Marcel Proust: A Biography

Marcel Proust: A Biography

Marcel Proust: A Biography

Marcel Proust: A Biography

Excerpt

Writers, according to Proust, have two lives, quite different from one another. They have a life in the real world when, like other people, they talk too much or dine out too often or neglect their families, and they have a life in the world of the imagination when they write their books. Proust was probably thinking of himself; in any case he certainly had two lives, rather more radically different than those of most writers and also, paradoxically, rather more strikingly similar.

One life, the real one, is revealed in his letters. Many hundreds of these letters have now been published and, taken together, they form a record very much like that of Pepys's diary or Boswell's journal. Comparatively uneventful and necessarily somewhat repetitious, they are remarkably revealing nevertheless. They enable us to follow Proust, sometimes almost day by day, for many years and to see him much as his friends must have seen him. His personality emerges as a very complex and a very neurotic one, not altogether attractive and yet in some ways very attractive, in any case very human and very real. I have tried to portray the Proust of the letters, with, from time to time, considerable help from the letters . . .

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