Nova Express

The Restored Text

by William S. Burroughs Edited by Oliver Harris

“Hypnotic; I wish I could quote, but it takes several pages to get high on this stuff. . . . Funny . . . outrageous along the lines of Burroughs’s well-established scatology. He can think of the wildest parodies of erotic exuberance and invent the weirdest places for demonstrating them.” —Harper’s

  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date April 08, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2208-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

The most ferociously political and prophetic book of the trilogy, Nova Express fires the reader into a textual outer space the better to see our burning planet and the operations of the Nova Mob in all their ugliness. As the new edition demonstrates, the shortest of the three books was cut by Burroughs from an extraordinary wealth of typescripts to create a visionary demand to take back the world that has been stolen from us.

Tags Literary Gay


Naked Lunch was a wild collage of every conceivable cathartic. Nova Express is more of the same. . . . [It] is a sermon-blast of language. . . . [Burroughs] is the Martin Luther of hipsterism, welding his decree onto the silicon doors of the solar system.” —Newsweek

“Macabre, funny, reverberant, grotesque.” —The New York Review of Books

“Hypnotic; I wish I could quote, but it takes several pages to get high on this stuff. . . . Funny . . . outrageous along the lines of Burroughs’s well-established scatology. He can think of the wildest parodies of erotic exuberance and invent the weirdest places for demonstrating them.” —Harper’s

“Burroughs is first and foremost a poet. His attunement to contemporary language is probably unequalled in American writing. Anyone with a feeling for English phrase at its most balanced, concise, and arresting, cannot fail to see this excellence.” —Terry Southern


Last Words

Listen to my last words anywhere. Listen to my last words any world. Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth. And you powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours. To sell the ground from unborn feet forever—

“Don’t let them see us. Don’t tell them what we are doing—”

Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth?

“For God’s sake don’t let that Coca-Cola thing out—”

“Not The Cancer Deal with The Venusians—”

“Not The Green Deal—Don’t show them that—”

“Not The Orgasm Death—”

“Not the ovens—”

Listen: I call you all. Show your cards all players. Pay it all pay it all pay it all back. Play it all pay it all play it all back. For all to see. In Times Square. In Piccadilly.

“Premature. Premature. Give us a little more time.”

Time for what? More lies? Premature? Premature for who? I say to all these words are not premature.

These words may be too late. Minutes to go. Minutes to foe goal—

“Top Secret—Classified—For The Board—The Elite—The Initiates—”

Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth? These are the words of liars cowards collaborators traitors. Liars who want time for more lies. Cowards who can not face your “dogs” your “gooks” your “errand boys” your “human animals” with the truth. Collaborators with Insect People with Vegetable People. With any people anywhere who offer you a body forever. To shit forever. For this you have sold out your sons. Sold the ground from unborn feet forever. Traitors to all souls everywhere. You want the name of Hassan i Sabbah on your filth deeds to sell out the unborn?

What scared you all into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you: “the word.” Alien Word “the.” “The” word of Alien Enemy imprisons “thee” in Time. In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. The great skies are open. I Hassan i Sabbah rub out the word forever. If you I cancel all your words forever. And the words of Hassan i Sabbah as also cancel. Cross all your skies see the silent writing of Brion Gysin Hassan i Sabbah: drew September 17,1899 over New York.


“Don’t listen to Hassan i Sabbah,” they will tell you. “He wants to take your body and all pleasures of the body away from you. Listen to us. We are serving The Garden of Delights Immortality Cosmic Consciousness The Best Ever In Drug Kicks. And love love love in slop buckets. How does that sound to you boys? Better than Hassan i Sabbah and his cold windy bodiless rock? Right?”

