Marcel Proust(1871-1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time. The title was first translated as Remembrance of Things Past(RTP), and that seems to be what has stuck. In RTP he transformed the frivolous experiences of his youth into a luminous meditation on the nature of time and memory and loss. RTP is not so much a book, as Germaine reminds us, “as an armful of books.”1 Proust’s work is, for Greer, no luminous mediation. “No bookshop can be relied upon to have all the volumes of this 2400+ page work in stock at any one time,” Greer writes, “and the cost of the whole work is likely to be prohibitive, unless you can read it in French in the one-volume paperback edition. RTP is so heavy that you can't read it in bed let alone in the bath.”1
Proust wrote lying in bed in a soundproof room swaddled in layers of wool, gasping with asthma, trying to recapture with words the lost sensations of a lifetime: his mother's kiss, her voice, the voices of his friends, the tensions of his early and middle childhood. But, like Einstein, Marcel Proust was in his own way a theorist of time and space. "An hour is not merely an hour," Proust wrote, "it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates." Proust also said that: ''A book is the product of a different self from the one we manifest in our habits, our social life and our vices.'' I also find this to be the case with the several books, hundreds of essays and thousands of poems I’ve written. The creative self seems to tap into some other world, some parallel universe, or not so parallel.
Countless volumes have been written about Proust who died some ninety years ago in 1922. Proust's novel RTP is often referred to by his few enthusiasts as simply The Novel. A two-volume study by George Painter, published in 1959 and 1965, is acknowledged, at least by some, to be one of the finest literary biographies in English. In the late 1950s and 1960s I knew nothing of Proust, occupied as I was with graduating from high school and then university, dealing with the early manifestations of bipolar disorder, sorting out my relationship with the opposite sex and, then, a new Faith which claimed to be the latest of the Abrahamic religions.
I had joined the Baha’i Faith in 1959 at the age of 15, and found myself as the only youth in my school and my town, and then my university, who had affiliated with some group other than salvation’s complacent trinity of Catholic, Protestant and Jew.
Two immense new biographies, both, as it happens, called, Marcel Proust: A Life will be in some bookshops this year. One is by William Carter, a professor of French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published (at 946 pages) in January by Yale University Press. The other (934 pages), by Jean-Yves Tadié, a professor at the Sorbonne, is to be released in August by Viking.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Germaine Greer, “Why do people gush over Proust? I'd rather visit a demented relative,” The Guardian, 8 November 2009.
Marcel had trouble breaking his
umbilical cord; he also had a lot
of trouble turning out his 2400++
page novelistic autobiography that
is keeping those who come into his
famous novel, RTP, as busy as little
beavers trying to figure it all out!!!
In our world of print and image-glut
there are few who will try Proust on
for size, inspite of the biographies &
all the gushing over that massive RTP.
I’ve written a good deal in notebooks,
but nothing like Proust’s notebooks, &
nothing like his 50,000 letters, serving
as they do as his journal as well as his
social & emotional contacts as his bad
health made him more & more isolated
as he headed for death at just the age-51.
If it was not for modern medicine I think
I, too, would be long gone and in the land
of those who speak and dream no more. I’d
go into one of those holes with the worms.(1)
(1) Fortunately, I believe this will happen only to my body. I have had a strong belief in the afterlife, the “undiscovered country” as Shakespeare calls it, for at least the last 50 years after converting to the Baha’i Faith in 1959. Traditional beliefs in Shakespeare’s time(1564-1616) often held that an untimely death was a punishment for one’s sin. It was, therefore, a thing to be feared.
Since the medical knowledge of the time could not explain the plagues which often wiped out whole villages, it was assumed that these mass fatalities were signs of God's displeasure. By Shakespeare's time, humanism and the revival of classical philosophy resulted in the growing influence of alternative ways of thinking about death. As a subject for dramatists, death became a more complicated issue than it had been in the earlier morality plays of the middle ages: 400 to 1400(circa).
Instead of representing death simply as a hooded figure who would call upon an Everyman or Mankind to account for his life, Shakespeare and other writers explored the many intellectual possibilities, and controversies, raised by new ways of thinking about mortality. Hamlet in particular explores the idea of death as an "undiscovered country” as opposed to the clearly defined territory of medieval Christian doctrine. The dramatists drew on currents of thought which were being worked out by Renaissance intellectuals, as humanist and classical thought converged with traditional Christian beliefs.(2) See this link2) http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/L...on/death2.html