Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Marking Marcel Proust's 142nd Birthday

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the birth of the creator of Odette, Swann, Albertine, and the Baron de Charlus, among many, many others. His most impressive feat of imaginative characterization, however, was his invention of 'Marcel,' the purely fictional narrator who is usually incorrectly assumed to be a veiled self-portrait. The great interest of William Carter's biography of Proust lies in its revelation of the life of bourgeois banality that Proust transformed into unadulterated aesthetic gold. Nabokov was probably making a juvenile, mildly homophobic pun when he called the Recherche a "fairy tale," but he also made a solid point: Proust's roman fleuve is as much a work of the imagination as The Master and Margarita (or, for that matter, A Game of Thrones). Celebrate Proust's birthday with a tea-soaked madeleine, an evening at the opera, and a visit to Chez Jupien.

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