Grok Gracq


I discovered the surrealist novels of Julian Gracq many years ago. I encountered an out of print copy of A Dark Stranger at Gotham Book Mart in NYC. Gotham was my home away from home. It specialized in avant-garde literature and carried books you couldn’t find anywhere else: rare chapbooks, pamphlets, and esoteric tomes.


This hardcover edition of Gracq’s novel was published in 1951 by New Directions. It was one of those rare books with an aura that compels one to possess it. (an experience you don’t find with a digital book.) The cover design by Gertrude Huston  cleverly omitted the title and author’s name, conjuring a faceless stranger.


image courtesy of 50 Watts

One surrealist oddity—although obviously unintentional—was that the title on the flap (as well as the spine) was printed as The Dark Stranger, while the title page correctly identified it as A Dark Stranger.

An anomaly like that can drive up the value of an edition—especially when there are multiple printings.

One of the pleasures of publishing is providing readers with the potential of experiencing the aura of unusual books. Eccentric art and literature that doesn’t surface on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.


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