The Persian Boy
New York: Pantheon, 1972. 1st US Edition. Octavo, publisher’s navy cloth, spine stamped in red and gilt, upper board gilt, orange endpapers, top edge stained orange, original illustrated dust jacket.
"One must live as if it would be forever, and as if one might die each moment. Always both at once." First US edition of queer English writer Mary Renault’s 1972 historical novel. Born Eileen Mary Challans in Oxford in 1905, Renault moved to South Africa with her partner in 1948 to write romance novels with openly gay characters and themes without fear of censorship. A sequel to her first book about Alexander the Great’s childhood and youth Fire from Heaven (1969), the story chronicles the climactic last years of the ancient Macedonian ruler’s life through the eyes of his lover Bagoas, a young Persian eunuch. Like all of her work, The Persian Boy depicts homosexuality in a positive light and was a bestseller in the gay community while also appealing to a wide readership (John F. Kennedy once claimed Renault was his favorite writer). Stated first edition with 2 the lowest number in number row to copyright page (consensus has it that Pantheon only began using 1 to indicate earliest printing in the 1980s, suggesting that this 1972 imprint, predating that practice, is in fact a first printing). Published the same year in the UK. Light dustiness to cloth; unclipped dust jacket with light toning and edgewear. Near fine. Item #6715