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Mysterious manuscript of Albert Camus' ‘L'Étranger’ to be auctioned

Mysterious manuscript of Albert Camus' ‘L'Étranger’ to be auctioned
Mysterious manuscript of Albert Camus' ‘L'Étranger’ to be auctioned Copyright TAJAN PARIS
By David Mouriquand
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The complete (and mysterious) manuscript of Albert Camus' famous novel is to be auctioned and is estimated at between €500,000 and €800,000.


A complete manuscript of French author and philosopher Albert Camus' famous novel “L'Étranger” (“The Stranger”) is to be auctioned today (Wednesday 5 June) at Tajan in Paris.  

It is estimated at between €500,000 and €800,000. 

“Its history and precise dating are mysterious,” the auction house points out in its presentation of the handwritten 104-page manuscript.  

The mystery has to do with the date. Camus ends the manuscript with the inscription “April 1940”.  

“L'Étranger” was indeed written at that time in Paris and corrected until September 1941, before being published by Gallimard in May 1942. However, Camus specialists believe that this manuscript dates from 1944 – based on the testimony of the author's wife, Francine Camus, and various other clues. 

So, if it isn’t a working manuscript, why would Camus reproduce his work in this way? And why do the erasures, additions and sketches, absent from the first edition, seem to feign hesitation in the creative process?


“Some passages are covered with cross-outs, additions between the lines and in the margins, all dotted with arrows and cross-references,” the auction house details. “Camus composes 14 sketches in the margins, which sometimes look like hidden jokes.” 

This extremely valuable piece of literary history has already been auctioned twice, in 1958 and 1991. Since then, it has belonged to an undisclosed collector.  

“L'Étranger”, first printed in 4,400 copies, went on to become a bestseller and one of the classics of French literature, selling millions of copies. In it, a young office worker from Algiers, Meursault, recounts the murder he committed of an unnamed Arab man, for reasons that remain unclear. The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault's first-person narrative before and after the killing. 

Additional sources • AFP

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