Sunday 18 March 2018

University snaps up Beckett manuscript for €1m

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

THE original manuscript of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett's first major work, which was sold for €1m, could be coming to Dublin.

Beckett scholars at the University of Reading in the UK snapped up the hand-written manuscript of the late writer's first major work, 'Murphy', at an auction at Sotheby's in London yesterday morning.

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

However, Beckett's biographer, University of Reading emeritus professor James Knowlson, said the university was closely linked to Trinity College Dublin and was hopeful it would be displayed to the public there.

Prof Knowlson said his late friend would be delighted that the manuscript will now join the world's largest collection of the writer's work.

"I think he'd have a wry smile," he said. "He would have liked the idea that this is coming to the collection that we set up," Prof Knowlson told the Irish Independent.

He described the work, which fills six exercise books and is close to 800 pages long, as "a treasure trove of insight into the mind of one of the greatest literary figures of the past 100 years".

The university also has Beckett's first notebook, which he incorporated into his 1930 book of poetry called 'Whoroscope'.

"So it's logical we should have bought this," he said. "It's the icing on the cake."

Written between August 1935 and June 1936, the manuscript contains heavy revisions and editing, and also sketches of fellow writer James Joyce, actor Charlie Chaplin and one of Beckett himself.

Mark Nixon, director of the university's Beckett International Foundation, said 'Murphy' had only been glimpsed briefly by a handful of scholars over the last half-century.

Mr Beckett's niece, Caroline Murphy, said she was delighted the university will be its new home. "They have a strong archive there," she said.

Irish Independent

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