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  • Marcel Proust
  • Adam Watt

'[N]ous ne cessons d'ajouter à la Recherche (comme Proust le faisait sur ses manuscrits)', writes Roland Barthes in 1979, 'nous ne cessons de l'écrire.'1 In the very nearly forty years since these remarks were made, critics, scholars, filmmakers, creative writers, and others, have indeed continued the process of addition and continuation that Barthes identifies.2 It may be, in fact, that we live in a golden age of Proust scholarship. A diplomatic edition of Proust's Cahiers is underway and work is progressing towards an accessible digital edition of the correspondence; the publication of a new scholarly edition of À la recherche du temps perdu has begun.3 Whilst well-worn paths are still trodden, original, adventurous, and rigorous research continues to illuminate the field.4 Christopher Prendergast's scintillating Mirages and Mad Beliefs, for example, dismantles critical commonplaces, drawing attention to an intermittent voice, 'a sotto voce emanation from the margins and often audible only in the tones of ironic indirection'.5 In attuning our ear to this sceptical voice, Prendergast challenges the primacy of redemptive aesthetics that has long been taken for granted in Proust criticism. At the same time, we find recurring reference to Proust in Terence Cave's Thinking with Literature—an [End Page 412] indication of what another critic has called Proust's plasticity: his ability to be many things to many readers.6

In preparing an état présent on Proust, Proustian questions soon arise about how far back one should reach into the past; about the extent to which things one might assume to be constant and unchanging do in fact continue to evolve and take on new shapes or resonances. Faced with the vast scale of critical and creative responses to Proust it seems judicious to focus principally on work produced since 2013. This is a relatively recent cut-off, but it is made for compelling reasons. The year 2013 marked the centenary of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann, the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu, and as such there was a considerable spike in scholarly publications that year.7 Among these was the landmark edited volume Marcel Proust in Context, the final section of which, 'Critical Reception', consists of six chapters spanning topics from the critical reception of À la recherche during Proust's lifetime to critical responses, translations, and adaptations up to 2012.8 The current état présent, therefore, picks up from this point and identifies six areas for consideration: correspondence, biography, and genetic criticism; philosophy; the arts; intertextual, contextual, and thematic studies; modernism; and creative responses. Before beginning, it is worth noting a trio of recent essays that merit inclusion on reading lists for those broaching Proust for the first time. Marion Schmid's wide-ranging chapter 'Marcel Proust (1871–1922): A Modernist Novel of Time' attends accessibly to a variety of features of À la recherche and is especially clear about the novel's double internal focalization.9 Also using the question of time to structure a wonderfully lucid essay, Michael Lucey provides an excellent survey of Proust's stylistic, formal, and thematic innovations in his chapter 'Becoming Proust in Time'.10 Lastly, Edward Hughes's characteristically [End Page 413] insightful chapter on 'The Renewal of Narrative in the Wake of Proust' casts a comparative gaze across narrative practice in French fiction in the middle to end of the twentieth century, giving a useful account of Proust's legacy to later writers.11

Correspondence, biography, and genetic criticism

In Proust among the Stars, Malcolm Bowie seeks to steer attention towards what he calls the 'dazzling procession of Proust's paragraphs' and away from the fascinating yet ultimately 'thin thread of Proust's biography'.12 That thread, however, is a resilient one with considerable allure. William C. Carter's authoritative biography, first published in 2000, was reprinted with corrections and a new preface for the Swann centenary in 2013.13 Jean-Yves Tadié, author of the standard French life of Proust, has supplemented his contribution with Proust et ses amis, published in 2010, and Le Cercle de Marcel Proust, a two-volume edited collection of essays on Proust...


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