Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ Manuscript to be Auctioned, Shrouded in Mystery

A tantalizing mystery surrounds the complete manuscript of Albert Camus’ iconic novel, ‘The Stranger,’ set to be auctioned at Tajan in Paris today. Valued at €500,000 to €800,000, the 104-page handwritten manuscript presents a puzzle regarding its precise dating. Despite Camus inscribing ‘April 1940′ as the completion date, experts believe it was crafted in 1944. This theory stems from the testimony of Camus’ wife, Francine, and other clues that point to a later origin.

The manuscript itself bears the hallmarks of Camus’ creative process, with numerous erasures, additions, and sketches. Intriguingly, these alterations are absent from the first printed edition, suggesting a hesitation or revision in the author’s conception. The auction house meticulously describes the manuscript as featuring ‘passages covered with cross-outs, additions between the lines and in the margins, all dotted with arrows and cross-references.’ Camus even etched 14 sketches in the margins, hinting at hidden insights or perhaps playful musings.

This enigmatic manuscript has a storied history, having been auctioned in 1958 and 1991. After decades in the possession of an undisclosed collector, it now re-emerges as a captivating piece of literary history. First published in 4,400 copies, ‘The Stranger’ became a global bestseller and a pillar of French literature. The novel explores the themes of existentialism and alienation through the narrative of an Algerian office worker, Meursault, who murders an Arab man without apparent motive. The manuscript offers a rare glimpse into the mind and writing process of one of the 20th century’s literary giants.

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