On ‘Seeing and Noticing’: William S. Burroughs, The Beat Hotel and ‘Taking The Colour Walk’ Through The Streets of Paris

By Marcus D. Niski

In a dilapidated hotel famously dubbed The Beat Hotel by its colourfully eccentric inhabitants, a coalescence of some of the Beat generation’s most important protagonists came together under one roof to push forward the frontiers of literature, painting and psychic awareness.

In an extraordinary outburst of creative energy, Gregory Corso wrote some of his most important poetry there, Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville devised The Dreamachine , Allen Ginsberg worked on Kaddish (dwelling in Room 25), Burroughs and Gysin experimented with the ‘cut-ups’ and Sinclair Beiles – amongst many others who came and went –  co-authored Minutes to Go with Burroughs and Gysin amidst a burlesque carnival of creative chaos.

Always seeking new paths of creative inspiration, Burroughs also devised a fascinating observational technique known as ‘taking the colour walk’:

“I was taking a colour walk around Paris the other day … I was walking down the boulevard when I suddenly felt this cool wind on a warm day, and when I looked out I was seeing all the blues in the street in front of me… blue on a foulard…a girls’ blue sweater…blue neon…the blue sky …all the blues. When I looked again, I saw nothing but all the reds…of traffic lights…car lights…a café sign…a man’s nose…”

Excerpt from The Beat Hotel, Barry Miles, Atlantic Books, London, 2000, p 157.

Located at 9, rue Git-le-Coeur and curated under Madame Rachou’s ever watchful eye (circa 1957-1963), The Beat Hotel was undoubtedly one of the great oasis’ of Parisian creativity at that time. Indeed, in this extraordinary interview below, Sinclair Beiles recalls some of the legendary ‘eccentricities’, excesses and antics that took place amidst the dilapidated digs of  The Beat Hotel –

More biographical information about Sinclair Beiles – one of the Beat generation’s most neglected, if not tragically overlooked protagonists – can also be found at:



 – Marcus D. Niski, September 2017



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