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Found: Louis Stevenson’s missing masterpiece
And fittingly for Scotland’s most international writer, not only was it finished after a transcontinental search for the original manuscript, stretching from Brittany to California, but it will make its print début in French.
Before the swashbuckling Kidnapped, before the sinister The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, there was The Hair Trunk. Begun in 1877 when Stevenson was only 27 years old, The Hair Trunk was supposed to be the definitive novel of the bohemian age, drawing on his time in artists’ colonies in France.
However, within two years he had abandoned it. His first official novel, Treasure Island, would only appear in 1883.
The Hair Trunk has lain incomplete since then, considered a mere juvenile curio by Stevenson scholars. Few were aware of it. Even fewer have read it. It existed only on 140 parched pages in an American library.
That is, until now. French author and Stevenson scholar Michel Le Bris, 66, has rescued and completed the novel as part of a two-decade labour of love.
The Hair Trunk or The Ideal Commonwealth, to give it its full name, will be published in France next month by Gallimard.
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