“The Enigmatic Manuscript of Albert Camus’ ‘L’Étranger’ to Be Auctioned in Paris”

Today, Tajan in Paris will host the auction of a complete manuscript of the renowned novel “L’Étranger” (“The Stranger”) by French author and philosopher Albert Camus. Estimated to fetch between €500,000 and €800,000, this handwritten 104-page manuscript holds an air of mystery surrounding its history and dating, as highlighted by the auction house.

The intrigue stems from the manuscript’s concluding inscription, “April 1940,” yet scholars specializing in Camus’ work suggest a different timeline. Despite the novel’s completion in Paris during that period and its eventual publication by Gallimard in May 1942, evidence suggests this manuscript likely dates to 1944, based on insights from Camus’ wife, Francine Camus, and other contextual clues.

Questions arise as to why Camus would reproduce his work in this manner if it wasn’t a working manuscript. The presence of erasures, additions, and sketches absent from the first edition hint at a deliberate ambiguity in the creative process.

Described by the auction house as containing passages laden with cross-outs, interlineations, and marginal notes, the manuscript also features 14 sketches, some of which carry a semblance of hidden humor.

This significant literary artifact has previously gone under the hammer in 1958 and 1991, after which it found a home with an undisclosed collector. “L’Étranger,” initially printed in 4,400 copies, has since become a literary sensation, captivating readers worldwide with its portrayal of Meursault, a young office worker from Algiers, as he recounts the murder of an unnamed Arab man in a narrative marked by ambiguity and existential reflection.