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Marcel Proust: A Biography

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Painter exhausted all available resources to create this portrait not only of Proust and his work but also of turn-of-the-century France with its salons, its political tension, its poets and its painters. 24 photos.


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Painter exhausted all available resources to create this portrait not only of Proust and his work but also of turn-of-the-century France with its salons, its political tension, its poets and its painters. 24 photos.

30 review for Marcel Proust: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    John

    For about 30 years I made bi-annual, direct assaults on Mt. Proust, you know, his monumental novel, "In Search of Lost Time." Over that span of yearsI never achieved the summit. I loved the language, as lush as any human being ever formulated, but I couldn't get beyond two or three hundred pages because I simply couldn't see the point. I came to feel, again and again, as his first English publisher felt, "Why does the man require 50 pages to tell us he turned over in bed?" What after all was the For about 30 years I made bi-annual, direct assaults on Mt. Proust, you know, his monumental novel, "In Search of Lost Time." Over that span of yearsI never achieved the summit. I loved the language, as lush as any human being ever formulated, but I couldn't get beyond two or three hundred pages because I simply couldn't see the point. I came to feel, again and again, as his first English publisher felt, "Why does the man require 50 pages to tell us he turned over in bed?" What after all was the point of all this beauty? So at long last I decided that I might try another path. (It appears that I'm educable after all.) I decided to read every biography of the Proust available to me in English, and I did - all seven or eight of them, one after the other without interruption. I won't say what I learned, but I will say that it was sufficient to lend an understanding of the purpose of Prousts's fiction, its function in his life. After reading the last of his biographies on my shelf, I picked up Proust's novel and read all 3000 pages one after another, with the highest pleasure and greatest profit that I have ever gained from a novel, a book entirely unsurpassed in the Western canon. All that being said, I will be listing and commenting on those biographies here, and I begin with my least favorite of the lot, George Painter's pedantic and homophobic rant. Painter was one of those insufferably arrogant, priviledged men, a supreme example of the impenetrably obtuse, smug, self-satisified Englishman. His biography consists of a collection of (1) profiles of Proust's acquaintences who came to figure, singly or in combination, in his novel - an utterly vacuous enterprise, not to mention boring, and (2) snearing and condescending sketches of Proust, his person and personality, served up without the least recognition that Proust never did nor ever will require the approval of George Painter, at best a rather minor and entirely forgettable literary figure of the mid- to late- 20th century, in comparison with Prouse, a worm - before he became merely fodder for worms. I was determined at the outset of my participation in goodreads that I would only list the books that I love, but for the sake of completeness I commented on Painter's book, which for reasons I can't fathom remains in print despite the appearance of three or four biographies that render his pathetic production entirely pointless - if it ever had a point, that is.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    George Painter was the first non-French person who immediately realised the importance of Marcel Proust's work and hurried to get first hand testimony of those who knew him not long after he passed away. His own opinions occasionally cloud his objectivity, but it remains a critical document (and more credible that that of Proust's maid) of the world immediately surrounding and influencing Proust. It is highly readable. This first volume covers - if memory serves - up to the publication of the fi George Painter was the first non-French person who immediately realised the importance of Marcel Proust's work and hurried to get first hand testimony of those who knew him not long after he passed away. His own opinions occasionally cloud his objectivity, but it remains a critical document (and more credible that that of Proust's maid) of the world immediately surrounding and influencing Proust. It is highly readable. This first volume covers - if memory serves - up to the publication of the first volume or two of La Recherche.

  3. 4 out of 5

    k

    I am reading this now as I reread In Search of Lost Time. I am fascinated with Paris at this time, perhaps that is carrying me over Painter's reputed lacks as a writer. I am really enjoying his writing and loving seeing the connection between his life and his work. Love Marcel!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

    George Painter’s English biography stands out as one of the most thorough on the French author Marcel Proust. ‘In Search of Lost Time’ here is retold by Painter through the prism of Proust’s own life, tracing the journey from his bourgeois family upbringing to the salons of Madame Greffuhle and Comte de Montesquiou to the frantic final years of writing. This meticulous cataloguing of the society figures of nineteenth century Paris, reflects the biographers background as Deputy Curator at the Bri George Painter’s English biography stands out as one of the most thorough on the French author Marcel Proust. ‘In Search of Lost Time’ here is retold by Painter through the prism of Proust’s own life, tracing the journey from his bourgeois family upbringing to the salons of Madame Greffuhle and Comte de Montesquiou to the frantic final years of writing. This meticulous cataloguing of the society figures of nineteenth century Paris, reflects the biographers background as Deputy Curator at the British Museum and it in this connoisseurs manner, that he equates most of ‘In Search’ with real life sources. But it is when this approach to Proust unravels, that it gives us the most interesting insights into the six volume masterpiece. For example the Dreyfus Affair features strongly in Proust’s narrative; its frequent discussion at society gatherings is used by Proust to reveal the character, tensions and conflicting loyalties of his protagonists. Painter reveals that whilst Proust himself was an ardent pro Dreyfusard, who played a key role in gathering petitioners, the Narrator of ‘In Search’ is more neutral. Against Painter’s own interpretation of Proust as writer, he shows how the author actually used the Dreyfus Affair to reveal and unfold each characters layers-rather than as transposition. Ultimately, Painters notion that Proust’s life is his novel gives its readers a thorough grounding in the Parisian society figures who influenced ‘In Search.’ But the sole focus on chronology and the facts behind the fiction means any account of Proust’s writing craft is lost. We finish the biography with little sense of how Proust interpreted memory, signalling only to how Proust frantically wrote all six volumes in his final years.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    As another reviewer has said this bio is arrogant sneery and homophobic, full of futile conjecture about the 'originals' of characters, despite the constant refrain of "we have no evidence; we can never really know; despite the many differences"

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    My least favorite of the Proust biographies in English. What a homophobic prig! And Painter uses most of his pages in a pointless effort in discovering traces of Proust's friends and acquaintances with a character in his novel. What do we learn from that? It's really quite boring. And of course, he, like the upper class Englishman that he is, ignores family life altogether.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Unbelievably tedious. I read the first third of the 332 page Volume I and stopped. I read enough to gain some insight into Proust's early life and how this was integrated into his Remembrance of Things Past and the derivation of some of his characters, but there is no way I could force myself to go on. I will however attempt to read at least Swann's Way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avis Black

    Highly recommended not just a biography of Proust, but as a social and literary history of Proust's time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    why?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  11. 5 out of 5

    AnnBGoodman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Benamozegh

  13. 5 out of 5

    Asher Atchick

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  16. 4 out of 5

    Danny

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexandre D'Elia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Jaap van Peperstraten

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frederic

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lani Carroll

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Bennett

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Pridham

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathe

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  26. 5 out of 5

    Polly

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fred Vogelzang

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rui

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary McCray

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