Alexander Trocchi  

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Alexander Whitelaw Robertson Trocchi (July 30, 1925 - April 15, 1984) was a Scottish novelist, known for such works as Carnal Days of Helen Seferis (1954), Young Adam (1957) and Cain's Book (1961).


He was born and educated in Glasgow and died in London.

After working as a seaman on the Murmansk convoys he attended the University of Glasgow. On graduation he obtained a travelling grant which enabled him to relocate to continental Europe. He lived in Paris in the early 1950s and edited the literary magazine Merlin, which published Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Logue and Pablo Neruda, among others. Trocchi claimed that this journal came to an end when the US State Department cancelled its many subscriptions in protest over an article by Jean-Paul Sartre praising the homo-eroticism of Jean Genet. Though established somewhat in rivalry with the Paris Review, George Plimpton also served on its editorial board.

Maurice Girodias published many of Trocchi's novels through the notorious Olympia Press. He often wrote these under pen names, such as Frances Lengel, Frank Harris (for the fake 5th volume of his memoirs) and Carmencita de las Lunas.

It was at this time that Trocchi acquired his lifelong heroin addiction. He left Paris for the United States and spent time in Taos, New Mexico, before settling in New York City where he worked on a garbage scow on the Hudson river. His time is chronicled in the novel Cain's Book which became something of a sensation at the time. Cain's Book is a study of heroin addiction. Its descriptions of sex and drug use got the book banned in Britain, where it was the subject of an obscenity trial, however in America the reviews were favourable.

Trocchi was deep in the thralls of heroin now, he failed to attend his own launch party for Cain's Book, and his wife Lyn was prostitiuting herself on the streets of the Lower East Side. During a televised debate on drug abuse he shot up live on camera, despite being on bail at the time being charged with supplying heroin to a minor. A jail term seemed certain, so with the help of some friends (including Norman Mailer) Trocchi was smuggled over the Canadian border.

In October 1955 he became involved with the Lettrist International and subsequently with the Situationist International.

In the late 1950s he lived in Venice, California, then the center of the southern California Beat Generation.

His text "Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds" was published in the Scottish journal New Saltire in 1962 and subsequently as "Technique du Coup du Monde" in Internationale Situationniste number 8. It proposed an international "spontaneous university" as a cultural force and marked the beginning of his movement towards his sigma project, which played a formative part in the UK Underground. He resigned from the Situationist International in 1964.

After a memorable appearance at the 1962 Edinburgh Writers Festival (where Hugh MacDiarmid denounced him as "cosmopolitan scum"), and Trocchi claimed "sodomy" as a basis for his writing, Trocchi then moved to London, where he remained for the rest of his life. However, while this incident is well known, it is little remarked upon that the two men subsequently engaged in correspondence, and actually became friends. Both were controversialists of a kind.

He began a new novel, The Long Book which never appeared, although it was announced by his publisher. Much of his sporadic work of the 1960s was collected as The Sigma Portfolio.

Trocchi continued writing but published little. He also became a book dealer/drug dealer with a small business near his Kensington home. He was known in the Notting Hill locale as 'Scots Alec'. He died of pneumonia in 1984.

Interest in Trocchi and his role in the avant-garde movements of the mid 20th century began to rise soon after his death. Edinburgh Review published a "Trocchi Number" in 1985 and their parent house published the biography, The Making of the Monster by Andrew Murray Scott, who had known Trocchi for four years in London and who went on to compile the anthology, Invisible Insurrection in 1991, also for Polygon. These works were influential in bringing Trocchi back to public attention and Scott assisted the Estate in attempting to regain control of Trocchi's material and to licence new editions in the UK and USA and Far East, also collating and annotating all remaining manuscripts and documents in the Estate's possession. During the 1990s, various American and Scottish publishers (most notably Rebel Inc.) reissued his originally pseudonymous Olympia Press novels and a retrospective of his articles for Merlin and others, A Life in Pieces (1997), was issued in response to revived interest in his life and work by a younger generation. His early novel Young Adam was finally adapted to film in 2003 after several years of wrangling over finance.

Tainted Love (2005) by Stewart Home contains a lengthy 'factional' meditation on Trocchi's post-literary career period in Notting Hill.


By Trocchi:


  • Man at Leisure (1972)
  • Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds: A Trocchi Reader edited by Andrew Murray Scott (1991)


  • Alexander Trocchi: The Making of the Monster (1992) by Andrew Murray Scott
  • The Outsiders: Alexander Trocchi and Kenneth White (1998) by Gavin Bowd

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