Doodle-strewn draft of Beckett novel fetches over €1m

Six handwritten jotters, complete with the author’s notes and doodles, cover more than 700 pages

A photograph of one of the handwritten jotters. They include sketches of Beckett’s contemporaries including James Joyce. Image Sotheby’s

A photograph of one of the handwritten jotters. They include sketches of Beckett’s contemporaries including James Joyce. Image Sotheby’s

Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 14:34

A rare manuscript of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy sold for £962,500 (€1.13 million) at auction today.

The six notebooks, complete with the author’s notes and doodles, cover more than 700 pages including passages that were cut from the novel when it was eventually published in 1938. They were bought by the University of Reading.

The handwritten jotters, which include sketches of Beckett’s contemporaries including James Joyce, date from 1935 and 1936.

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “It is important that world-renowned institutions such as the University of Reading can continue to fund access to knowledge and the best resources for researchers and students.

“The acquisition of Murphy will provide unparalleled opportunities to learn more about one of the greatest writers in living memory, if not all time.”

Peter Selley, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, said the work should redefine Beckett studies for years.

“This is unquestionably the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades,” he said.

“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, tantalisingly, by a few chosen individuals during that time.

“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.”

Sotheby’s put a guide price of £800,000 to £1.2 million on the manuscript which was in private hands for decades.

The novel revolves around the title character’s attempts to find peace in the nothingness of the “little world” of the mind without intrusion from the outside world.

The Irish writer, who lived in Paris for most of his life, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

His work will be celebrated at a festival in Northern Ireland next month with double Oscar nominee Winona Ryder among the celebrities taking part.

The actress, whose breakthrough role was in 1988 comedy hit Beetlejuice and who played the mentally ill writer Susanna Kaysen in the 2001 film Girl, Interrupted, will be one of the guest stars at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival.

She will be joined by names including Clive James, Miranda Richardson and Juliet Stevenson who will take part in readings and talks about the writer best known for his avant-garde play Waiting For Godot.

PA