YOUNG ADAM by Alexander Trocchi


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Originally published in Paris in 1955, in London in 1961, and in the US only in mass-market paperback (as part of a collection called The Outsiders, 1961): a drab, modestly effective novella in the Camus manner. The narrator, a moody, educated man named Joe, begins with some existential musing: ""I don't ask whether I am the 'I' who looked or the image which was seen, the man who acted or the man who thought about the act."" But for the most part this small tale is drearily straightforward. While working on a Scottish canal barge, Joe--together with boss Leslie--discovers the drowned body of a girl. And from that moment Joe becomes obsessively, sexually drawn to middle-aged Leslie's 35-ish wife Ella, first with some footsie under the table, later (while Leslie's off at the pub and cinema) with full-scale erotics. At that point, narrator Joe tells his (guessable) secret: the drowned girl was his own girlfriend Kathie--who died accidentally after a tussle with Joe. So, as the affair with Ella peaks and then sours (Leslie catches them, disappears; Joe is unfaithful to Ella with her newly widowed stepsister), Joe is increasingly preoccupied with the trial of the innocent man accused of Kathie's murder: Will the innocent man be found guilty? Does Joe have the duty to tell his story to the police? Would it do any good? With familiar themes--guilt, responsibility, the sex/death interface--and a by-now-clichÉd, alienated anti-hero: an undistinguished exercise, with only the convincingly dour Glasgow/canal atmosphere lending a bit of distinction. (Trocchi, however, has achieved a certain position in Britain as a leader of the postwar avant-garde literary scene.)

Pub Date: July 15th, 1983
ISBN: 0802139779
Publisher: Riverrun--dist. by Flatiron