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Marcel Proust: A Life Paperback – November 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1016 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141002034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0641622076
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,071,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jean-Yves Tadié is Professor of French Literature at the Sorbonne and an editor at Gallimard. He is the author of many books and editor of the four-volume Pleiade edition of A la recherche du temps perdu.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By fastreader on October 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I concur with the reviewer who suggested that the newbie proceed as follows:

1) Read Edmund White's little Penguin biography so as to orient yourself. This will lessen the culture shock when you are first confronted with Swann's Way (or The Way by Swann's, as the English prefer).

2) Read Proust. This is actually my third perambulation, so I'm a bit unsure how much of the novel to recommend. Whatever you do, get a good start on it, sufficient that you know you will persevere.

3) Read Tadie. Much of what has mystified you in In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past, whatever) will suddenly become clear. For example, how is it that young Marcel (most writers call him the Narrator) with his wheezing and his mother complex and his odd ideas about sexuality is welcomed in the highest reaches of Paris society? Well, why not, since Proust was! People loved him, men and women, rich and poor, nobility and servants. Knowing about Proust's life makes Marcel/Narrator a lot more credible. The same is true of other characters, such as Charles Swann. (Some of Proust's characters, including the Baron Charlus and the awful Madame Verdurin, are so good that their real-life equivalents are but pale imitations. They need no biography to limn them.)

Tadie is a vast undertaking--as of course is In Search of Lost Time. I became so interested in the biography that I have put aside the final volume, Finding Time Again, so as to concentrate on the biography.

A suggestion: skip the footnotes. I began doing so at about the halfway point of the biography, and I'm enjoying it more and following it better. Those constant interruptions (it's not unusual for the footnotes to occupy a quarter or a third of the page) made it difficult for me to follow the text.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By I. Randolph S. Shiner on November 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
What is the nature of biography? Is it the work of the subject? Is it separatable? What is fair? What is accurate? Does a biography of one such as Proust, the 20th century's most famous, best author, have to be a recitation of the work itself melded with events in his life? Or can the work come simply from being an artist: the culmination of the mind that is under study?

Tadie takes Proust as the person: and what he becomes is in essence what the judgment of the biographer says he becomes using his best judgment. And there appears to be no person alive with more knowledge of Proust and his work than Tadie. It is big. It is full. Almost too much. But then we are not dealing with a minor novelist, are we? This book is a classic and a model for all biography in terms of its approach and philosophy: Proust is never to be forgotten from this rendering, which is art in and of itself. For Proust, and Tadie's treatment here, is that of the nature of art itself.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd S. Thomas on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I fell in love with Proust's work as a senior in college during a winter study break where we read 100s of pages a day. Later on, I satisfied part of the foreign language requirements for my Ph. D. (in English literature) by spending one day a week for an entire semester in a three person Proust seminar where we read Proust in French, but thankfully, got to hold our discussions in English. I also read Painter's 2 volume biography of Proust back then. In fact, somewhere in my garage, I have a first edition of Shattuck's "Proust's Binoculars." And, over the years, I've happily read and re-read Proust in the Moncrieff, Kilmartin/Enright, and now the new Penguin transations.

But, having read 318 pages into Tadie, I have decided to give up. Tadie is packed full of information, but he doesn't seem to have any real story to tell. It is just one potentially fascinating fact after another. But the reader has to supply all the fascination. Tadie just piles one sentence after another in an exhausting display of joyless erudition.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Alexander McBirney on September 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
I picked up a copy of this book when I saw it marked down in price. I did not have to read very far before I discovered why the bookstore was unable to unload the large stock they still have on hand. The writing is simply atrocious.
On every page there are non-sequiturs or convoluted sentence that are impossible to understand, even after reading them two or three times. The fault is not in the translation, which seems to be faithful to the original, but in the publisher who clearly made no attempt to edit the text properly.
How ironic that a work about one of the greatest writers of modern literature should be presented in such a careless, clumsy way.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By judygarlandheartbreaker.com on May 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exhaustive, yes, and you may want to skip some of it, but the author's comprehensive, well-footnoted approach is certainly the way to go if you're doing a biography. Most interesting, of course, is Proust's effort to hide his homosexuality in the text of his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. His affair with the composer and bon vivant Reynaldo Hahn is engrossing, and it's fun to cast the novels with the descriptions Tadie supplies of their prototypes. This is the only bio I'm reading, so haven't compared any others.
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