Newly-Discovered Philip Roth Manuscript Offered At Bonhams New York Book Sale

Art Daily
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Philip Roth: excerpt from unpublished manuscript. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- A previously unknown manuscript by one of the giants of 20th Century American literature, Philip Roth, is a highlight of Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in New York on Friday 6 March. The first Roth manuscript ever offered at auction, it is estimated at $10,000-15,000.

The untitled 53-page typewritten manuscript with substantial revisions in Roth’s hand, is a sequel to the author’s 1972 novella The Breast. It takes up the story where it ended with the mysterious disappearance of The Breast’s central character, the 34-year old Associate Professor of Literature David Kepesh, who had been planning to cement his reputation with a critical analysis of Kafka. In fact, Kepesh has been transformed into a 155-pound female breast, and the draft sequel follows the efforts of one of his students to track him down and find out what has happened.

The manuscript was owned by Roth’s close friend of 50 years, Joel Conarroe, former Board Chairman of the National Book Foundation, which administers the National Book Awards, and Dean of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania.

Bonhams Director of Books in New York Ian Ehling, said: “The appearance at auction of this unknown manuscript is a major literary discovery, and provides a fascinating insight into Roth’s thinking, writing, and editing processes. Each segment of the manuscript is coherent in-itself and can be placed in a varying order as interchangeable building blocks.”

Roth worked on a number of Kepesh-themed drafts after the publication of The Breast and although this manuscript relates to that wider project it appears to be unique. The sequel when it was finally published in 1977 under the title, The Professor of Desire, turned out to be more of a prequel, dealing largely with Kepesh’s life before the events described in The Breast.

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