Proust at the Majestic
The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed ParisBook - 2006
A vivid portrait of the early impact of In Search of Lost Time --and of the last months of Proust in a city where he had become an unlikely star.
On a May evening in 1922, the English arts lovers Violet and Sydney Schiff convened a grand dinner at the Majestic Hotel in Paris, following the premiere of a Stravinsky ballet. In addition to guests of honor Stravinsky and Diaghilev, the dinner was attended by Picasso, James Joyce, and finally, arriving around 2:30 in the morning, one more artist at the peak of his fame: Marcel Proust. Sodom and Gomorrah, the fourth and most shocking volume of Proust's monumental work In Search of Lost Time , had just appeared, transfixing readers with its finely detailed observations on themes of Jewishness and anti-Semitism, the interplay across social classes, and all manner of sexual expression. The book's eccentric, ailing author had become a celebrity to French and English-language readers alike, and his presence at the dinner was all the more unusual since Proust rarely went out. In fact, he would be dead only six months later.
Acclaimed historian and biographer Davenport-Hines takes the dinner at the Majestic as the leaping-off point for an examination of Proust's last days, and the enormous reaction his novel garnered from its first years of publication. Using accounts by Proust's contemporaries, including other modernist stars, Proust's dazzled readers, and wealthy patrons such as the Schiffs, Davenport-Hines illuminates the Paris of the author's last days.