Proust in Love
Marcel Proust—whose In Search of Lost Time is, as much as anything, a study of love in all its polymorphously perverse forms—himself loved not wisely but all too well. As Carter (Marcel Proust: A Life ) shows, he alienated the objects of his affection with the same obsessive, possessive love he portrayed so effectively in Swann and the narrator of his great work. The one man with whom he had a passionately reciprocated relationship, composer Reynaldo Hahn, was alienated by Proust's dalliance with a very young Lucien Daudet and by Proust's imposing demands. And he too often loved men who couldn't return his affection, particularly his secretary, Alfred Agostinelli, who was heterosexual and finally fled his employer's suffocating love. Did Proust also love women? After weighing the evidence, Carter says it's impossible to know definitively; his professed love for certain women may have been to deflect charges that he was homosexual. Indeed, amazingly, when a journalist insinuated in print that Proust was involved with Daudet, the novelist challenged him to a duel to defend his honor (both emerged unscathed). Carter offers a warmly sympathetic portrait that skillfully links a study of Proust's philosophy of love to his own unhappy experiences of it—experiences that inspired him creatively; he saw love, in Carter's words, as a "superb folly," the wellspring of art. (May)
FYI: This is a season for Proustiana. In June, Yale will also publish The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust's Swedish Valet ($50 192p ISBN 0-300-11463-X). In May, Helen Marx Books is bringing out Letters of Marcel Proust , a new translation of selected correspondence ($17.95 paper 544p ISBN 1-885586-45-0). And look for an upcoming review of Proust the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines (Bloomsbury, June).