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The Young Desire it

The Young Desire it

Book rating: 05 Paperback Text Classics

By (author) Kenneth MacKenzie, Introduction by David Malouf

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  • Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
  • Format: Paperback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 154mm x 232mm x 30mm | 420g
  • Publication date: 27 May 2014
  • Publication City/Country: Melbourne
  • ISBN 10: 1922147508
  • ISBN 13: 9781922147509
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 123,809

Product description

""The Young Desire It" is a revelation: a coming-of-age novel from 1937 that deserves a place alongside the classics in this genre. It's a feverish, fascinating, and surprising look into the mind of an adolescent discovering a sense of self in his quest for love. It's also a remarkably nuanced and moving portrait of the struggles of those around him to come to terms with their own lives and longings." - Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club "A first novel of exceptional interest and originality."--"The Spectator""Unique and very nearly perfect, a hymn to youth, to life, to sexual freedom and moral independence."--David Malouf, from the introduction Fifteen-year-old Charles Fox is sent away to boarding school, innocent, alone, and afraid. There one of his masters develops an intense attachment to him. But when Charles meets Margaret, a girl staying at a nearby farm for the holidays, he is besotted, and a passionate, unforgettable, romance begins.Published in London in 1937 to wide acclaim, this is a stunning debut novel about coming of age: an intimate account of first love and a rich evocation of rural Western Australia. It won the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and is now back in print for the first time in almost twenty-five years with a new introduction by David Malouf, one of the finest Australian writers of all time.Kenneth Mackenzie was born in 1913 in South Perth, Western Australia. Unhappy years boarding at Guildford Grammar School were the basis for his highly acclaimed first novel, "The Young Desire It." Mackenzie's subsequent novels were "The Chosen" (1938), "Dead Men Rising" (1951)--based partly on his experiences after he was deemed unfit for active service in the war--and "The Refuge" (1954). His last years were spent alone, in declining health and succumbing to drink, at Kurrajong, New South Wales, near the Blue Mountains. In 1955 he died accidentally while bathing in a creek.

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Author information

Kenneth Mackenzie was born in 1913 in South Perth. His parents divorced in 1919, and thereafter he lived with his mother and maternal grandfather. A sensitive child, he developed a love of nature and dislike of noise during time spent at Pinjarra, in rural Western Australia. Unhappy years boarding at Guildford Grammar School were the basis for his highly acclaimed first novel, "The Young Desire It," which was published in London in 1937. By that time Mackenzie had studied law, worked as a journalist and moved from Perth to Sydney, where he was employed as a reviewer, met the leading lights of the literary scene and married. Mackenzie's subsequent novels were "The Chosen" (1938), "Dead Men Rising" (1951), based partly on his experience of the Cowra breakout -- he was deemed unfit for active service in the war -- and The Refuge (1954); he also produced two volumes of poetry. He received a number of grants and awards, including the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. His last years were spent alone, in declining health and succumbing to drink, at Kurrajong, near the Blue Mountains. In 1955 he died accidentally while bathing in a creek.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 20 Aug 2013 5

The Young Desire It is the first novel by Australian author, Kenneth Mackenzie, and this volume has been published under the Text Classics banner. The 11-page introduction by David Malouf is both very insightful and quite informative about the author. At fifteen, Charles Fox, serious, intense, sensitive and introspective, is sent to boarding school in the city where he meets, for the first time, other boys of his own age, is taught by young English Masters and lives an unfamiliar, regimented existence. During a longed-for break back home, he encounters Margaret, spending her school break on a neighbouring farm, and falls passionately in love. On the surface, it may seem that not much happens in this novel, but a great deal occurs within, as Charles matures and realises "a mind continually awakening to its own innocence." The narration lies mostly with Charles, but also jumps between a fellow student, Mawley, the young Master who befriends Charles, Penworth, Charles's mother, and Mr Jolly, and this can sometimes lead to confusion until the context or content clarifies the matter. While this novel touches on paedophilia, masturbation and sex between minors, as befits a novel written in the 1930's, these aspects are merely hinted at, so some reading between the lines is required, and here Malouf's introduction is helpful also. This novel's great strength is the wonderful prose. Mackenzie captures the West Australian summer with consummate ease: "The whole earth and all nature sank into a still swoon beneath the eternal ravishment of the sun, and the ceaseless, passionate susurrus of the insects gave sound to the heat, as already mirage was giving it a shaking visibility, clear and refractory like water." and his prose has universal appeal. His descriptions are sometimes verbose, sometimes beautifully succinct: "They smiled with the sincerity of cats." His descriptions of characters, too, are marvellous: "It was a humorous and kindly face, mobile from much talking and an inexhaustible ability to express surprise; the lines around the sly keenness of the eyes showed how often laughter closed them." This edition has gorgeous cover art by W.H. Chong. Text do well to include this beautiful novel under their Classics banner: it was the Winner of the 1937Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and is indeed a timeless Australian classic.

