File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 2

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 14:01:28 -0400
Subject: PLC: Why Proust? And Why Now?

New York Times
April 13, 2000

Why Proust? And Why Now?


Poor Proust! Lying in bed in a soundproof room swaddled in layers of
wool, gasping with asthma, trying to recapture with words the lost
sensation of his mother's kiss. 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." 

Countless volumes have been written about the author, who died in 1922.
Proust's own novel, "Remembrance of Things Past" (often referred to by
enthusiasts as simply The Novel), is a very autobiographical 3,000 pages
long. A two-volume study by George Painter, published in 1959 and 1965,
is generally acknowledged to be one of the finest literary biographies
in English. 

But it is as if every generation has to ask its own questions of Proust.
In recent years there have been a number of books about him, including
"How Proust Can Change Your Life," by Alain de Botton; "A Year of
Reading Proust," by Phyllis Rose; "Proust's Lesbianism," by Elisabeth
Ladenson; even a Proust comic book in French, which sold 12,000 copies
in the first three months after its release. 

Now come two immense new biographies, both, as it happens, called,
"Marcel Proust: A Life." One is by William Carter, a professor of French
at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published (at 946 pages)
last month by Yale University Press. The other (934 pages), by Jean-Yves
Tadiť, a professor at the Sorbonne, is to be released in August by

Both draw on material previously unavailable in English, including the
22 volumes of Proust's letters assembled by Philip Kolb. Mr. Kolb, who
made the Proust letters his life's work, was correcting the final proofs
until a few days before he died in 1992 at 85. 

Proust's work has never gone out of print. What is it about Proust that
makes him of such enduring interest?


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