Living and Dying with Marcel Proust

Europa. Jun. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781609457600. pap. $17.00. LIT
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death, but his literary legacy endures. His colossal novel in seven parts, In Search of Lost Time, is a 20th-century French masterpiece that continues to captivate readers and generate copious scholarship. Prendergast (French literature, King’s Coll., Cambridge, and the British Acad.; Mirages and Mad Beliefs) analyzes various aspects of In Search of Lost Time, including Proust’s use of color, especially shades of pink; his genius as a weaver of plotlines that incorporated 2,000-plus characters; and the role of the five senses in provoking long forgotten memories. He also attempts to debunk longstanding myths, arguing correctly that Proust’s writing should not be reduced to just very long sentences, and that Proust actually preferred croissants to madeleines. Prendergast, who was general editor for the Penguin translation of In Search of Lost Time, generally cites remarkable Proust passages solely in English (only occasionally quoting from the original French text); Proust’s brilliance as a writer still comes through in the translated texts, but Prendergast’s analysis might have been enhanced by including more passages in French.
VERDICT This book will prompt many to reread Proust. For readers interested in 20th-century French literature and individuals with Proustian affinities.
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