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Judaism in Marcel Proust

Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Perspectives in Art


Bette H. Lustig

Through detailed in-depth exegeses of Proust’s literary texts (A la Recherche du temps perdu, Jean Santeuil, and Contre Sainte-Beuve), Judaism in Marcel Proust: Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Perspectives in Art explains anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism as present in actual French literary texts. Unlike other studies about Proust and Judaism, the narrative in this book is in English; the focus is on the actual French texts, not on Proust’s biography. Primary Judaic sources such as the Hebrew Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, Moses Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, and Rashi’s commentaries illuminate Proust’s texts and skillfully demonstrate their anti-Semitic and philo-Semitic subtexts.
The principal Proustian themes that are examined in depth include, first of all, the anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism of the characters as informed by Jean-Paul Sartre’s Réflexions sur la queston juive; second, Christian interpretations of Judaic biblical references and their anti-Semitic connotations as well as the philo-Semitic references to the Hebrew Bible and to Judaic culture and ritual contained in the Proust texts; third, the importance of references to art in Proust’s texts and their Judaic significance.
Written in a lively, clear, and accessible style, Judaism in Marcel Proust engages the reader, both Proustophile and Proust scholar alike. It would be an excellent choice for the reading list of courses on Proust as well as for French history and social psychology courses on anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism relating to the Dreyfus case and the Belle Epoque.


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Introduction 1


Introduction Judaism in Marcel Proust: Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Per- spectives in Art is divided into three chapters. The general methodolo- gy in the treatment of the three subdivisions of our subject will be clear statements of the different aspects of each chapter immediately followed by a hermeneutical approach to the documenting texts. Against the backdrop of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Réflexions sur la question juive (1946) and the Dreyfus Case (1894–1906), the first chapter of Ju- daism in Marcel Proust entitled “Anti-Semite and Philo-Semite” exam- ines the intersection and interaction of characters who are French Jews, French non-Jews, anti-Semites, and those who are ambivalent about Jews. The principal Jewish characters in Proust’s drama whom we analyze in this context are Charles Swann, Albert Bloch and his family, and Rachel; their anti-Semitic counterparts are the duc de Guermantes, the marquis de Norpois, the prince de Guermantes and Palamède Charlus. The Jewish characters correspond in Sartrian terms to the assimilated Jew (Le Juif inauthentique) and the unassimi- lated Jew (le Juif authentique). Using these parameters, we analyze the occurrence in the Proust texts of the sociological themes of auto- exclusion, external exclusion, and the rise and fall of Jewish social acceptance and rejection, metaphorically analogized by the reiterated image of the kaleidoscope. Moreover, in correlation with our examination of anti-Semitism in the Proust texts we analyze the elusive concept of truth, an important issue for Proust, the distortion or the denial of which impacts on and refracts the light of...

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