At the immediate risk of finding myself the most unpopular character of all fiction—and history is fiction—I must say this:

“Bring together state of news—Inquire onward from state to doer—Who monopolized Immortality? Who monopolized Cosmic Consciousness? Who monopolized Love Sex and Dream? Who monopolized Life Time and Fortune? Who took from you what is yours? Now they will give it all back? Did they ever give anything away for nothing? Did they ever give any more than they had to give? Did they not always take back what they gave when possible and it always was? Listen: Their Garden Of Delights is a terminal sewer—I have been at some pains to map this area of terminal sewage in the so called pornographic sections of Naked Lunch and Soft Machine—Their Immortality Cosmic Consciousness and Love is second-run grade-B shit—Their drugs are poison designed to beam in Orgasm Death and Nova Ovens—Stay out of the Garden Of Delights—It is a man-eating trap that ends in green goo—Throw back their ersatz Immortality—It will fall apart before you can get out of The Big Store—Flush their drug kicks down the drain—They are poisoning and monopolizing the hallucinogen drugs—learn to make it without any chemical corn—All that they offer is a screen to cover retreat from the colony they have so disgracefully mismanaged. To cover travel arrangements so they will never have to pay the constituents they have betrayed and sold out. Once these arrangements are complete they will blow the place up behind them.

“And what does my program of total austerity and total resistance offer you? I offer you nothing. I am not a politician. These are conditions of total emergency. And these are my instructions for total emergency if carried out now could avert the total disaster now on tracks:

“Peoples of the earth, you have all been poisoned. Convert all available stocks of morphine to apomorphine. Chemists, work round the clock on variation and synthesis of the apomorphine formulae. Apomorphine is the only agent that can disintoxicate you and cut the enemy beam off your line. Apomorphine and silence. I order total resistance directed against this conspiracy to pay off peoples of the earth in ersatz bullshit. I order total resistance directed against The Nova Conspiracy and all those engaged in it.

“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. Minutes to go. Souls rotten from their orgasm drugs, flesh shuddering from their nova ovens, prisoners of the earth to come out. With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly—


Post Script Of The Regulator: I would like to sound a word of warning—To speak is to lie—To live is to collaborate—Anybody is a coward when faced by the nova ovens—There are degrees of lying collaboration and cowardice—That is to say degrees of intoxication—It is precisely a question of regulation—The enemy is not man is not woman—The enemy exists only where no life is and moves always to push life into extreme untenable positions—You can cut the enemy off your line by the judicious use of apomorphine and silence—Use the sanity drug apomorphine.

“Apomorphine is made from morphine but its physiological action is quite different. Morphine depresses the front brain. Apomorphine stimulates the back brain. acts on the hypothalamus to regulate the percentage of various constituents in the blood serum and so normalize the constitution of the blood.” I quote from Anxiety and Its Treatment by Doctor John Yerbury Dent.


I was traveling with The Intolerable Kid on The Nova Lark—We were on the nod after a rumble in The Crab Galaxy involving this two-way time stock; when you come to the end of a biologic film just run it back and start over—Nobody knows the difference—Like nobody there before the film. So they start to run it back and the projector blew up and we lammed out of there on the blast—Holed up in those cool blue mountains the liquid air in our spines listening to a little high-fi junk note fixes you right to metal and you nod out a thousand years. ” Just sitting there in a slate house wrapped in orange flesh robes, the blue mist drifting around us when we get the call—And as soon as I set foot on Podunk earth I can smell it that burnt metal reek of nova.

Postulate a biologic film running from the beginning to the end, from zero to zero as all biologic film run in any time universe—Call this film XI and postulate further that there can only be one film with the quality XI in any given time universe. XI is the film and performers—X2 is the audience who are all trying to get into the film—Nobody is permitted to leave the biologic theater which in this case is the human body—Because if anybody did leave the theater he would be looking at a different film Y and Film XI and audience X2 would then cease to exist by mathematical definition—In 1960 with the publication of Minutes To Go, Martin’s stale movie was greeted by an unprecedented chorus of boos and a concerted walkout—”We seen this five times already and not standing still for another twilight of your tired Gods.”

“Already set off the charge,” I said to I&I (Immovable and Irresistible)—”This is a burning planet—Any minute now the whole fucking shit house goes up.”

