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Marcel Proust: A Life (Penguin Lives) Paperback – February 24, 2009
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Of course, Proust's life can't truly be separated from his art. Every biography of him is bound to operate in the shadow of Remembrance of Things Past, and White has some shrewd things to say about that mammoth work, whose style he describes as "an ether in which all the characters revolve like well-regulated heavenly bodies." Yet the focus remains on Proust and on his unlikely transformation from momma's boy to social climber to world-class genius. Like his subject, White often proceeds by anecdote. His book is packed with telling, hilarious little nuggets, which find Proust being snubbed by that "powdered, perfumed, puffy Irish giant" Oscar Wilde or luring back his lover Alfred Agostinelli by buying him an airplane.
At the same time, White conveys the considerable pain that Proust endured as an invalid, an artist, and (more to the point) a closeted homosexual. No doubt these factors shaped his rather hopeless take on human affections, which impoverished his life even as they enriched his writing. "Proust may be telling us that love is a chimera," White writes, "a projection of rich fantasies onto an indifferent, certainly mysterious surface, but nevertheless these fantasies are undeniably beautiful, intimations of paradise--the artificial paradise of art." In White's view, this recognition makes his subject not only a supreme poet of impermanence but the greatest novelist of the century. Here, of course, it's possible to quibble. But the world would be an emptier place indeed without Proust's mighty masterpiece--and readers curious about its brilliant, bedridden creator should start with White's witty and exquisite portrait. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
White's elegant and incisive prose evident here in his evocation of Proust's characteristically neurotic obsessions allows us that rare opportunity of perceiving how one distinguished novelist writes about another. This is White's Proust, and so the conception is of value to literature. White succeeds in getting under Proust's skin, and by virtue of uncanny empathy reads his subject with the familiarity of one profoundly psychological writer resonating with another. White understands that 'Every autobiographical novel inevitably mixes harsh truths about its first-person hero with a bit of wish fulfilment.'
If Proust's forté was to apprehend the psychological building blocks out of which the twentieth-century was to be constructed, then he achieved this through what he called 'involuntary memory', or the unconscious. White is good on this crucial aspect of Proust, for it was the writer's facility to establish an interface between buried associations and their reappearance in the light of memory which was to prove the basis on which A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu was created.Read more ›
This is a short book (around 150 pages), but in that brief span, White is able to touch on all the major events of Proust's life, the key relationships of his life, the major themes of his work as an author, and the ways in which Proust's life became the basis for his work. If one is unfamiliar with Proust before picking up this book, one will gain a first rate overview of him before setting it down. One thing that tremendously enhances the value of the book is an excellent annotated biography that gives a great overview of work on Proust both in English and French.
White, who is a well known gay author, does a superb job writing about the myriad of contradictions in Proust's own work as a lightly closeted gay author. Although Proust's being gay is the worst kept secret of the century, Proust fought many duels over accusations that he was homosexual (or, an invert, as Proust would have put it). Proust was the first writer to write extensively about homosexuality, both male and female, but maintained a façade of heterosexuality to those who did not know him well.
All in all, this is an excellent brief biography of the man many regard as the great novelist of the 20th century. I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about Proust.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A remarkable biography of one of France's greatest writers whose fame has traveled around the world. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Claude Forthomme (Nougat)
Marcel Proust a life – a vivid portrait in a small volume
Edmund White made Proust accessible to me. Read more
Unlike other Proust biographers, Edmund White is not afraid to write about Proust's sexuality. Thanks, Ed!Published 7 months ago by User
Este breve texto junta conocimiento detallado de la vida y obra de Marcel Proust, y ayuda a comprender los personajes de su obra maestra.Published 23 months ago by Ramon Florenzano
Edmund White's contribution to the Penguin Brief Lives series was very typical of their later additions, in that its a highly personal account that reveals far more about the... Read morePublished on June 2, 2014 by Jay Dickson
Edmund White’s short biography of Marcel Proust was very engaging, primarily because White does not shy away from a full discussion of the gay sexual orientation of the celebrated... Read morePublished on April 22, 2014 by C. Collins
This series is, admittedly, intended to be a brief introduction to its subjects. This book provides a nice overview of a great but very troubled or at least eccentric author. Read morePublished on April 8, 2014 by James D. Held
Marcel Proust does not need reviews. He established a style of her own. The father of reminiscence. Whichever of his books is highly recommended. Simply excellent.Published on September 23, 2013 by Carlo Filipe Banhos Estolano
"Marcel Proust - a Life" by Edmund White is a good introduction to Proust for, someone like myself, whose never read any Proust. Read morePublished on May 3, 2013 by michael bossons