Alexander Trocchi – The Holy Man and Other Stories (3 stars)

Alexander Trocchi – The Holy Man and Other Stories

Previously unpublished collection by the Glasgow-born avant-garde writer

As an integral part of the European avant-garde literary scene of the 50s and 60s, Glasgow-born Alexander Trocchi's work may have been dubbed by Hugh MacDiarmid as 'metropolitan scum', but his posthumous career (he died in 1984) has blossomed delightfully. The Holy Man and Other Stories, written in the late 50s but unpublished as a standalone collection until now, features four tales, 'A Being of Distances', 'Peter Pierce', 'A Meeting' and the eponymous story.

A quartet strung together by loneliness, death and alienation, they feature people on the outermost margins of society (such as a one-eyed hawker whose cocoa-making skills are negligible and a mystery man isolating himself in a darkened hotel room for years) or those who ultimately failed to make something of themselves. So, in 'A Being of Distances', we meet a man who has ostensibly been outcast for not continuing in his family's business, while in 'A Meeting' the grinding tedium of lifelong office work is heightened by the intolerable summer heat, insects landing on the paperwork, and 'the endless paper clips'.

While some of the topics and language are firmly rooted in another century (there's one lengthy perusal of the ideal ink-pen nib), the timeless existential malaise at the heart of the foursome's key characters will easily resonate with a contemporary audience.

Out now via Calder Publications.

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