Manuscript of Samuel Beckett's Murphy sold to University of Reading for almost £1m

Notes are 'capable of redefining Beckett studies for many years to come'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

A British university has bought the manuscript of a classic Samuel Beckett novel at auction for just under £1 million.

The six notebooks which went into the final text of Murphy - complete with the author's notes and doodles - cover more than 700 pages including passages that were cut from the novel when it was published in 1938.

The handwritten notes - which date from 1935 and 1936 - were bought by the University of Reading for £962,500 and include sketches of Beckett's contemporaries including James Joyce.

Peter Selley, Sotheby's senior specialist in books and manuscripts, said: "Interest in this remarkable piece of literary history has been truly global. It is unquestionably the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades.

"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."

And the university's vice-chancellor, Sir David Bell, 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."

Born in Dublin in 1906, Beckett lived and worked for most of his life in Paris, wrote in French and English, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. He died in 1989.

His first novel is described as the most comic of all his works, involving Murphy's attempts to withdraw from the world.