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Marcel Proust, now enjoying a major renaissance, has at last found a biographer who himself once produced the "finest French novel written in English" (The Nation). For Edmund White--author of an award-winning biography of Jean Genet and of the classic gay novel A Boy's Own Story, and known for his own haunting evocation of times past--this portrait is the exquisite expression of a lifetime spent contemplating Proust. Proust teaches us to truly savor the master's delicate perfection of style and his strange, charismatic personality--not just the recluse obsessively rewriting his one massive work through the night, but the yearning, lonely boy; the dazzling wit and darling of Parisian salons; the seeker of fame; and the unhappy closeted homosexual whom this book is the first to explore openly. From the frothiest gossip to the deepest angst, here is a gem to be treasured not only by literati and students, but by anyone looking for an introduction to an enduring genius.
Narrator. But when he realizes that the Narrator will pass a sleepless night all alone, he gets the rules bent. When Saint-Loup asks the Narrator if he’d rather spend the night with him, the Narrator replies: “Oh, Robert, it’s cruel of you to be sarcastic about it, . . . You know it’s not possible, and you know how wretched I shall be over there.” “Well, you flatter me!” he replied. “Because it actually occurred to me that you’d rather stay here tonight. And that is precisely what I went to
was picturing her to myself in the colours of a tapestry or a stained-glass window, as living in another century, as being of another substance than the rest of the human race. Never had it occurred to me that she might have a red face, a mauve scarf like Madame Sazerat. . . .” Later, when he is no longer so fascinated by her, he comes to enjoy her way of conversing, by turns earthy and refined, witty and ceremonial—a true reliquary of authentic French. And the Narrator is never able to rid
be loved he was willing to risk being scorned; he was handsome, especially when he spoke and his eyes glowed; he appeared to be passive but he was really active: “He creates the impression of giving, and he takes.” In 1893 Proust met Robert de Montesquiou at the house of the hostess-painter Madeleine Lemaire, of whom the younger Dumas said she had created more roses than God. (Proust, the flatterer, went Dumas one better by starting a sonnet to Madame Lemaire with these words: “You do more than
was finally, years later, dismissed. As André Maurois, one of Proust’s first biographers, put it: “He was the most detached of all attachés and went from leave to leave.” Just as Flaubert had protected his time to write by working up medical reasons that kept him from practicing law (including a full-scale nervous breakdown), in the same way Proust, while pretending to humor his father’s determination that he find a job, even an unremunerated one, managed in his passive-aggressive way to avoid
Albertine would echo Swann’s for Odette, and that passion is always a disappointment in Proust’s world and family love the only form of affection that endures. But despite his frustration, Proust remained coolly adamant that his book was something of lasting merit. Proust made another effort. His book was submitted to a publishing house called Ollendorff. The director, a man named Humblot, replied, “I may be narrow-minded but I can’t understand how a gentleman can use thirty pages to describe