Monday, July 10, 2017

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

How happy I should be if you would discover a title for me! But I should like something quite simple, quite grey. The general title, you know, is In Search of Vanished Time. For the first book, which will be published in two volumes (if Grasset allows a box for two volumes), would you have any objection to Charles Swann? If I do a single volume of 500 pages, I am not in favor of this title because the final portrait of Swann will not be included in it, so my book wouldn’t carry out the implications of the title. Would you like, Before the Day Has Started? (I shouldn't.) I had to give up The Heart’s intermissions (original title), The Wounded Doves, The Past Suspended, Perpetual Adoration, Seventh Heaven, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Bloom, titles which, however, will be chapter headings in the third volume. I have told you, haven’t I, that Swann’s Way comes from the two ways of going to Combray? In the country, you know, people say, “Are you going M. Rostand’s Way?” But I don’t want this book to appear with a title that is offensive to the only friend whom, in spite of my effort to emerge from my “phenomenal me,” I have been unable to put out of my mind while writing it. So I shall take another title. I should take Charles Swann if I could explain that these are only the early portraits of Charles Swann.

                                Yours with all my heart,
                                Marcel Proust

P.S. Would you like as a title for the first volume, Gardens in a Cup of Tea, or The Age of Names. For the second, The Age of Words. For the third, The Age of Things? The one I prefer is Charles Swann, if I could make clear that is not all of Swann; First Sketches of Charles Swann.

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Louis de Robert, Summer (?) 1913. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co., 2006).
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