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The Young Desire It

The Young Desire It: Text Classics

Text Classics

Kenneth Mackenzie

  • awardWinner, Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, 1937
  • Introduction 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.

    Read David Malouf’s introduction to this ‘nearly perfect’ novel, published in the Australian.

    Kenneth Mackenzie
    About the Author

    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...

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    27 January 2016
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    Praise for Kenneth Mackenzie
    andThe Young Desire It

    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.’

    ‘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?’

    ‘A hymn to youth, to life, to sexual freedom and moral independence.’

    ‘A beautifully written story of a sensitive boy’s movement towards adult love.’

    ‘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.' 

    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.’

    The Young Desire It is one of the most brilliant, confident and unusual instances of a Bildungsroman in Australian literature.’

    ‘Sensitive, vital and erotic.' 

    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.’

    ‘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.’

    ‘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.‘

    The Young Desire It presents the adolescent boy’s view with power and poignancy.’

    ‘A first novel of exceptional interest and originality.' 

    The Young Desire It is suffused in such rich language and evocative allusions it is surprisingly hard to put aside.’

    ‘This intensely personal work is a beautiful ode of colonial childhood.’

    ‘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.’

    Other editions ofThe Young Desire It
    • The Young Desire It
      ISBN: 9781922148544
      21 August 2013
      Buy ebook
    Other Titles byKenneth Mackenzie