Review quote

"'There's nothing worldly or Gallic about Mackenzie's beautiful -- no other word will do -- depiction of school life, loneliness and sexual yearning. It is the best novel I've read in a long, long time... one mystery remains about The Young Desire It: Why isn't this stunning novel famous?'" Michael Dirda, Washington Post "'A hymn to youth, to life, to sexual freedom and moral independence.'" David Malouf "'The Young Desire It is a revelation: a coming-of-age novel from 1937 that deserves a place alongside the classics in this genre. It's a feverish, fascinating, and surprising look into the mind of an adolescent discovering a sense of self in his quest for love. It's also a remarkably nuanced and moving portrait of the struggles of those around him to come to terms with their own lives and longings.'" Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club "'The Young Desire It presents the adolescent boy's view with power and poignancy.'" The Times "'A beautifully written story of a sensitive boy's movement towards adult love.'" Sydney Morning Herald "'Mackenzie's prose is at its most sparkling and most sensuous in this novel, and he evokes the hot Western Australian landscape with rare force...[The Young Desire It] is a pastoral charged with the awakening of desire, like spring.'" Douglas Stewart "'A first novel of exceptional interest and originality.'" Spectator "'Sensitive, vital and erotic.'" Veronica Brady, Australian Dictionary of Biography "'Amazingly brilliant.'" Liverpool Daily Post "'An extremely impressive work of fiction that well deserves this reissue by Text Publishing...A novel to be welcomed back to Australian literature's available past.'" Age "'The Young Desire It reminds us there is more than a single line of descent in Australian literature...Mackenzie, who died, penniless and forgotten in his 50s, turns out to be a missing link in our literary tradition. The family tree burgeons at his return.'" Weekend Australian "'The Young Desire It is an utterly remarkable work of art.'" Australian Book Review "'A staggering piece of fiction, it belongs....to the permanent literature of the world. Here for once is a true classic, a work by which all others should be judged.'" Australian Book Review "'The enterprising publishing house Text is doing much to rescue important aspects of our literary heritage, particularly novels from the first half of the 20th century...Kenneth Mackenzie's splendid first novel, The Young Desire It (originally published in 1937), makes a distinguished addition to the list.'" SMH/Canberra Times "'The novel is distinguished by a rare sensitivity and an impressive ethical and psychological wisdom...its seamless narrative is able to probe the depths and ambiguities of its characters' personalities and lives.'" SMH/Canberra Times "'A unique Australian novel...a beautiful account of a young man's move into adulthood, his sexual awakening and search for moral independence.'" Launceston Examiner "'The Young Desire It is suffused in such rich language and evocative allusions it is surprisingly hard to put aside.'" NZ Weekend Herald "'This intensely personal work is a beautiful ode of colonial childhood.'" Dominion Post/Weekend Press "'This beautifully realised novel, part of the Text classics series deserves a new audience...A fine introduction by David Malouf deepens one's appreciation of the novel, while the exquisite cover design makes this book a desirable object.'" Herald Sun "'The revelation of the year was the republication of Kenneth Mackenzie's 1937 novel, THE YOUNG DESIRE IT, an erotic Australian coming-of-age story masterfully told, with compelling lyricism in an idiosyncratic voice. How could it have faded from literary view in the intervening years?'" Miriam Cosic in ABR's Best Books of the Year