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The Yage Letters
by William S. Burroughs & Allen Ginsberg
Publisher:
City Lights Books 
Year:
1963,1975 
ISBN:
0872860043 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by LaMalice, 11/29/2005

The Yage Letters begins with the letters William Burroughs sends to Allen Ginsberg while Ayahuasca-touring in Central America and the Colombian outback in 1953, and concludes with the letters from Ginsberg who follows his friend’s steps in 1960 and takes on his own journey of visionary enlightment in Peru. What was thought to be an initiating and liberating journey turns to an excrutiating experience for both:

Nightmare fear of stasis. Horror of being finally stuck in this place. A horrible sick feeling of final desolation.

Innocence and natural beauty are nowhere to be found in the Burroughs and Ginsberg accounts, but rather a sense of constant dullness, of heavyness, almost of doom, told in the brillant and typical vitriolic style of these two emblematic Beat poets.

It is a short and good literary piece, between Gordon Wasson’s rediscovery of the sacred mushrooms and Aldous Huxley’s encounter with mescaline, a must-read for the beat lovers and an interesting, bizzare piece in the puzzle of the early explorers of the visionary worlds.

1 Comment »

  1. Pretty interesting in a historical context,but that’s about it. It probably gives a pretty good portrayal of what the late beat drug scene was like before the hippies came into full bloom. However the book has many misconceptions and inaccuracies (it is mostly personal correspondence to be fair) about ayahuasca and the native practices involved in its consumption. The book seems rather anticlimaxic in the sense that the authors experiences are almost uniformly negative as well.

    Comment by monoamine — 12/2/2005 @ 8:30 am

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