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Waiting for Murphy

Beckett rear view

We admit to an oh-so-brief, and unworthy, frisson of covetousness at the news that Reading University has been successful in acquiring at auction the manuscript draft of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy. At the same time we whole-heartedly rejoice, as must all who are interested in Beckett research, that this manuscript is at long last available for study. Congratulations to Reading!

The Library has a close relationship with Beckett International Foundation at Reading.  In the 1990s the Beckett Estate (the author’s nephew Edward Beckett and niece Caroline Murphy) – very generously – donated to each institution half of a body of notes and diaries of Beckett’s; the institutions then provided one another with copies of the part of the gift each had received.

Trinity College Library is one of the Beckett world’s great destinations.  The Beckett collection in Trinity, based on a gift by the author himself in the 1960s, has been built up over the years by purchase, bequest and donation until its international repute is of the highest order. A key distinguishing characteristic is the presence of so much personal correspondence – the letters from Beckett to the poet Thomas MacGreevy, and those to the theatre director and translator Barbara Bray, are central to any biographical study of the Nobel Laureate, and contain much that gives insight into Beckett’s creative process and literary work.  There are also literary papers – including the highly significant draft of Imagination dead imagine;  there are photographs; notes taken by Beckett’s students in Trinity in the 1920s; College exercises; a prompt copy for the first performance of Godot;  there is even a little programme for a boxing tournament in which 10-year-old Beckett took part.

In the Long Room at the moment is a small exhibition drawn from the Library’s Beckett materials. This was installed to coincide with, and with the support of, the third annual Beckett Summer School to be run by the Department of Drama Film and Music in Trinity in August. The Library will be further involved in this venture by facilitating a class to be led by Dirk van Hulle, Professor of English Literature at the University of Antwerp’s Centre for Manuscript Genetics, and  Mark Nixon,  Reader in Modern Literature at the University of Reading and  Director of the Beckett International Foundation; both are co-directors of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (BDMP) with which the Library also collaborated.

Jane Maxwell