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Creations of Faulkner, Beckett and Conrad's up at auction in New York

NEW YORK--Manuscripts, letters and drawings of the writers William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett and Joseph Conrad start to go on auction in New York next week, in a rare chance to snap up their belongings.

Sotheby's has classed Tuesday's event in the Big Apple as “the largest and most important group of William Faulkner material ever to appear at auction,” ahead of a second event in London the following month.

The New York auction includes the Nobel Prize for Literature scroll and medal awarded to Faulkner in 1949 for “his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel,” as well as his acceptance speech.

The price tag for the Faulkner lots, discovered by a grandson who was cleaning out a building to make space for chickens on the family farm in Virginia, is estimated at US$2 million, sparking interest from universities.

“Some of this collection was thought to be lost. No one has seen it for many years,” said Justin Caldwell, vice president of Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's.

“There are several universities interested, most of this will go probably to an American university.”

Among other items to be auctioned are typed copies of stories, proofs of his books and letters written from Paris by Faulkner (1897-1962), who authored “The Sound and the Fury” (1929), and “As I Lay Dying” (1930).

Sotheby's took the rare step last week of displaying several Faulkner items in Paris, instead of London, ahead of the New York auction, on account of the French connection.

“There is more interest in Faulkner there than in Britain,” said Caldwell. “It would be nice to see something going to France.”

The New York auction will also see a first edition of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, valued between US$100,000 and US$200,000, go on the block, along with a host of memorabilia of other leading writers.

Included are an intact 1924 recording of James Joyce reading “Ulysses,” letters from Hunter S. Thompson on his first book, and sketches by Ernest Hemingway of his newly purchased home in Key West and of his broken arm.

The second part of Sotheby's “Great Literature of the 20th Century” auction will be held from July 10 in London.

The two biggest items are the working manuscript of “Murphy,” Irish-born Beckett's first book, and “Typhoon,” by Polish-born Conrad (1857-1924), who eventually took British citizenship but always considered himself a Pole.

Both texts are currently on display at Sotheby's headquarters in New York, alongside the Faulkner collection.

“Murphy,” almost 800 pages long, is described by the auction house as “the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades.”

Consequently, its estimate is between US$1.25 million and US$1.87 million.

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby's London deputy director specialist in books and manuscripts, said he expected “Typhoon,” and “Murphy,” to go to institutional buyers, such as important universities.

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The autographed working manuscript of “Typhoon” by Joseph Conrad is displayed at Sotheby's in New York on Thursday, June 6. The item is part of the “Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana,” to be auctioned Tuesday, June 11 at Sotheby's. (AFP)

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