Friday, July 10, 2009

Notes for July 10th, 2009

This Day In Writing History

On July 10th, 1871, the legendary French novelist, essayist, and critic Marcel Proust was born. He was born Valentin Louis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust in Auteuil, France. His family was affluent, as his father, Achille Adrien Proust, was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist whose work was dedicated to stopping the spread of cholera in Europe and Asia. He wrote many articles and books about medicine and hygiene.

Marcel's mother, Jeanne, was the daughter of a wealthy and intellectual Jewish family. He was very close to her.

As a boy, Marcel Proust was a sickly child. He suffered his first serious asthma attack at the age of nine. At the age of eleven, he enrolled as a student at the Lycee Condorcet. Despite the fact that his education was often interrupted by his health problems, he excelled at literature studies and won an award in his final year.

Proust began writing at an early age. In 1890, when he was nineteen and still in school, in addition to being published in literary magazines, for a year, Proust published a regular society column in the journal La Mensuel. In 1892, he helped found a literary review called La Banquet, where his short pieces would often be published. He was also published in the famous Le Revue Blanche.

As a young man, the dandy Proust was a dilettante and social climber, lacking at first the discipline to fulfill his aspirations to be a great novelist. He garnered a reputation as an amateur and a snob, but he soon got down to business and began writing what would become his magnum opus: a 3,000+ page epic semi autobiographical novel called À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, or In Search Of Lost Time, which would be published in English as Remembrance Of Things Past.

After numerous rejections, Remembrance Of Things Past would be published in a series of seven volumes over a period of 14 years, with the last two volumes published posthumously. Proust's dazzling novel is rightfully considered one of the greatest ever written, and continues to influence writers and scholars to this day. It was shaped by people and events in Proust's life, including his own experiences. He was openly gay, and homosexuality is a major theme in the book. He was one of the first European writers to depict homosexuality openly and at length.

Writing Remembrance Of Things Past would take a toll on Marcel Proust's chronically poor health. During the last three years of his life, he was mostly confined to his bedroom. He slept during the day and wrote at night, struggling to complete his novel. In 1922, after he had finished the book, Proust contracted pneumonia and later died of a pulmonary abscess at the age of 51.

Quote Of The Day

"Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself." - Marcel Proust

Vanguard Video

Today's video is the first of a two-part discussion of the works of Marcel Proust, called The Proust Experience. Enjoy!

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