Marcel Proust: A Life (Penguin Lives)

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9780143114987: Marcel Proust: A Life (Penguin Lives)

If there is anyone worthy of producing an intimate biography of the enigmatic genius behind Remembrance of Things Past, it is Edmund White, himself an award- winning writer for whom Marcel Proust has long been an obsession. White introduces us not only to the recluse endlessly rewriting his one massive work through the night, but also the darling of Parisian salons, the grasper after honors, and the closeted homosexual-a subject this book is the first to explore openly. From the frothiest gossip to the deepest angst, here is a moving portrait to be treasured by anyone looking for an introduction to this literary icon.

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Marcel Proust documented his existence so lavishly--albeit in fictional form--that many of his biographers have functioned as little more than code-breakers, doggedly translating art back into life. It's a great pleasure, then, to welcome Edmund White's slender, superbly artful account. A novelist himself (as well as a biographer of Jean Genet), White beautifully evokes "the France of heavy, tasteless furniture, of engraved portraits of Prince Eugene, of clocks kept under a glass bell on the mantelpiece, of overstuffed chairs covered with antimacassars and of brass beds warmed by hot-water bottles." And he's no less canny at summoning up Proust's personality, in all its neurotic, contradictory glory.

Of course, Proust's life can't truly be separated from his art. Every biography of him is bound to operate in the shadow of Remembrance of Things Past, and White has some shrewd things to say about that mammoth work, whose style he describes as "an ether in which all the characters revolve like well-regulated heavenly bodies." Yet the focus remains on Proust and on his unlikely transformation from momma's boy to social climber to world-class genius. Like his subject, White often proceeds by anecdote. His book is packed with telling, hilarious little nuggets, which find Proust being snubbed by that "powdered, perfumed, puffy Irish giant" Oscar Wilde or luring back his lover Alfred Agostinelli by buying him an airplane.

At the same time, White conveys the considerable pain that Proust endured as an invalid, an artist, and (more to the point) a closeted homosexual. No doubt these factors shaped his rather hopeless take on human affections, which impoverished his life even as they enriched his writing. "Proust may be telling us that love is a chimera," White writes, "a projection of rich fantasies onto an indifferent, certainly mysterious surface, but nevertheless these fantasies are undeniably beautiful, intimations of paradise--the artificial paradise of art." In White's view, this recognition makes his subject not only a supreme poet of impermanence but the greatest novelist of the century. Here, of course, it's possible to quibble. But the world would be an emptier place indeed without Proust's mighty masterpiece--and readers curious about its brilliant, bedridden creator should start with White's witty and exquisite portrait. --James Marcus

About the Author:

Edmund White, author of thirteen books, is a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Award for Literature from the National Academy of Arts and Letters. His Genet: A Biography won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Literary Award. He lives in Paris, France.

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc. Paperback / softback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Marcel Proust: A Life, Edmund White, If there is anyone worthy of producing an intimate biography of the enigmatic genius behind "Remembrance of Things Past," it is Edmund White, himself an award- winning writer for whom Marcel Proust has long been an obsession. White introduces us not only to the recluse endlessly rewriting his one massive work through the night, but also the darling of Parisian salons, the grasper after honors, and the closeted homosexualaa subject this book is the first to explore openly. From the frothiest gossip to the deepest angst, here is a moving portrait to be treasured by anyone looking for an introduction to this literary icon. Bookseller Inventory # B9780143114987

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