Sunday, October 14, 2007

Madame Proust

From Evelyne Bloch-Dano's biography of Jeanne Weil Proust, Marcel's mother:

For the young mother Jeanne, the stages in her sons' upbringing were well laid out. Children had their place in the life of a bourgeois family, but their situation was governed by rules and customs that went unquestioned. Indeed, the children's development could be measured by codified benchmarks: swaddling clothes for the infants, then a gown that made changing diapers easier; bottles, then pureed baby food; around age seven, a boy began to wear short pants instead of dresses, as if to differentiate him from babies and little girls. Before that, his curls would have been cut, another important rite of passage. A boy acquired his individuality by distinguishing himself from all that was feminine. Jeanne saw these stages as progress. Yet her optimism was occasionally mixed with the feeling that she was somehow losing her babies, that in growing older her sons were growing away from her. And while Robert went through his first stages energetically, hastening, like many younger brothers, to catch up with an older male sibling, things were very different for Marcel.

Madame Proust: A Biography, translated by Alice Kaplan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 69-70
Madame Proust is a meticulously documented portrait of its subject and of Proustian family life. The relationship of mother and son is both touching and frightening in its mutual dependence. Evelyne Bloch-Dano visits the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tomorrow to talk about Madame Proust:
Author to lecture about Proust's mother (UIUC)
Madame Proust: A Biography (Amazon)
All Proust posts (via del.icio.us)
(Thanks, Odette!)

comments: 2

Dean said...

An excerpt from Madame Proust: A Biography by Evelyne Bloch-Dano is on the University of Chicago Press website.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, and it begins with the paragraph that I typed out. (Wish I'd known.) Thanks for the link.