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Monsieur Proust (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2003
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"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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's a nice companion to Remembrance of Things Past. The author - Proust's housekeeper the last few years of his life - obviously relied quite heavily on her editors. Read morePublished 15 months ago by linnyjo
An original view on Proust, with some sharp insights from Celeste. He appears simultaneously great and genial but also simple and familiar. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Jorge Arias
A fascinating book by Proust's caretaker. It is very well written and is full of interesting details on the life of Proust, correcting what seems to be many falsehoods about him.Published on February 21, 2014 by Richard Winter
I came by this book by chance and thought I'd give it a read as I enjoyed In Search of Lost Time so much. Read morePublished on February 6, 2014 by sally manning
First source account of the intimate life of a genious and a revolutionary writer. It gives a human framework for Monsieur Proust's biographers.Published on September 7, 2013 by Amazon Customer
A special reading that sheds bright light on Marcel Proust's life. Céleste Albaret's narrative has the ring of
truth from beginning to end. Read more
I am loving this book almost as much as I loved Marcel Proust's opus. It presents a wonderful view of Proust's inner sanctuary and the marvelous relationship he had with the one... Read morePublished on August 20, 2011 by Katy