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Monsieur Proust (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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  • Monsieur Proust (New York Review Books Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Published in 1973, Monsieur Proust is a remarkable evocation of the spiritual sacrifices and flashes of grace that inform genius and those who serve it." — Hilton Als, The New Yorker

"the housekeeper’s indispensable 1973 memoir" — Benjamin Strong, The Village Voice

"A fond and winning picture of the daily life of a great writer and reclusive man, with his foibles, worries and kindnesses. This alluring volume is as close as we can come to meeting Marcel Proust in person." — Sunday Telegraph

"Monsieur Proust
is moving, often unwittingly funny, [and it conveys] something of the fabulous quality of an existence literally held in thrall by Proust. The book is rich in concrete and, one feels, authentic details that give an unprecedented and entertaining picture of Proust’s daily life." — Germaine Brée, The New Republic

"…[a ] marvelous and compelling document…" — Claire Messud, New York Newsday

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; New Ed edition (October 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170598
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170595
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you're a writer, you can't help but feel curious about the habits of other writers -- particularly the great ones, the writers you admire. How and when did they work? How did they accomplish their masterpieces? Of course, a cross-section of famous writers only demonstrates that there is no one way of working. Hemingway got up at dawn and wrote until lunch or so. Kafka had supper late in the evening and then began to write after ten or eleven o'clock, when everyone else was going to bed. Evidently day is as good as night, if you have talent and the will to write.
One of the more unusual schedules had to be that of Marcel Proust. Unlike Kafka, who wrote at night even though he had to get up in the morning to go to the insurance firm where he worked, Proust was a man of independent means and was thus able to maintain as irregular a schedule as he liked. Or rather, his schedule was highly regularized, it just wasn't exactly "normal." Typically, Proust woke up around four in the afternoon -- if he even really slept that much, which is an open question. Upon awakening, he would "smoke," which was his term for a fumigation process meant to relieve his asthma. Afterward he would drink one or sometimes two cups of cafe au lait prepared according to very stringent requirements. Sometimes he would eat a croissant, sometimes not. If he were staying home for the evening, as he often did in the years he was writing A la Recherche du temps perdu, he might begin work right after this "breakfast." If he was going out, he might not return until the middle of the night.
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The pleasure of memoirs is that for all that they allow a circumscribed vision of things they tend to offer coherent narratives of the past, and let you know "what it was like." This famous memoir by Celeste Albaret, Proust's housekeeper for ten years while he was writing his masterpeice, gives us thus a better and more complete view of the writer during his most productive years than could be imagined otherwise. Albaret was not a writer herself--the memoir was composed by others who shaped her oral reminiscences--but this work is beautifully shaped, and flows wonderfully. Almost all the major questions anyone would have about Proust--how he wrote, what he was like, who the bases were for the characters in his novel, and what his relations with his family were like--are answered in due course, and though Albaret retains her biases (she refuses to give much credence to his affairs with his chauffeur and others, for example) she is still as honest as can be. It's clear that she considered knowing and working for Proust the great event of her life, and she feels bound to tell as much as what she saw as she can.
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Format: Paperback
What a love story!

In 1913, Marcel Proust's driver, Odilon Albaret, married a young woman from a small mountain village. Celeste knew no one in Paris, and her loneliness mounted. Proust suggested that she deliver copies of his new book to friends.

And so it began.

Messenger, housekeeper, confidante, friend, nurse --- until his death in 1922, Celeste Albaret spent more time with Proust than anyone else. Indeed, she spent so much more time at Proust's home than she did in her own that she and Odilon moved in. As her memoir attests, she begrudged not a minute of those hours in his service. [To buy "Monsieur Proust from Amazon, click here.]

Early on, she left Proust's apartment to go to church. "There will be plenty of time for that after I'm dead," he said. She never went to church again while he was alive. Proust --- the man and the writer --- came first. "Time contained no hours," she writes, "just a certain number of definite things to be done every day." And yet, no matter how exacting his demands, she never entered his room without a smile.

Proust, as you know, had an upside-down schedule. He awoke in an unheated, cork-lined bedroom around four in the afternoon, burned a special powder to hold his asthma at bay, then rang for coffee. In the evening, he might go out; if he did, he gave Celeste a full report on his return. And then his writing day began.....

In 1914, Proust saw Death ahead, and he decided that he had to suspend all travel and almost all socializing in order to focus on his book. With that, Celeste moved from the background of his life into sharp focus. Not only did she bring him coffee and tend to the smallest details of his life --- and Proust was a notorious micro-manager --- she got the big picture, and fast: "M.
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This is not really a review, but I would like to add a few comments. As others have stated, it is a shame that 50 years went by before Celeste felt the need to tell her story. It is also unfortunate that she did need keep the requested diary. The fact that she was 80 years old should not necessarily be an issue as I have met a few folks that are still very lucid at that age i.e., long-term memory is not the issue that short-term memory is.

There are others that have written some things that are not in agreement with Celeste, but she was in a position to know.

Marcel was definitely an unusual character, but in my mind not an odd-ball as some suggest:especially considering his chosen line of work.

I found myself actually choked up as this book came to an end. I have read over 5,000 pages on or by Marcel Proust in 2013 and it makes me somewhat melancholy for this odyssey to come to an end though I am still looking forward to reading Harold Pinter's screenplay starting tomorrow.

If you are a Marcel Proust devotee, it is essential that you read this book. It is informative, enlightening, sometimes comical, enjoyable but ultimately sad.
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