“Proust not only brought to the fore the beauty of centuries past but also set the scene for the era of modernism. This genius could not have so gloriously entered the twentieth century had he not proudly stood on the shoulders of giants.” —From the Conclusion
Reading was so important to Marcel Proust that it sometimes seems he was unable to create a character without a book in hand. Everybody in his work reads: servants and masters, children and parents, artists and physicians. The more sophisticated among them find it natural to speak in quotations. Proust made literary taste a means of defining personality and gave literature an actual role to play in his fiction.
In this wonderfully entertaining book, scholar and biographer Anka Muhlstein 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 allowing glimpses at some of the highlights and lost treasures of French literature.
|Publisher:||Other Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
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How did Proust read? As a child, like all of us: for the plot and characters. But even at a very young age he was outraged by the fact that grownups considered reading as something one did to amuse oneself. “My great-aunt,” he recalled in Days of Reading, “would say to me, ‘How can you go on amusing yourself with a book; it isn’t Sunday, you know!’ putting into the word ‘amusing’ an implication of childishness and waste of time.” For little Marcel, reading was not fun; it was traumatic. He cried at the end of every book and was unable to go to sleep, desolate at the idea of leaving the characters he had grown attached to: “These people for whom one has gasped or sobbed, one will know nothing more of them […] one would have so liked for the book to continue.”
Proust read as a moralist, in the sense that reading could lead to greater self-knowledge, a salutary discipline sometimes necessary to shock a lazy mind into action. And he read as a novelist, an artisan of the written word, endlessly analyzing the style and technique of other authors, whether he liked their work or not. Finally, Proust read as a homosexual, extremely sensitive to all transgressions and ambiguities of gender.
The scope of his reading was too vast to allow for a list of favorites. All the writers who are important to the characters in the novel are French, but Proust, although he did not read English with ease, had a special affinity for British and American literature and was greatly influenced by them. “It is curious that in all the different genres, from George Eliot to Hardy, from Stevenson to Emerson, there is no literature which has had as much hold on me as English or American literature. Germany, Italy, very often France leave me indifferent but two pages of The Mill on the Floss reduce me to tears,” he wrote.