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Proust’s «In Search of Lost Time»: The History of a Vocation

Meindert Evers

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) grew up in the fin de siècle, a period associated with melancholy and decadence. He knew the temptations of decadence, but freed himself by developing a new conception of art: Perspectivism becomes the aesthetic and philosophical principle of In Search of Lost Time. The novel traces out the path to becoming an artist. It is the history of a «vocation». The main figure is initiated into the hidden beauty of the universe by various artists and by «signs» from his own life, like involuntary memory. A variety of dangers however, lie along the path of the artist. Besides aestheticism, there is the siren call of worldly life which has to be resisted. In the end, art triumphs. For Proust art is not a refuge from life, but the only way to do justice to the modern world. The fascinating and equally disturbing consequence of Proust’s radical conception of art is the complete absence of cultural criticism. An advertisement for soap may contain as much poetry as the Pensées of Pascal.


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1 Works by Marcel Proust A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Published by Pierre Clarac and André Ferré, 3 vols, Paris 1954. A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Published by Jean-Yves Tadié, 4 vols, Paris 1987-1989. Jean Santeuil, précédé de Les Plaisirs et les Jours. Published by Pierre Clarac and Yves Sandre, Paris 1971. Contre Sainte Beuve, précédé de Pastiches et Mélanges et suivi de Essais et Articles. Published by Pierre Clarac and Yves Sandre, Paris 1971. Le Carnet de 1908. Published by Philip Kolb, Paris 1976. Carnets. Published by Florence Callu and Antoine Compagnon, Paris 2002. Correspondance de Marcel Proust. Published by Philip Kolb, 21 vols, Paris 1970-1993. Marcel Proust et Jacques Rivière. Correspondance 1914-1922, Paris 1976. 2 Works by Marcel Proust in translation In Search of Lost Time, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, London-New York 1992. Other works by Proust in translation, I used: Jean Santeuil, translated by Gerard Hopkins, New York 1956. Pleasures and Regrets, translated by Louise Varese, New York 1948. On art and literature 1896-1919, translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1958 (Meridian books) (originally published under the title Contre Sainte-Beuve). A selection from his miscellaneous writings, chosen and translated by Gerard Hopkins, Lon- don 1948. Selected Letters, vol. 1 1880-1903, vol. 2 1904-1909, vol.3 1910-1917. vol. 4 1918-1922, London 1983 ff. Letters of Marcel Proust, translated and edited by Nina Curtiss, New York 1966 (1949). Internet was also useful in some cases:...

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