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  • Lïomosexualité dans la vie et l'œuvre de Marcel Proust: une 'sale tante' au grand cœur par Luc Legrand
  • Igor Reyner
L'Homosexualité dans la vie et l'œuvre de Marcel Proust: une 'sale tante' au grand cœur. Par Luc Legrand. Brussels: Peter Lang, 2017. 497 pp.

Marcel Proust's homosexuality has been recurrently discussed in the plethora of biographies, yet never with the obsession and systematicity of Luc Legrand's book, as when he demonstrates the presence of homosexuality in the esquisses, notes, and variantes of each novel of À la recherche du temps perdu (pp. 291—342). Written by an author engaged with LGBT social movements, the book originates in a series of articles published in the Belgian magazine Tels quels, and is situated at the intersection of literary history and the history of homosexuality. It is aimed at '[le] grand public, tant proustien que "gay"' (p. 13), and is divided into three major sections. The first part is a biography of Proust read through the lens of his homosexual hints. It scrutinizes Proust's correspondence and miscellaneous writings, pronouncements from people acquainted or close to him, and biographical events in search of the tell-tale signs that can unveil Proust's (already unveiled) homosexuality. The second part, focused on A la recherche, is devoted not only to the episodes of the novel dealing with homosexual themes and characters but also to any passage filled with (homo)sexual overtones, such as the illustrious scene of onanism (pp. 141—42), the episode of the narrator's spontaneous orgasm (pp. 151—52), and that of paedophilia (pp. 241—42). Through extensive citation, Legrand assembles an anthology to show that through Proust's novel runs 'un véritable "roman" de l'homosexualité' (p. 13). Reading A la recherche as a roman à clef—a longstanding mania of Proustian scholarship that still persists despite Proust's own admonition—, the third part advances a parallel between the two previous sections so as to reveal the names of those who allegedly inspired the homosexual characters of À la recherche. Legrand's book abounds in citations but lacks in analysis, frequently restating what the quotations already make clear. His [End Page 305] conjectures are often far-fetched, as when he infers from 'je sentais que je pouvais être si utile' (Correspondance de Marcel Proust, ed. by Philip Kolb, 21 vols (Paris: Pion, 1970–93), XXI (1993), 108) that Proust prostituted himself during his time in the army (p. 33). The book perpetuates stereotypes in its depictions of highly sexualized homosexuals, and its insistence on outing Proust at any cost is regrettable. Its language echoes the euphemistic style through which homosexuality was discussed at Proust's time, and the debates constantly slide into fetishized statements: '[Proust] ne trouve pas chez Alfred la réciprocité du désir, n'en obtenant que des caresses, masturbations ou encore fellations, voire sodomisations—toutes complaisances "techniques" que tout hétérosexuel déluré et décomplexé est capable d'accorder à un inverti' (p. 91; my emphasis). Legrand neglects to delve as deeply as he might into valuable debates, such as Jewishness and homosexuality in the work of Proust, whose surface he only scratches. The merit of his study, however, is to provide the reader with a comprehensive compendium of homosexuality in Proust's life and work—albeit one that frequently reads as a collection of notes rather than as a book.

Igor Reyner
King's College London


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pp. 305-306
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