Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time opens with one of the most famous scenes in literature, as young Marcel, unable to fall asleep, waits anxiously for his mother to come to his bedroom and kiss him good night. Proust's own mother is central to the meaning of his masterpiece, and she has always held a special role in literary history, both as a character and as a decisive influence on the great writer’s career. Without knowing much about her, we think of her as the quintessential writer's mother.
Now Evelyne Bloch-Dano’s touching biography acquaints Proust fans with the real Jeanne Weil Proust. Written with the imaginative force of a novel, but firmly grounded in Jeanne and Marcel Proust’s writings, Madame Proust skillfully captures the life and times of Proust’s mother, from her German-Jewish background and her marriage to a Catholic grocer’s son to her lifelong worries about her son’s sexuality, health problems, and talent. As well as offering intimate glimpses of the Prousts’ daily life, Madame Proust also uses the family as a way to explore the larger culture of fin-de-siècle France, including high society, spa culture, Jewish assimilation, and the Dreyfus affair. Throughout, Bloch-Dano offers sensitive readings of Proust’s work, drawing out the countless interconnections between his mother, his life, and his magnum opus.
Those coming to In Search of Lost Time for the first time will find in Madame Proust a delightful primer on Marcel Proust’s life and times. For those already steeped in the pleasures of Proust, this gem of a biography will give them a fresh understanding of the rich, fascinating background of the writer and his art.