“Since junk is image the effects of junk can easily be produced and concentrated in a sound and image track—Like this: Take a sick junky—Throw blue light on his so-called face or dye it blue or dye the junk blue it don’t make no difference and now give him a shot and photograph the blue miracle as life pours back into that walking corpse—That will give you the image track of junk—Now project the blue change onto your own face if you want The Big Fix. The sound track is even easier—I quote from Newsweek, March 4, 1963 Science section: “Every substance has a characteristic set of resonant frequencies at which it vibrates or oscillates.”—So you record the frequency of junk as it hits the junk-sick brain cells—

“What’s that?—Brain waves are 32 or under and can’t be heard? Well speed them up, God damn it—And instead of one junky concentrate me a thousand—Let there be Lexington and call a nice Jew in to run it—”

Doctor Wilhelm Reich has isolated and concentrated a unit that he calls “the orgone”—Orgones, according to W. Reich, are the units of life—They have been photographed and the color is blue—So junk sops up the orgones and that’s why they need all these young junkies—They have more orgones and give higher yield of the blue concentrate on which Martin and his boys can nod out a thousand years—Martin is stealing your orgones.—You going to stand still for this shit?

So Intolerable I&I sniffs and says: “Yeah, when it happens it happens fast—This is a rush job.”

And you could feel it there under your feet the whole structure buckling like a bulkhead about to blow—So the paper has a car there for us and we are driving in from the airport The Kid at the wheel and his foot on the floor—Nearly ran down a covey of pedestrians and they yell after us: “What you want to do, kill somebody?”

And The Kid sticks his head out and says: “It would be a pleasure Niggers! Gooks! Terrestrial dogs”—His eyes lit up like a blow torch and I can see he is really in form—So we start right to work making our headquarters in The Land Of The Free where the call came from and which is really free and wide open for any life form the uglier the better—Well they don’t come any uglier than The Intolerable Kid and your reporter—When a planet is all primed to go up they call in I&I to jump around from one faction to the other agitating and insulting all the parties before and after the fact until they all say: “By God before I give an inch the whole fucking shit house goes up in chunks.”

Where we came in—You have to move fast on this job—And I&I is fast—Pops in and out of a hundred faces in a split second spitting his intolerable insults—We had the plan, what they call The Board Books to show us what is what on this dead whistle stop: Three life forms uneasily parasitic on a fourth form that is beginning to wise up. And the whole planet absolutely flapping hysterical with panic. The way we like to see them.

“This is a dead easy pitch,” The Kid says.

“Yeah,” I say. “A little bit too easy. Something here, Kid. Something wrong. I can feel it.”

But The Kid can’t hear me. Now all these life forms came from the most intolerable conditions: hot places, cold places, terminal stasis and the last thing any of them want to do is go back where they came from. And The Intolerable Kid is giving out with such pleasantries like this:

“All right take your ovens out with you and pay Hitler on the way out. Nearly got the place hot enough for you Jews didn’t he?”

“Know about Niggers? Why darkies were born? Antennae coolers what else? Always a spot for good Darkies.”

“You cunts constitute a disposal problem in the worst form there is and raise the nastiest whine ever heard anywhere: “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me???” Why don’t you go back to Venus and fertilize a forest?”

“And as for you White Man Boss, you dead prop in Martin’s stale movie, you terminal time junky, haul your heavy metal ass back to Uranus. Last shot at the door. You need one for the road.” By this time everybody was even madder than they were shit scared. But I&I figured things were moving too slow.

“We need a peg to hang it on,” he said. “Something really ugly like virus. Not for nothing do they come from a land without mirrors.” So he takes over this newsmagazine.

“Now,” he said, “I’ll by God show them how ugly the Ugly American can be.”

