Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Some Proust Updates

It is indeed strange how almost every few months these days a new book about Proust is being published and then reviewed with great fanfare. Only last month it was the account of a dinner party that Proust went to, called A Night at the Majestic, that occupied the books pages of the newspapers. It was surprisingly even reviewed in the Indian newspapers, in The Times of India no less! Check it out here. Well it was no ordinary party. Some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century were in attendance. Along with Proust there was Joyce, Picasso, Stravinsky and others. The party in question and the meeting of the great minds turned out to be slightly anti-climactic in the end, at least as far as Joyce and Proust were concerned. Joyce and Proust claimed to have never read each other's books and complained of their respective ailments, their head and stomach respectively. As most of the reviews complained, the dinner party occupied a comparatively small space in the book. Most of it was about Proust and his novel. May be that's why the american publishers changed the title to Proust at the Majestic which reflected the contents more clearly. I haven't yet read the book but will do so if I get a chance somewhere. This is a review of the book from the Guardian newspaper.

Now there is a new Proust book which is doing the rounds of books pages. It is called Proust in Love by William Carter, author of a massive Proust biography which was published a few years back to great acclaim. It is about the romantic affairs Proust had and explores his homosexuality and perhaps also tries to explain his book in the light of facts from this domain of his life. It must be an interesting book because perhaps the most complex and engrossing aspects of Proust's masterpiece are his dense and dark insights into the mysterious workings of sexual desire. His philosophy of gender and sexual identity is equally complex. It would always help if you could know how Proust concluded all those things. For example, you would never know without reading Proust's book, what a complex philosophical undertaking it is to run after beautiful women (or beautiful men for that matter haha :))! His analysis of love, specially the painful, unrequited, obsessive and disappointing variety (is there any other type?) is just mindblowing. He definitely exagerates but only to make things clearer. Now after having read Proust (the first few volumes to be precise) I find most of the books about people falling in love childish and immature. Here's a review of the book from The Australian.

The review also informs me about another Proust book which is getting released -- a memoir of Proust's last valet(!). Don't laugh or be surprised. His housekeeper, who attended him when he was on his sick-bed penning his masterpiece, has also published a memoir of her own, which is considered a classic of its kind too. Check out the publisher's page of Celeste Albarete's book Monseiur Proust here. It was also made into a movie titled Celeste(the imdb page here) which I have not seen. I haven't read the book too. Actually the Steppenwolf theatre in Chicago is showing a play based on the book too later this month. Details and show timings here. It is indeed strange how so many books, which would normally be of obscure and almost surely be of marginal interest to non-professionals, are not only published but also discussed at great lengths in popular press. This Village Voice article tries to explain the phenomenon. It also mentions all the recent Proust books. He laments the fact people are more interested in Proust's life (which surprisingly was highly unexceptional) than his work. I myself haven't read any Proust biography so far. The two recent ones by Jean Yves Tadie (originally in french) and other by William Carter were so massive and intimidating that I never went near any of those two. I managed to get an old second-hand edition of a the biography by George Painter (which looks and feels manageable) but never got around to reading it.


anurag said...

I have seen CĂ©leste in my film club. It was before your Blog, and I didn't know anything about the Novel and the Creator !

Alok said...

wow! they show such obscure movies too :)

km said...

Good to see you back, Alok!

Alok said...

thanks! been back for a while :)