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  • Proust et le paysage: des écrits de jeunesse à la ‘Recherche du temps perdu’ by Keiichi Tsumori
  • Céline Surprenant
Proust et le paysage: des écrits de jeunesse à la ‘Recherche du temps perdu’. Par Keiichi Tsumori. (Recherches proustiennes, 28.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2014. 464 pp.

Proust’s 1908 musing as to whether his work in progress was to be a novel or a philosophical essay is well known. Perhaps less so is the writer’s 1913 description of the novel to Robert de Flers as ‘un roman à la fois plein de passion et de méditation et de paysages’ (p. 241). Just as the former statement continues to inspire studies on the unique form of the novel, so the latter invites us to ask what a novel ‘plein […] de paysages’ may imply. This is the question that Keiichi Tsumori raises in a three-part book written originally as a doctoral thesis. Tsumori follows in the footsteps of André Ferré, Georges Poulet, and Jean-Pierre Richard, who dealt respectively with geography (Géographie de Marcel Proust (Paris: Sagittaire, 1939)), space (L’Espace proustien (Paris: Gallimard, 1963)), and the fragmentation and unification of the sensible world (Proust et le monde sensible (Paris: Seuil, 1974)), among other renowned commentators. More than one notion of landscape operates in Tsumori’s book depending on whether the author draws from literary theory, aesthetics, phenomenology, or other literary works. To the rather flat question as to whether Proust ‘expresses landscape in his writing’ (p. 19), Tsumori provides rich analyses and a creative typology of landscapes that include ‘sonorous landscapes’ for example, by attending ‘chronologically’ to Proust’s tâtonnements around them, from the early fictional and critical writings to À la recherche, against the backdrop of diverse aesthetic stances (from romanticism to modernism). The land, the countryside, and nature are prevalent in Proust, and not only as a result of the writer’s interest in John Ruskin’s work on Venice and French gothic architecture. Remembering, itself, coincides with the transformation of things into landscape (p. 374). Among many significant critical topoi raised by landscape is the opposition between objectivism and subjectivism. A landscape, so one of its definitions goes, emerges with the subject’s perception of the external world more or less independently from its physical and geographical characters. Proust has inventively integrated the subjectivist conception into the story of a literary vocation, through a division of labour between the hero and the narrator with respect to perception. While landscapes emerge in the hero’s consciousness through misperception and memory, the narrator develops a transcendent point of view on the hero’s remembered landscapes that will form the basis of poetic creation. Landscapes, notably those of Paris during the Great War, concretize the hero’s changing perceptions and aesthetic consciousness. These arguments are developed in the third and strongest part of the book, through the opposition between static and dynamic landscapes, where Proust has recourse to panoramic visions and elevated locations in order to create temporal continuity out of spatial discontinuity, and to integrate the subjective and objective outlooks. If Proust’s travels helped form his depiction of places in his early writings, it is the motorcar and speed which have played that role in his late work. The book enlarges our knowledge of Proust, in addition to making us experience À la recherche as a novel almost exclusively made out of compelling landscapes. [End Page 409]

Céline Surprenant
Collège de France


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