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Reviewed by:
  • Proust et Alain-Fournier. La transgression des genres: 1913-1914 dir. by Mireille Naturel
  • Adam Watt
Proust et Alain-Fournier. La transgression des genres: 1913-1914. Sous la direction de Mireille Naturel. Préface d'Agathe Corre-Rivière; Postface de François Bon. (Recherches proustiennes, 35.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017. 252 pp.

This edited volume is something of an omnium gatherum. Its seventeen core chapters stem from two separate centenary conferences: '1913: la transgression des genres' and '1914: la guerre et ses enjeux', both focused on the work of Marcel Proust and Alain-Fournier and held, respectively, in November 2013 and November 2014 in Illiers-Combray. The resulting volume is, inevitably, a patchwork, reflecting this plurality. The chapters are markedly uneven in length and finesse; indeed, the editorial rationale for inclusion in the volume is not entirely clear at times. One chapter is no more than a five-page summary by Olivier Wickers of his monograph Chambres de Proust (Paris: Flammarion, 2013), whilst another, wholly occluded by the volume's title and subtitle, is an informative survey by Ya Zhao on the reception of Proust in China since 1923. Two of the chapters take an explicitly comparative approach, fruitfully highlighting commonalities and divergences between Du côté de chez Swann and Le Grand Meaulnes (first published just over a week apart in November 1913), and the literary traditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, between which they form a sort of hinge. These are Philippe Chardin's lucid 'Temps/sentier/perdus/retrouvés', which opens the volume, and Yvonne Goga's 'Le Grand Meaulnes et Du côté de chez Swann: de la poésie à la poétique'. Beyond a handful of fairly token allusions, however, all the other chapters focus on Proust or on Alain-Fournier individually, the chapters on the latter (in particular two by his biographer, Ariane Charton) taking a largely biographical approach. The book's richest section, 'La Guerre et ses enjeux', includes an excellent long chapter of over twenty-five pages by Yuji Murakami, 'La Mort de Swann', which takes a genetic approach to Proust's manuscripts to highlight Proust's development of the theme of Jewish identity during the years of the Great War and after. In the same section Isabelle Guillaume's chapter offers valuable cultural-historical context to Proust's discussion of women's fashions in wartime Paris through scrutiny of contemporary fashion columns in Le Figaro and Le Gaulois. The bittiness of the volume is only added to by the presence of a multitude of peritextual elements: a brief preface by Alain-Fournier's great-niece, Agathe Corre-Rivière; an editor's introduction by Mireille Naturel; the transcript of a short centennial discours by the late Hejin Xu, one of Proust's distinguished Chinese translators; and a postface, conversational in tone and anecdotal in approach, by François Bon. A detailed comparative study of Le Grand Meaulnes and Du côté de chez Swann might shed light on early twentieth-century constructions of childhood; on tensions between literary accounts of Paris and the provinces in this period; and the range of early twentieth-century responses to nineteenth-century realist-naturalist approaches to narrative. The present volume does not do all of this but it does provide, in somewhat scattered form, materials that could inform and enrich such an endeavour. [End Page 453]

Adam Watt
University of Exeter


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