France’s national library celebrates Proust 100 years after his death

France’s Marcel Proust, who died 100 years ago this week, is regarded as one of the greatest novelists of all time. To mark the anniversary, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is hosting a major exhibition in Paris, where some of the secrets of Proust’s 2,400-page novel “In Search of Lost Time” are revealed.

In 1907 Marcel Proust, then 36 years old, embarked on what would become his masterpiece, a novel about memory and the essence of art. The project grew from one book to a second in 1912 and a third the following year.

“In Search of Lost Time” eventually grew to seven volumes – four published in Proust’s lifetime and three after his death at the age of 51 in 1922.

Unwanted masterpiece

“For a long time, I went to bed early…”, is how “In Search of Lost Time” begins, and it’s also how the story ends for many readers, who may find Proust’s prose to have soporific qualities.

Poetic and dreamy, sprinkled with dashes and parentheses, his sentences are exceptionally long – on average 30 words, twice that of most novelists.

After receiving three rejections for the first volume, “Swann’s Way”, Proust decided to self-publish.

Nobel-winning novelist André Gide, who was an editor at the time at NRF publishing house (which later became Gallimard), was among those who decided against Proust’s dense prose.

“The rejection of this book will remain the NRF’s greatest mistake,” Gide later wrote to Proust, calling it “one of the most bitter regrets of my life”.

Gallimard managed to lure Proust back for his second novel in 1916, “The Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, which won the Goncourt Prize, France’s top literary award.

Paris exhibition

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) in Paris is devoting a major new exhibition to Proust, which reveals the secrets of the writing of “In Search of Lost Time”.

“What will strike the visitor is the extent to which Proust works, corrects, writes in the margins, in the spaces between lines. He sticks papers in when he doesn’t have enough space. These are the famous ‘paperolles’, large strips of paper,” Nathalie Mauriac Dyer, Director of the Institute of Modern Manuscripts at CNRS, told RFI.

Small, dense, tight, crossed-out handwriting: the Marcel Proust manuscripts.
Small, dense, tight, crossed-out handwriting: the Marcel Proust manuscripts. © Isabelle Chenu / RFI

In “In Search of Lost Time”, we also find Proust’s famous madeleine – which started life as a humble piece of toast, as early drafts of the scene discovered in Proust’s notebooks reveal.

The mini sponge cake that has become the most famous detail in all seven volumes makes its appearance early in the first book.

For the protagonist, Marcel, “the taste of the madeleine dipped in lime-blossom tea that my aunt used to give me” releases a flurry of vivid memories, giving him access to the “lost time” he is searching for.

“This is the Proustian theory of involuntary memory caused by a sensation that recalls events that may have taken place years before. It brings back or recovers lost time,” explains Guillaume Fau, head of  the manuscript department at the BnF.

Severe asthma

Proust suffered most of his life with severe asthma, and although he liked to socialise – he had some torturous secret homosexual love affairs – he also spent long stretches in bed, writing with a tray on his knees.

“He was a very sick man. He often had asthma attacks that were not treated at the time. But when he worked, he worked in a Herculean, heroic, relentless way,” says Nathalie Mauriac Dyer.

His neurologist father urged his sickly son to get out in the fresh air and play sport, noting that asthma was not contagious.

But Proust’s mother was prone to mollycoddling, and from 1906 he followed her counsel, staying cloistered inside with a steady supply of caffeine and aspirin.

His respiratory problems would finally get the better of him. He died on 18 November 1922.


Source: France’s national library celebrates Proust 100 years after his death

Spectacle de la compagnie Née au Vent

Caillou habite quelque part.
Luna arrive sur son territoire, tombée tout droit du ciel.
Luna et Caillou sont des étrangères: l’une a soif d’aventures et rêve de voler quand l’autre est castagneuse, organisée, bien plantée. L’autre vit dans du carton qu’elle empile pendant que l’une redessine le monde avec ses craies.
Au fil de leurs extravagances, quelque chose d’indicible se crée entre elles, et s’épaissit.
Amitié? Nécessité? Le lien va s’inventer de conflits en évidences.
Ce qui surgit de la réunion de deux êtres est toujours surprenant…

de et avec Claire Néel et Camille Moukli-Perez
Regard extérieur: Lory Leishin

Hans Zimmer & Ukrainian musicians on tour

Film music for peace: On March 11, 2022, Hans Zimmer went on tour across Europe with a large orchestra, performing music from his most popular films as well as more recent compositions. Ten musicians from the Odessa National Opera, who managed to flee to Germany from the war in Ukraine, are taking part. Originally, the film music tour was planned to include the entire Odessa Opera Orchestra. But after Russia attacked Ukraine on the morning of February 24, 2022, most of the Odessa Opera Orchestra musicians were unable to leave the country. These ten musicians were able to flee from Ukraine, passing by many European cities on their long odyssey to escape the war. They encountered a lot of support and willingness to help on their escape. Their missing Ukrainian colleagues are now being covered by fellow musicians from all over Europe who play in the concerts. This turns the tour, which was supposed to celebrate Hans Zimmer’s grand film music, into a show of solidarity with these ten Ukrainian musicians who were able to flee, and for the entire Odessa Opera Orchestra. Hans Zimmer’s music connects people across borders – a project that provides some much-needed hope.

Film music excerpts from: (00:00)

House Atreides (from the official soundtrack of Dune/2021) (01:55)

Themyscira (from the official soundtrack of Wonder Woman 1984/2020) (05:06)

Mombasa (from the official soundtrack of Inception/2010)