The Dec. 25/Jan. 1 issue of The New Yorker magazine contains a short story written by playwright Arthur Miller reportedly when he was about 17, which foreshadows his magnum opus, "Death of a Salesman."
Titled "In Memoriam," the apparently autobiographical story is narrated by the young Miller, who recalls his encounter with a weary and burned-out old salesman he met while working in his father's coat business. In the story, the salesman needs to ask the boy for a nickel carfare, but just can't bring himself to do it.
"His was a salesman's profession," wrote the young Miller, some 17 years before "Salesman" opened on Broadway, "if one may describe such dignified slavery as a profession, and though he tried to interest himself in his work he never became entirely molded to the pot of that business."
The story was placed in the magazine by critic and author John Lahr, in honor of Miller's 80th birthday Oct. 17, 1995. Lahr writes in his introduction that the manuscript was discovered by Miller's mother, Augusta, soon after "Death of a Salesman" opened on Broadway in 1949.
A note attached to the manuscript, Lahr reports, says that the real salesman of the story "threw himself in front of an El train the day following the incident." In "Salesman," the protagonist, Willy Loman, apparently kills himself by driving off a road.