There’s more than a touch of self-importance in the way they pose for the photograph. It’s most obvious in the way they hold their cigarettes, like would-be film stars – Humphrey Bogart, Yves Montand, with a touch of Montgomery Clift. But you can also detect a sense of achievement; the idea that they have stumbled upon something revolutionary and sublime.
The date is 13 April 1960. The place is the English Bookshop in the Rue de Seine on Paris’ Left Bank, a few blocks from their informal headquarters, a nameless flea-ridden lodging a.k.a. the Beat Hotel. On the left of the black and white picture you see Swiss-born Canadian surrealist Brion Gysin. For a guy with a bitchy reputation he seems almost jovial, saying something to William Burroughs who is standing next to him, looking pale and gaunt, as befits the author of two controversial novels, Junky and The Naked Lunch. Spring has set in, but Burroughs is still wearing his hat and long coat. Digesting Gysin’s wit, he manages a faint smile, which makes him look momentarily handsome ... Read more.