"THE AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING OF WILLIAMS' CAREER AS A NOVELIST": FIRST EDITION OF JOHN WILLIAMS FIRST NOVEL, NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT
WILLIAMS, John. Nothing but the Night. Denver: Alan Swallow, (1948). Octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. $4200.
First edition of the elusive first novel by the National Book Award-winning writer—"a work of exquisite prose"—in the original dust jacket.
In WWII John Williams was a radio operator and co-pilot who was shot down near Burma. After barely surviving the crash, he began work on the manuscript of Nothing but the Night in the jungle. It was, in his words, "my own way of escaping history." Even at this early stage in Williams' career, the novel resonates with his "interest in the psychological landscape of identity… [and] existential themes that will preoccupy him" in novels such as Stoner (1965) and his National Book Award-winning Augustus (1972) (Asquith, Reading the Novels, 1-10). Set in the streets and cafés of Paris, Nothing but the Night marks "the auspicious beginning of Williams' career as a novelist. He investigates the terror and the waywardness of Arthur Maxley during a single significant day in his life. With rare economy and clarity, the story moves at an ever-increasing pace to its unforgettable end" (Partisan Review). While Williams was often dismissive of this very early work, issued while he was attending the University of Denver, the novel won select praise on publication as "a work of exquisite prose, lush in lilting cadences" (Cincinnati Times-Star). First edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page.
Text very fresh with only faint foxing to pastedowns and verso of lightly soiled dust jacket. A scarce near-fine copy.