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Wednesday, 23 June, 1999, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Salinger's letters: Return to sender
The enigmatic author has sought total anonymity for decades
Reclusive American writer JD Salinger is expected to be given back the love letters which were threatening to prise open his closely-guarded privacy.

The correspondence was put up for auction by his ex-lover, Joyce Maynard, triggering a storm of protest from his fans - and great interest from literary scholars.

The letters have been bought at Sotheby's in New York for $156,500 - almost double the estimate - by a Californian philanthropist who says he plans to return them to Mr Salinger.

Peter Norton said he shared the widely-held view that the work should be bought by someone sympathetic to Mr Salinger's desire for privacy.

If the writer accepts his offer, the letters will probably not become available to scholars, who had been hoping for insights into the his mind.

The author of Catcher in the Rye has not published a word, or spoken publicly, for more than 30 years.

Seduced with words

Sold for $156,500
Joyce Maynard was an 18-year-old student when she began receiving correspondence from her literary idol, JD Salinger, after she wrote an article in the New York Time. He seduced her with his words, she says.

In the letters, he compares her to his romantic teenage characters, and says she is more perfect still.

Maynard finally met Salinger at his New England home in 1972. He persuaded her to abandon her studies and live with him - cutting off most of her links with the outside world.

The relationship lasted a year, at the end of which, she says, he rejected her.

Profit or revenge

Maynard, who has since become a successful writer, decided last year to publish a detailed account of their affair.

She said she was selling the letters in order to subsidise her children's education.

Defenders of Salinger claim she does not need the money and chose for the sale one of the world's most famous auction houses in order to wreak revenge.

The BBC's Jane Hughes: "Joyce Maynard has come under heavy criticism"
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