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Alexander Trocchi, 1925-1984. Scottish Author.

Alexander Trocchi

Finding Aid for the Alexander Trocchi Papers [MSS116]

Alexander Trocchi was a Scottish author, publisher and activist. He attended the University of Glasgow from 1942-1943 and from 1946-1950, and served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946. Trocchi began writing poetry and prose in the late 1940ís, and by the early 1950ís was an established member of the artistic avant-garde.

With Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse he edited Merlin a literary magazine that published Ionesco, Genet, Beckett, Creeley, Sartre, and Miller, for seven issues from 1952-1955. He was also an editor of Paris Quarterly from 1952-1955 and of Moving Times, which published work by William S. Burroughs, Trocchi, and Jeff Nittall. Trocchiís association with Merlin led to his collaboration with Maurice Girodias at Olympia Press. Throughout the 1950ís and 1960ís, Trocchi helped Girodias publish books, wrote catalog copy, and contributed a large number of pornographic writings, including Helen and Desire, The Carnal Days of Helen Seferis, White Thighs, Vol. 5 of My Life and Loves by Frank Harris, and School for Sin. Most of his work was banned in England, France, and America.

At the same time he worked with these publishing efforts, Trocchi was involved with other projects, including painting, sculpting, joining Asgar Jorn in the International Situationist movement, and pursuing his own writing. His first novel, Young Adam (1954), a tale of immorality and justice, was followed by his more famous Cainís Book, a roman a clef which detailed his adventures as a heroin addict living on a scow on the Hudson River. The bookís frank depiction of drug addiction and sex was the source of an obscenity trial in 1963 and the book was banned in England. His other literary works included The Outsiders (1961), a collection of stories and a revision of Young Adam, and Man at Leisure (1972) a collection of poems.

In the 1960ís, Trocchi devoted most of his energy toward organizing a broad collaboration of international underground movements under the auspices of what he called the Sigma Project. It was an eclectic and protean effort, with no concrete direction, but with a wide focus. The Sigma Project resulted on more than 30 varied publications, and attracted a great deal of attention.

Although it took up much of his time, Sigma was only one of Trocchiís activities in the 1960ís. He also organized the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading, which brought the work of Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and others to the attention of a large British audience. He was visiting lecturer in sculpture at St. Martinís School of Art (London), and he translated the work of a number of French novelists, including Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jan Cremer, Harriet Daimler. Rene de Obaldia and Valentine Penrose. He also wrote his only nonfiction book, Drugs of the Mind, published in 1970.

Prolific as he was, Trocchiís activities waned during the last 15 years of his life. Although he was ostensibly working on a sequel to Cainís Book and an unpublished novel called The Long Book, he was actually too ill much of the time to accomplish much. His lifelong addiction to heroin eventually incapacitated him and he died in 1984.

Collection Description

The Alexander Trocchi Papers include manuscripts of his novels, stories, essays and poems, the extant archives of Merlin, most of his manuscripts and correspondence concerning the Sigma Project, material relating to a large number of projects Trocchi was involved with in the 1960ís, and his journals and notebooks. The Trocchi Papers also house an extensive collection of magazines and ephemera, including material relating to the International Situationist movement. A large collection of Trocchiís published work, and his personal library complement the Alexander Trocchi Papers.