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Young Adam

[Olympia Press] [pseud. TROCCHI, Alexander] LENGEL, Frances

  • Publisher: Paris: Atlantic Library, 1954
Paris: Atlantic Library, 1954. Small 8vo, pp. 190. Original yellow stiff paper wrappers, lettered in black to front panel and in white on black to spine. Spine ends a little chipped, and with an unobtrusive 1cm closed tear at foot of spine's join with front wrapper. Corners a little bumped, and a little light edgewear, but unread and tightly bound. A very good copy. First edition. Scottish novelist Alexander Trocchi [1925-1984] moved to Paris in the early 1950s, where he edited the literary magazine Merlin. Merlin flew the Existentialist flag, and numbered Sartre, Genet and Camus among its contributors. The magazine proved better at making reputations than money, however, and Trocchi was one of a group of impecunious writers recruited by Maurice Girodias to write pornography for the Olympia Press, an English-language, Paris-based imprint catering for the wide variety of sexual tastes to be found among the city's Anglophone residents and visitors. But Olympia also had a more respectable face -- it published the first edition of Lolita, as well as work by Beckett, Burroughs and J.P. Donleavy -- and Trocchi was keen to join its roster of writers. He supplied Girodias with two smutty potboilers written absolutely to the Olympia recipe, Helen and Desire and The Carnal Days Of Helen Seferis (both published under the 'Frances Lengel' pseudonym), and then submitted Young Adam, an altogether more literary work. Girodias didn't like it for precisely that reason. The novel, preoccupied with sex (good) and death (less good), unfolds in an allusive, elusive writerly style which Girodias knew would be a turn-off for Frances Lengel fans. He sent Trocchi away to rewrite Young Adam in the Olympia house style. Astonishingly Trocchi did: this, the true first edition of Young Adam, is a sexed-up, dumbed-down version of the book which would go on to make Trocchi's name. (Later editions reverted to Trocchi's original text). Very scarce. Kearney 4.6.1

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