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Monsieur Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein

By Bluestalking @Bluestalking


Monsieur Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein

Other Press, 2012


Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Criticism

Library copy.

" But even at a very young age reading was for him a very serious business and he was outraged by the fact that it could be considered by grownups as something one did to amuse oneself. "

  - Anka Mulstein

One of the great things about this little book is one need not have read his great work 'Remembrance of Things Past' to appreciate the bibliophile who was Marcel Proust. Another is it's a great short study of what reading meant to the great French author and how what he read influenced what he wrote. If her intent was to write a brief guide to lead readers into the multiple-volume work non-threateningly, the author succeeded.

I haven't read ROTP. It's on my list, and I have a nice hardback Modern Library set, but the furthest I've gotten into it is, well, sometime after the madeleine and before the end of the first book. In other words, I really don't recall a damn thing about it, except his none-too-subtle Oedipal issues. But the language was lovely. I'll get to it. Hopefully.

As for Proust, the Great Man himself, I know he spent a lot of time in his bed, writing and eating cookies. And writing. And writing. Honestly, that's the pathetic sum total of my knowledge. Except a lot of people have no idea how to pronounce the man's name. Hint: It rhymes with "roost."

Unsurprisingly, Proust had a special fondness for books involving memory and its influence on writing, yet, he had little regard for academics. He also enjoyed reading the sort of swashbuckling novels written by Dumas. I have trouble reconciling that with Marcel Proust. Seems he was the polar opposite of men as active as musketeers. Then again, maybe he liked getting his action/adventure vicariously. I once enjoyed reading a book about a whaling ship but sure as hell wouldn't ever participate in such an activity. I'd rather sit in bed eating madeleines, too:

"I like novels with no love stories, no dark passions but a lot of duels, policemen, kings and queens, good humor and in which the innocents finish first."

- Marcel Proust

To sum it up, an enjoyable little book, one I'm glad I read. It made me more interested in reading Proust, not that he'll make my reading list in the immediate future. Too, too much going on for that. But he's been moved up mentally and, in the meantime, I may seek out some of his essays and shorter works. I never think of him as author of anything save ROTP, strangely, but he did in fact write more than that behemoth. Maybe something shorter would be a good way of putting a toe in the water. It's certainly less intimidating.

"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."

- Anka Muhlstein

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