Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Beckett manuscript sells for €1.1m

Allison Bray

Published 10/07/2013 | 12:37

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Display at Collins Barracks with documentation showing that Samuel Beckett was part of the French resistance - see story Allison Bray
Samuel Beckett

THE original manuscript of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s first major work has been sold for more than €1.1m.

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Beckett scholars at the University of Reading in the UK snapped up the handwritten manuscript of the late writer’s first major work, 'Murphy', at an auction at Sotheby’s in London this morning.

Described as one of the greatest literary manuscripts of the 20th century, the university paid €1,117,777 for the work or £962,500.

Beckett’s friend and biographer, Prof James Knowlson, University of Reading Emeritus professor, said: “This manuscript is a treasure trove of insight into the mind of one of the greatest literary figures of the past 100 years.”

The work, at close to 800 pages, was the playwright’s first published novel and reveals heavy revisions and editing throughout.

Contained in six exercise books, it also features doodles of some of the leading figures of the day, including fellow writer James Joyce, actor Charlie Chaplin and a sketch of the writer himself, along with musical notes, astrological symbols and a harp.

The manuscript was written between August 1935 and June 1936 in both London and Dublin while the writer was undergoing psychoanalysis. He died in France, where he spent most of his adult life, in 1989.

Mark Nixon, Director of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, said: “The University of Reading is in many ways the centre of Beckett studies worldwide. 

Murphy has only been glimpsed briefly by a handful of scholars over the last half century. This major acquisition for the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading will open up access to this unique manuscript to Beckett scholars and the interested public the world over.”

The manuscript had been in private hands and was expected to fetch between €930,000 (£800,00) and €1.4m (£1.2m).

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