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Letters of Marcel Proust Paperback – May 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Precocious, charming, and manipulative at age 16, Proust writes in a postscript to an 1888 letter, "I don't dare reread what I have written at full speed. I know very well one shouldn't write at full speed. But I have so much to say. It surges like a tide." Prescient words from a writer whose scintillating correspondence eventually filled 21 volumes. Letters of Marcel Proust, a wonderfully revealing and usefully edited selected collection first published in 1948 and now revisited, brings Proust and all his familial and societal maneuverings vividly to light. As Adam Gopnik writes in his introduction, here is the true story of how a "social butterfly became a literary caterpillar."

Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French novelist, best known for Remembrance of Things Past, He was born in Auteuil, near Paris, the son of an eminent doctor, Adrien Proust, and his wife, Jeanne Weil, who was from a well-to-do Alsatian Jewish family. Other works were: Swann's Way Mina Curtiss, sister of Lincoln Kirstein, was born in Boston in 1898. A graduate of Smith College, she taught there for many years. Among her best known-works are "Letters of Marcel Proust", "Bizet and His World", and "A Forgotten Empress: Anna Ivanovna and Her Era, 1730-1740. Adam Gopnik, an essayist and commentator, is primarily known for his work published by The New Yorker, for which he has written since 1986. In 1995, the magazine dispatched him to Paris to write the "Paris Journals", in which he described life in the City of Light. These essays were later collected and published by Random House in Paris to the Moon.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Helen Marx Books; Revised edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885586450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885586452
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.7 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,076,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Alexandros Gezerlis on June 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was first published in 1949, the letters having been selected by Mina Curtiss from the editions then available. This means that she did not have access to Philip Kolb's 21-volume magisterial edition of the original French correspondence. Even so, for a newcomer (to Proust's correspondence, not to Proust in general) this book is a treasure trove. We have here a collection of 236 letters by Marcel Proust (as well as 2 by André Gide and 3 by Madame Straus addressed to M.P.), the first of which was written in 1885 or 1886 and the last in November 1922.

Ms. Curtiss has given us a translation that is more than decent. Her avowed goal was to use "a kind of English that it seemed to [her] Proust might have written, had he been bilingual". My only complaint is that here and there she left words or phrases in the original French, feeling that they were essentially untranslatable. This may be so, but for the English- (but not French-) speaker it interferes (given its frequency, not very seriously) with the understanding of some subtle points.

Furthermore, Ms. Curtiss has provided some very informative brief biographical notes on Proust's correspondents, given right before a new person appears as the addressee. These are accompanied by approximately 50 pages of notes, which offer further biographical facts, cross-referencing with "In Search of Lost Time", and some practical clarifications relating to the specific context of certain letters.

This edition also contains a useful index and a new introduction by Adam Gopnik which, though not mind-blowing, serves its purpose well.

Regarding Proust's contribution to this book (!): we see him corresponding with countless people, including family members, friends, and publishers.
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