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Monsieur Proust's Library


Monsieur Proust's Library Cover

ISBN13: 9781590515662
ISBN10: 1590515668
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: None
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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.

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Katsuya, December 28, 2012 (view all comments by Katsuya)
Recommended to any fans of Proust, or those who are embarking on their first read of the Recherche. Muhlstein offers an introduction of the major characters from the novel in the beginning of her book. Some major plot points are given away in these character sketches, and, given that she contextualizes the quotes from the Recherche rather well throughout.
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Product Details

Muhlstein, Anka
Other Press (NY)
Literary Criticism : General
Publication Date:
8.3 x 5.2 x 0.63 in 0.7188 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Literary
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Monsieur Proust's Library Used Hardcover
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Product details 160 pages Other Press (NY) - English 9781590515662 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "What was Proust reading? In this set of essays about the library of the author of In Search of Lost Time, Muhlstein (Balzac's Omelette: A Delicious Tour of French Food and Culture with Honoré de Balzac) wonders why 'Proust seemed incapable of creating a character without putting a book in his hands,' and how investigating some of the writer's literary touchstones might help us to better understand his oeuvre. Ferreting out all the textual sources and influences of the man who had 'read everything and forgot nothing' would be a Herculean task; Muhlstein recognizes this. Her study limits itself to what she sees as the formative texts of Proust's childhood: Saint-Simon, Racine, Balzac, Thierry, Chateaubriand, de Nerval, Baudelaire, the Goncourts. She also makes the case that the work of John Ruskin is a significant and underappreciated presence in Proust's fiction. Muhlstein offers some deft intertextual readings (The chapter entitled 'A homosexual reader: Baron de Charlus' offers a marvelous insight about how Proust takes up the Balzac-ian theme of 'cruelty of children towards their parents.') but sometimes the breadth of the subject makes Muhlstein's slim volume seem more like a frenetic catalogue of proper names than a thematically coherent exegesis. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , 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.

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