Peer into Samuel Beckett's mind for $2 million at Sotheby auction

Fri May 31, 2013 6:15am EDT
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - A rare glimpse into the mind of one of the 20th century's greatest writers will go up for sale in July when a manuscript for Samuel Beckett's first novel hits the auction block.

Six exercise books filled with the Irish-born Nobel laureate's handwritten notes for "Murphy" alongside drawings and doodles will be the highlight of Sotheby's English Literature and History Sale on July 10.

Written between August 1935 and June 1936, in Dublin and London while the playwright, novelist and poet was undergoing psychoanalysis, the manuscript is a heavily revised witness of Beckett's struggle to give form to his artistic vision.

Sotheby's Manuscript Specialist Gabriel Heaton told Reuters that the books have been in private hands until now and have never been widely available to scholars.

"Altogether it's nearly 800 pages long and right the way through it's changed as Beckett thinks about how he wants to express his ideas and clarifies his thoughts," Heaton said.

Whoever buys the manuscript will gain new insight into the formulation of the central themes of Beckett's often humorous but bleak canon. A private collector could share it with the academic community or keep to himself.

Heaton said the author of the tragicomic play "Waiting for Godot" and novels such as "Malone Dies", "Molloy" and "The Unnamable" pointed back to "Murphy" late in life as a guide to understanding his work.

"There's a famous letter from a scholar...asking him how to start working on Beckett. He said 'go back to 'Murphy', the central themes are all there'," Heaton said.   Continued...