And he breaks out all the ugliest pictures in the image bank and puts it out on the subliminal so one crisis piles up after the other right on schedule. And I&I is whizzing around like a buzz saw and that black nova laugh of his you can hear it now down all the streets shaking the buildings and skyline like a stage prop. But me I am looking around and the more I look the less I like what I see. For one thing the nova heat is moving in fast and heavy like I never see it anywhere else. But I&I just says I have the copper jitters and turns back to his view screen: “They are skinning the chief of police alive in some jerkwater place. Want to sit in?”

“Naw,” I said. “Only interested in my own skin.”

And I walk out thinking who I would like to see skinned alive. So I cut into the Automat and put coins into the fish cake slot and then I really see it: Chinese partisans and well armed with vibrating static and image guns. So I throw down the fish cakes with tomato sauce and make it back to the office where The Kid is still glued to that screen. He looks up smiling dirty and says:

“Wanta molest a child and disembowel it right after?”

“Pry yourself loose and listen.” And I tell him. “Those Tiddly Winks don’t fuck around you know.”

“So what?” he says. “I’ve still got The Board Books. I can split this whistle stop wide open tomorrow.”

No use talking to him. I look around some more and find out the blockade on planet earth is broken. Explorers moving in whole armies. And everybody concerned is fed up with Intolerable I&I. And all he can say is: “So what? I’ve still got. . .” Cut.

“Board Books taken. The film reeks of burning switch like a blow torch. Prerecorded heat glare massing Hiroshima. This whistle stop wide open to hot crab people. Mediation? Listen: Your army is getting double zero in floor by floor game of “symbiosis.” Mobilized reasons to love Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Virus to maintain terminal sewers of Venus?”

“All nations sold out by liars and cowards. Liars who want time for the future negatives to develop stall you with more lying offers while hot crab people mass war to extermination with the film in Rome. These reports reek of nova, sold out job, shit birth and death. Your planet has been invaded. You are dogs on all tape. The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender.”

“But suppose film death in Rome doesn’t work and we can get every male body even madder than they are shit scared? We need a peg to evil full length. By God show them how ugly the ugliest pictures in the dark room can be. Pitch in the oven ambush. Spill all the board gimmicks. This symbiosis con? Can tell you for sure ‘symbiosis’ is ambush straight to the ovens. ‘Human dogs’ to be eaten alive under white hot skies of Minraud.”

And Intolerable I&I’s “errand boys’ and “strikebreakers” are copping out right left and center:

“Mr. Martin, and you board members, vulgar stupid Americans, you will regret calling in the Mayan Aztec Gods with your synthetic mushrooms. Remember we keep exact junk measure of the pain inflicted and that pain must be paid in full. Is that clear enough Mr. Intolerable Martin, or shall I make it even clearer? Allow me to introduce myself: The Mayan God of Pain And Fear from the white hot plains of Venus which does not mean a God of vulgarity, cowardice, ugliness and stupidity. There is a cool spot on the surface of Venus three hundred degrees cooler than the surrounding area. I have held that spot against all contestants for five hundred thousand years. Now you expect to use me as your “errand boy” and “strikebreaker” summoned up by an IBM machine and a handful of virus crystals? How long could you hold that spot, you “board members?” About thirty seconds I think with all your guard dogs. And you thought to channel my energies for “operation total disposal”? Your “operations” there or here this or that come and go and are no more. Give my name back. That name must be paid for. You have not paid. My name is not yours to use. Henceforth I think about thirty seconds is written.”

And you can see the marks are wising up, standing around in sullen groups and that mutter gets louder and louder. Any minute now fifty million adolescent gooks will hit the street with switch blades, bicycle chains and cobblestones.

“Street gangs, Uranian born of nova conditions, get out and fight for your streets. Call in the Chinese and any random factors. Cut all tape. Shift cut tangle magpie voice lines of the earth. Know about The Board’s “Green Deal?” They plan to board the first life boat in drag and leave “their human dogs” under the white hot skies of Venus. “Operation Sky Switch” also known as “Operation Total Disposal.” All right you board bastards, we’ll by God show you “Operation Total Exposure.” For all to see. In Times Square. In Piccadilly.”