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Samuel Beckett

Original manuscript of Samuel Beckett's first novel for sale

The handwritten rough draft of the modernist writer’s first novel – described as “one of the most important 20th century working manuscripts” – is expected to fetch up to €1.4 million.

THE ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN manuscript of Samuel Beckett’s first novel, Murphy, is to go on sale at Sotheby’s London next week – and is expected to fetch up tp £1.2 million (€1.4m).

Sotheby’s said the modernist text is “one of the most important 20th century working manuscripts remaining in private hands”

Image: Sotheby’s London

The novel was handwritten in six notebook between August 1935 and June 1936, in Dublin and London, at a time when Beckett was undergoing psychoanalysis.

The manuscript was originally entitled “Sasha Murphy” and is heavily revised throughout; Sotheby’s says the hundreds of cancellations and revisions offer “an eloquent witness to Beckett’s struggle to give form to his artistic vision”.

Image: Sotheby’s London

The notebooks are also full of lively sketches “hinting at the author’s preoccupations during this period” and include recognisable self-portraits as well as drawing of James Joyce and Charlie Chaplin – who would later becomes influences for the tramps in Waiting for Godot. The manuscript also contains doodles of astrological symbols and musical notations.

The document will be the centrepiece in Sotheby’s sale of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations on 10 July and is estimated to fetch £800,000 – £1.2 million.

Image: Sotheby’s London

Sotheby’s Senior Specialist in Books and Manuscripts, Peter Selley, said the copy of Murphy was “unquestionably” the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades.

“I have known about the existence of this remarkable manuscript for a long time – as have a number of others in the rare book business, and some Beckett scholars – but it has only been glimpsed, tantalizingly, by a few chosen individuals during that time,” Selley said.

“The notebooks contain almost infinite riches for all those – whether scholars or collectors – interested in this most profound of modern writers, who more than anyone else, perhaps, captures the essence of modern man. The manuscript is capable of redefining Beckett studies for many years to come.”

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