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REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST: Combray

Marcel Proust, Author , adapted by Stéphane Heuet. NBM $19.95 (555 8th Ave., Suite 1202, New York, N.Y. 10018) ISBN 1-56163-278-3

Heuet's comics interpretation of Proust's classic caused such an uproar among French critics that it garnered a front-page story in the New York Times. Denounced by the critics as a literary assassin for daring to bring Proust to graphic novel form, Heuet, a former advertising executive, plans to produce a 12-volume adaptation of Proust's magnum opus. Despite disapproving critics, the French edition was a runaway success, selling out the first printing in weeks and winning approval from both the Society of Friends of Marcel Proust and from Nathalie Mauriac, Proust's great-grandniece and heir to his literary estate. The book stays true to Proust's original narrative, presenting Proust's memories of various dinner and parlor scenes, comedies of manners that highlight the Belle Époque bourgeoisie and its obsessions with class and respectability. Heuet deftly renders Proust's longing for goodnight kisses from his mother and smartly portrays the bedridden Aunt Leonie, whose famous madeleines spark the narrator's initial flood of memories. Using relatively few dialogue bubbles, Heuet excerpts the original text throughout the book (although the yellow text boxes do, at times, visually dominate the story), and while this is by no means a masterpiece of the graphic novel, Heuet has successfully produced a comics edition that will make Proust's work more accessible. Drawn in the clear-line style pioneered by Belgian comics master Hergé, the artwork is mostly unremarkable (Heuet himself calls his drawings "purely illustration"), with occasional striking landscapes and rich coloring by Véronique Dorey. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 01/01/2003
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