Happy Birthday to MLC author Alexander Trocchi!


Sally Child (left), a monkey (middle), and Alexander Trocchi (left)

Happy Birthday, Alexander Trocchi!


Today–July 30th–marks the 1925 birthday of Scottish author, publisher, and activist Alexander Trocchi. He began writing poetry and prose in the late 1940’s, and by the early 1950’s was an established figure in the literary avant-garde.


Invitation for a reception to celebrate the eighteen month publication of Merlin and the appearance of the first two books from Collection Merlin: Watt by Samuel Beckett and Wand & Quadrant by Christopher Logue

Trocchi’s credits include numerous editorial projects. Among these projects is Merlin, a literary magazine he co-edited with Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse which published Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, Robert Creeley, Jean Paul Sartre, and Arthur Miller. He was also an editor of Paris Quarterly and of Moving Times, which published work by William S. Burroughs, Trocchi, and Jeff Nuttall. Through his work with Merlin, Trocci was introduced to Maurice Girodias at Olympia Press, with whom he worked as a publisher, copywriter, and author of 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.


Cover of the Sigma Portfolio by Alexander Trocchi

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Trocchi became increasingly devoted to numerous political and creative projects, joining Asgar Jorn in the International Situationist movement, and organizing a broad collaboration of international underground movements under the auspices of what he called Project Sigma. The eclectic project resulted on more than 30 varied publications. Trocchi also served as a lecturer in sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art and translated the work of numerous French novelists, including Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jan Cremer, Harriet Daimler, Rene de Obaldia, and Valentine Penrose. Additionally, Trocchi organized the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading, which was instrumental in bringing Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and other beat writers to a British audience.

3 pages from cain's book

Excerpts from Cain’s Book by Alexander Trocchi, pasted on sketches

Trocchi’s own writing reflected his bold and often transgressive politics, including his first novel, Young Adam, a tale of immorality and justice, and his more famous Cain’s Book,  which detailed his adventures as a heroin addict living on a scow on the Hudson River. He is also known as the author of The Outsiders, a collection of stories and a revision of Young Adam, and Man at Leisure, a collection of poems.


For more Trocchi materials, visit the MLC’s digital archive at: http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/mlc50/alexander-trocchi.


All photos taken from the MLC’s Alexander Trocchi Papers.


About the author

Meghan Lamb currently lives with her husband in St. Louis, where she is a fiction MFA candidate with the Washington University Writing Program and a Graduate Assistant with the Modern Literature Collection. She is the author of Silk Flowers (Birds of Lace) and Sacramento (Solar Luxuriance).