Burroughs, "I am dying, Meester? '