Monsieur Proust's Library
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Reading was so important to Marcel Proust that it sometimes seems he was unable to create a personage without a book in hand. Everybody in his work reads: servants and masters, children and parents, artists and physicians. The more sophisticated characters find it natural to speak in quotations. Proust made literary taste a means of defining personalities and gave literature an actual role to play in his novels.
In this wonderfully entertaining book, scholar and biographer Anka Muhlstein, the author of Balzac’s Omelette, draws out these themes in Proust's work and life, thus providing not only a friendly introduction to the momentous In Search of Lost Time, but also exciting highlights of some of the finest work in French literature.
1:93. l 1:28. Est-ce qu’un homme n’est pas autant qu’un autre? Qu’est-ce que cela peut faire qu’il soit duc ou cocher, s’il a de l’intelligence et du cœur? Il avait une belle manière d’élever ses enfants, votre Saint-Simon, s’il ne leur disait pas de donner la main à tous les honnêtes gens. Mais c’est abominable, tout simplement. 1:43. m 1:28. Rappelle-moi donc le vers que tu m’as appris et qui me soulage tant dans ces moments-là. Ah! oui: «Seigneur, que de vertus vous nous faites haïr!» Ah!
keeps my tongue still enchained.c The use of Racine in this case, however, goes beyond simple comic effects: it reinforces the analogy between Jews and homosexuals advanced by Proust in his jeremiad on the “accursed race” at the beginning of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which he likens sodomites to Jews, “brought into the company of their own kind by the ostracism to which they are subjected, the opprobrium into which they have fallen, having finally been invested, by a persecution similar to that
apply it to subjects of his choice. Proust confers a similar facility on the Narrator’s mother in La Recherche, enabling her to quote Mme de Sévigné in preference to confronting her son and expressing her dissatisfaction with his habits in her own words. Proust’s discussion of Phèdre in relation to the Narrator shows that this connection goes even further than the adoption of language. Phèdre and its eponymous heroine, the Greek princess, have a unique importance in La Recherche. The first
to understand the origin of an artistic emotion “grow old useless and unsatisfied, like celibates of Art! They suffer, but their sufferings, like the sufferings of virgins and of lazy people, are of a kind that fecundity of work would cure.”l In his novel, Proust does not mention by name ces célibataires de l’art who, quite obviously for anyone in the know, target the unmarried Goncourt brothers; in an article written to celebrate the centenary of Edmond de Goncourt, Proust was more explicit:
“This subordination of every duty regarding society, friends, and family to the duty of serving the truth could have brought M. de Goncourt greatness had he taken the word truth in a wider, deeper sense, had he created more living beings whose descriptions included elements that, unintentionally, brought out something different, extensive, and complementary from the hasty sketches forgotten in his memory. Sadly, instead of this, he observed, made notes and wrote a journal, which is not the work