- Proust à la guerre comme à la fête par Anne-Hélène Dupont
Centenary commemorations have been a productive catalyst for consideration of the representation of the First World War in Marcel Proust's Le Temps retrouvé, as well as for wider reflections regarding the effect of this war on À la recherche du temps perdu as a whole. In a way, the commemorations have been bookended by the publication of two critical works in the same series: Brigitte Mahuzier's Proust et la guerre (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2014; reviewed in French Studies, 68 (2014), 562–63); and our present subject, Anne-Hélène Dupont's dual reading of war and/as festivity in À la recherche. Dupont's thematic rapprochement may seem surprising, but it is motivated on three counts. Firstly, this precise comparison appears in Le Temps retrouvé, where the air raids over Paris are described as a 'fête vraie (cited p. 13, from Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, ed. by Jean-Yves Tadié, 4 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1987–89), IV, 337; original emphasis). Secondly, contemporary writers such as Henri Barbusse, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Roland Dorgelès also speak about the war in similar terms. Thirdly, festivals have long been associated with violence, according to the work of anthropologists and sociologists such as Roger Caillois or René Girard. This triple justification reveals Dupont's methodological approach, which carefully balances what she calls 'fidélité au vocabulaire de Proust' (p. 32)—'la fête correspond avant tout dans cette étude à ce que Proust désigne comme tel' (ibid.)—with theoretical insights and analysis. The first part of the book is devoted to exploring prewar experiences and episodes that are presented as fêtes. Here we are offered a binary typology of 'fêtes vraies' (which take place typically in Combray and concern nature, religion, childhood, and art) and 'fêtes factices' (which are more commonly set in Paris and involve society and love). Much of this material inevitably goes over old ground, albeit from a new perspective. The first category, for instance, begins with the protagonist at the hawthorn hedge and includes the 'drame du coucher', as well as discussion of the sacredness of art. The eventual acknowledgement, that 'fêtes vraies' and 'fêtes factices ne sont pas aussi incompatibles' as originally suggested (p. 123), is welcome and sensitive to the complexities of the Proustian universe. Those interested in Proust's description of the war must wait until the second part of Dupont's study, but the delay is productive above all in showing how the later episode has been anticipated 'involontairement' in these various earlier fêtes (p. 36). A final chapter is devoted to rereading the episode of the 'matinée chez la princesse de Guermantes' as an unending fête By the end, 'il n'y a plus de hors-fête' (p. 266), and both Proust's narrator and Dupont's reader have been fully trained in what is described as 'l'école des fêtes' (p. 258). Overall, Dupont's analysis knits the war [End Page 307] episode more tightly into À la recherche, while also following assiduously the disparate threads of one of the novel's many productively polyvalent themes: la fête.