The Young Desire It

The Young Desire It

3.72 (95 ratings by Goodreads)
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Introduced by David Malouf. In the late afternoon of a day in February, that hottest of Australian summer months, when a brutal sun stood bronze above the river flats which you may see from the dormitory windows of Chatterton, Charles came to the school with his mother, walking from the railway station to the gates by a private path across a burnt, untidy field, overhung with Cape lilacs that still drooped, dusty and melancholy...In the lower part of his belly fear kicked and pulsed like a child in the womb, ready to be born. 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, The Young Desire It is a stunning debut novel about coming of age- an intimate and lyrical 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 years with a new introduction by David Malouf.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 350 pages
  • 154 x 232 x 30mm | 419.99g
  • Text Publishing Co
  • The Text Publishing Company
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • English
  • 1922147508
  • 9781922147509
  • 288,269

Review quote

'The growing intimacy between the two young people unfolds subtly and with great delicacy...With the power of language, Mackenzie creates an atmosphere of intimacy that is all his own.' * Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung * 'This intensely personal work is a beautiful ode of colonial childhood.' * Dominion Post/Weekend Press * 'The Young Desire It is suffused in such rich language and evocative allusions it is surprisingly hard to put aside.' * NZ Weekend Herald * 'A first novel of exceptional interest and originality.' * Spectator * 'The Young Desire It presents the adolescent boy's view with power and poignancy.' * The 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 * '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 * 'Sensitive, vital and erotic.' -- Veronica Brady * Australian Dictionary of Biography * 'The Young Desire It is one of the most brilliant, confident and unusual instances of a Bildungsroman in Australian literature.' -- Peter Pierce * Sydney Review of Books * 'The Young Desire It is an extraordinary novel, dazzling in its texture, wholly original in its vision, and heartbreaking in the power and freshness of the story it tells.' -- Peter Craven * Australian Book Review * '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 beautifully written story of a sensitive boy's movement towards adult love.' * Sydney Morning Herald * 'A hymn to youth, to life, to sexual freedom and moral independence.' -- David Malouf `A book to set beside James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man...The best novel I've read in a long, long time...One of the great stories of first love...Why isn't this stunning novel famous?' -- Michael Dirda * Washington Post * `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
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About Kenneth MacKenzie

Kenneth Mackenzie was born in 1913 in South Perth. His parents divorced in 1919, and he grew up with his mother and maternal grandfather on a property at Pinjarra, south of Perth. He was a sensitive child who developed an intense love of nature.
At age thirteen Mackenzie was sent to board at Guildford Grammar School in Perth. His experiences there informed his first novel, The Young Desire It, published under the name Seaforth Mackenzie by Jonathan Cape in 1937. The author was just twenty-three.
The novel drew praise from The Times, Spectator and Sydney Morning Herald; the Liverpool Daily Post called it `amazingly brilliant'. It was awarded the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal.
By this time Mackenzie had studied law, worked as a journalist and moved to Sydney. There he met the leading lights of the literary scene-among them Kenneth Slessor and Norman Lindsay-and married. He and his wife had a daughter and a son.
Mackenzie's subsequent novels were Chosen People (1938), Dead Men Rising (1951), based partly on his experience of the Cowra prisoner breakout, and The Refuge (1954). He also produced two volumes of poetry.
Kenneth Mackenzie's last years were spent mainly alone, in declining health and battling alcoholism, at Kurrajong in New South Wales. On 19 January 1955 he drowned in mysterious circumstances while swimming in Tallong Creek, near Goulburn.
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Rating details

95 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 29% (28)
4 29% (28)
3 28% (27)
2 9% (9)
1 3% (3)

Our customer reviews

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 more
by Marianne Vincent
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