July is my favorite birthday month for artists (Mahler, Kafka, Hesse, Neruda, Thoreau, GB Shaw, Klimt, Janáček, etc.), so it’s always pleased me that Proust, one of my supreme idols, managed to be born in the heart of summer.
In honor of Marcel Proust’s 145th birthday (10 July), here are some reflections that have been circulating recently.
Biographer William C. Carter, who believes À la recherche du temps perdu is “arguably the best book ever written about perception,” on Why You Should Read Proust:
I think he helps us to see the world as it really is, not only its extraordinary beauty and diversity, but his observations make us aware of how we perceive and how we interact with others, showing us how often we are mistaken in our own assumptions and how easy it is to have a biased view of another person.
Daniel Mendelssohn, one of Literary Hub‘s Six Writers on the Genius of Marcel Proust rails against the cheapening of the term “Proustian,” which has come “nowadays to refer to pretty much anything sepia-toned, anything having to do with ‘memory.'” Time, he asserts:
is not just the subject, or one of the subjects, of In Search of Lost Time; it is also the medium in which the novel must be read, if it is to be understood. To read this novel takes time; there is no faking it, there are no short-cuts, like five-minute yoga (one of the many fatuities of a frenetic era that is obsessed with “wasting” time, as if to spend time on anything were somehow a loss).
And Laure Murat ponders How the French Reread Proust:
To read or reread Proust brings about this symbolic identification at every level. From the first example to the last, it has really only ever been a question of being named or naming oneself: from “I am a writer” to “I am asthmatic”(or both), the Remembrance systematically determines names given and names taken individually, thereby establishing a relationship between the reader-rereader, the author, and the book that has no other parallel in the accounts of rereading other texts I have gathered.