Home » USA » Nathanael West » The Dream Life of Balso Snell

Nathanael West: The Dream Life of Balso Snell

It isn’t really a novel – barely fifty pages in the Library of America edition – but it is sometimes called one and a brief mention here is worthwhile, as it shows some interesting early West. The story starts off with Balso Snell, a poet, wandering in the tall grass around the city of Troy, and coming upon the Wooden Horse. The only accessible entrance is the posterior opening of the alimentary canal, so he enters through the anus. Inside the Horse, he finds various representatives of Western literary tradition, from the Greeks to the present day. Joyce, D H Lawrence and Dostoevsky are just some of the authors West pokes fun at. Scatological references and surrealism are the hallmarks of this book and, while it is amusing, it really is a bit infantile.

Publishing history

First published 1931 by Contact Editions