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The Morgan receives important group of J.D. Salinger letters that reveal little-known side of the author
In this file photo, Jeffrey Szanto, of St. Davids, Pennsylvania, looks over a display of letters written by author J.D. Salinger to his friend, Mike Mitchell, Salinger's neighbor in Conn., who also illustrated the carousel horse on the cover of the first edition of 'Catcher In The Rye', at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City, New York, USA, 18 March 2010. The library received the letters as a gift more than a decade ago, but did not make them public until Salinger's death on 27 January 2010.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum will receive a gift from the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York of twenty-eight letters written by J. D. Salinger. The gift commemorates the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda, who brought Vedanta, the religious and philosophical teachings of India, to the West in 1893. With this generous new gift, the Morgan now holds fifty-two Salinger letters in its collection.

J. D. Salinger was deeply influenced by Vedanta and had an enduring relationship with Swami Nikhilananda, founder and spiritual leader of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Salinger attended services and classes at the Center in Manhattan, and at the Vivekananda Cottage retreat in New York’s Thousand Island Park.

The gift consists of letters written by Salinger to Swami Nikhilananda, his successor Swami Adiswarananda, and to the Center, from 1967–2006. Numerous correspondences pertain to Salinger’s many donations to the Center over the course of nearly forty years, while others contain reflections on spiritual and other matters.

In a letter dated May 1, 1967, Salinger wrote of Stalin’s daughter, noting, “It strikes me, too, that she ought to know of the existence of Thousand Island Park.” On January 19, 1972, he wrote to Swami Nikhilananda of his wish “that the East had deigned to concentrate some small part of its immeasurable genius to the petty art or science of keeping the body well and fit,” referring to Swami’s need of a wheelchair.

In addition to those letters written by Salinger, the gift also includes correspondences from the Center to Salinger, as well as several notes between the Center and Salinger’s wife, Colleen. In December 2010 she wrote to Swami Vidananda, “with gratitude for all the joy you gave to my husband…”

The gift will be presented on the occasion of a free lecture at the Morgan on Friday, April 12 at 7:30pm, by Kenneth Slawenski, the author of J. D. Salinger: A Life, who will discuss this little-known side of Salinger’s life.

Two of the letters will be on view at the Morgan from Friday, April 12–Friday, April 19.

“We are deeply grateful for this generous gift from the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center,” said Declan Kiely, Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum. “The letters reveal J. D. Salinger’s abiding interest in Eastern religion and philosophy, and are an important addition to the Morgan’s growing collection of correspondence and other material related to the author’s life.”

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