Original Wraps. Paris and New York: Contact Editions, 1931. First Edition. Near Fine / Dust Jacket Included.
First edition, first printing. One of 500 numbered copies, this being number 388. Inscribed by West on the front free endpaper: “Affectionately / Nathanael West [underlined].” Publisher’s original wrappers, blue and black geometric design to front wrapper, titles in black. Very good with light toning to extremities, mild creasing to fore edge of rear wrapper, light chipping to spine ends, and a small portion of original glassine cover attached inside the folded flaps. Overall, an excellent copy of West’s scarce first novel. Housed in a blue custom folding box with red label. Nathanael West’s surrealistic and irreverent debut, The Dream Life of Balso Snell, follows a poet who comes across the Trojan Horse and climbs into its backside. There he meets various representatives of different literary forms - “writers in search of an audience” - and nihilistically rejects their ideas one by one. Leslie Fiedler called the book “a fractured and dissolving parable of the very process by which the emancipated Jew enters into the world of Western Culture,” while West himself called it “a protest against writing books.” The Dream Life of Balso Snell was published thanks in part to William Carlos Williams’ support of the manuscript. This limited run of 500 copies was the only edition released in West’s lifetime. Upon release, the book received some unfavorable reviews due to its obscene content (literary critic Harold Bloom called the book “squalid and dreadful”). However, the same satirical genius in West’s later masterpieces - The Day of the Locust, A Cool Million, and Miss Lonelyhearts - is very much present in this bold debut.