June 13, 2024

Strange manuscript of Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ up for auction

LONDON, June 5 — A handwritten manuscript of classic French novel The Stranger by Albert Camus goes up for auction on Wednesday — a unique item since it appears to have been made after the book was published.

The 104-page draft is expected to reach between €500,000 (RM2.6 billion) and €800,000 at the Tajan auction house in Paris.

Manuscripts are normally written as the first draft before being edited and published, and Camus put the date of April 1940 on this one, suggesting it was finished some two years before The Stranger, also known in English as The Outsider, was published.

But a number of clues indicate this was a light-hearted fake, since another signed manuscript also exists.


This one is full of jokey sketches, remarks and subtle annotations, and an expert who studied it in later years said it had actually been put together in 1944 — a view reportedly confirmed to him by Camus’s widow.

With Paris under Nazi occupation at the time, it may have been a way of raising desperately-needed funds by creating a handwritten copy for a wealthy fan.

“Its history and precise dating are mysterious, as is the progress of this strange novel,” the auction house says in its notes.


The identity of the first buyer is unknown. It was later sold at auction twice — in 1958 and 1991.

The Stranger had an initial print run of 4,400 copies, but quickly became a bestseller and then a classic of French literature, selling millions of copies.

Considered a key text in the existentialist movement, it recounts the story of a French settler in Algeria who kills an unnamed Arab man for reasons that remain unclear. — AFP

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