An obscure and fitting edition of one of the 20th century's great literary hoaxes
NY: Key Publishing Co., 1957. Octavo (5.5 x 8.25 in.); 146pp.; tan textured paper boards, red spine lettering; in dust jacket. Some light spotting to the boards; small area of foxing to the textblock top near spine; diagonal crease to the bottom corner of the last three blank leaves. Unclipped ("$2.50") jacket moderately rubbed and lightly edgeworn, with minimal foxing to the tops of flaps and interior, where a former owner has also penned their name. A very good (+) copy in like jacket.
First American edition of the French writer and jazz promotor's pseudonymous novel of interracial vengeance in the American South, originally published in 1946 under the title "J'irai cracher sur vos tombes," and basis for the 1959 French film of the same name, during the premier of which Vian suffered a fatal heart-attack while standing up to voice his disdain for the adaptation. An immediate best-seller in France, "J'irai..." was promoted as the work of a Black American author (the same "Vernon Sullivan" used here) with Vian spuriously credited as translator. In order to abet that story and further capitalize on the book's unlikely success, an English-language version titled "I Shall Spit on Your Graves" was published in Paris in 1948, translated, to the best of our knowledge, by Vian himself, who also penned a new introduction representing the text as the previously unpublished source of his earlier French-language "translation." The present Key edition repeats verbatim that English-language version, but without acknowledging its origins or even mentioning Vian (whose introduction is also absent). That, along with the bizarre decision to use a new title and thus miss out on a lucrative marketing angle—the book's lurid and sexually explicit violence generated significant controversy, and a lawsuit that ultimately led to its being banned in France in 1949—naturally causes one to wonder whether this edition was authorized, or even known about, by Vian or his French publishers. It is certainly not hard to imagine how it might have been overlooked, given the fact that this Key edition remains seemingly unacknowledged to this day by Vian scholars and re-publishers of his work, who continue to falsely credit the 1971 Audubon mass-market paperback as the first American publication.