Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

    Abstract

    By 1983, a year before his death, Alexander Trocchi was living as an antique book dealer and heroin addict in some obscurity and squalor in a flat in London. On his wall was a large poster of the Situationist city, Constant Nieuwenhuy’s New Babylon. This was no mere decoration, Constant’s vision of a new type of city resonated with Trocchi’s own version of alternative spatial practices which he had been pursuing in fiction, manifesto and in life for more than thirty years. Indeed, as well as being considered by Guy Debord as one of the founders of the Situationist International, Trocchi had consorted and exchanged ideas with that other key post-war group of spatial critics and explorers, the so-called Beat Generation, before finally dedicating himself to a heroin-fuelled self-exploration as a ‘cosmonaut of inner space’.

    This paper investigates the uses of space in Trocchi’s novels and especially Young Adam and Cain’s Book. It argues that the liminal and ephemeral sites occupied by the protagonists represent age-old archetypal spaces replayed against the speeded-up technologies of the twentieth-century. It is here that Trocchi sketches out the potential for freedoms of movement, of play and from work, that will underpin both the Situationists’ preoccupations and his own project sigma, designed to provoke an ‘invisible insurrection of a million minds’. But within this utopia we can perhaps always read, in varying degrees of clarity, an ambivalent and critical version of a real city, Trocchi’s own, Glasgow. And despite his sojourns in New York, Paris and London, it is perhaps here, in the dour, Presbyterian, restricting city and its hinterland of the 1950s, that the roots of an urban vision that will influence the likes of Cedric Price and Archigram amongst others, are first and most intimately explored.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationWriting the Modern City
    Subtitle of host publicationLiterature, Architecture, Modernity
    EditorsJonathan Charley, Sarah Edwards
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Pages146-163
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Print)978-0-415-59151-5, 978-0-415-59150-8
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

    Fingerprint

    Glasgow
    Situationists
    Heroin
    Clarity
    Guy Debord
    Presbyterian
    Manifesto
    Liminal
    1950s
    Obscurity
    Archigram
    New Babylon
    Cedric Price
    Decoration
    Invisible
    Hinterland
    Beat Generation
    Fiction
    Novel
    Protagonist

    Keywords

    • heroin
    • drug culture
    • Archigram
    • Situationism
    • Beat Generation
    • urbanism
    • Glasgow
    • psychogeography
    • Architecture

    Cite this

    Boyd, G. A. (2011). Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle. In J. Charley, & S. Edwards (Eds.), Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity (pp. 146-163). London: Taylor and Francis.
    Boyd, Gary A. / Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle. Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity. editor / Jonathan Charley ; Sarah Edwards. London : Taylor and Francis, 2011. pp. 146-163
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    abstract = "By 1983, a year before his death, Alexander Trocchi was living as an antique book dealer and heroin addict in some obscurity and squalor in a flat in London. On his wall was a large poster of the Situationist city, Constant Nieuwenhuy’s New Babylon. This was no mere decoration, Constant’s vision of a new type of city resonated with Trocchi’s own version of alternative spatial practices which he had been pursuing in fiction, manifesto and in life for more than thirty years. Indeed, as well as being considered by Guy Debord as one of the founders of the Situationist International, Trocchi had consorted and exchanged ideas with that other key post-war group of spatial critics and explorers, the so-called Beat Generation, before finally dedicating himself to a heroin-fuelled self-exploration as a ‘cosmonaut of inner space’.This paper investigates the uses of space in Trocchi’s novels and especially Young Adam and Cain’s Book. It argues that the liminal and ephemeral sites occupied by the protagonists represent age-old archetypal spaces replayed against the speeded-up technologies of the twentieth-century. It is here that Trocchi sketches out the potential for freedoms of movement, of play and from work, that will underpin both the Situationists’ preoccupations and his own project sigma, designed to provoke an ‘invisible insurrection of a million minds’. But within this utopia we can perhaps always read, in varying degrees of clarity, an ambivalent and critical version of a real city, Trocchi’s own, Glasgow. And despite his sojourns in New York, Paris and London, it is perhaps here, in the dour, Presbyterian, restricting city and its hinterland of the 1950s, that the roots of an urban vision that will influence the likes of Cedric Price and Archigram amongst others, are first and most intimately explored.",
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    Boyd, GA 2011, Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle. in J Charley & S Edwards (eds), Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity. Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 146-163.

    Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle. / Boyd, Gary A.

    Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity. ed. / Jonathan Charley; Sarah Edwards. London : Taylor and Francis, 2011. p. 146-163.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

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    KW - heroin

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    KW - Archigram

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    KW - urbanism

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    KW - psychogeography

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    Boyd GA. Alexander Trocchi: Glasgow through the eye of a needle. In Charley J, Edwards S, editors, Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity. London: Taylor and Francis. 2011. p. 146-163