The Mysterious Correspondent: New Stories

Marcel Proust, trans. from the French by Charlotte Mandell, introduction by Luc Friasse. One World, $21.99 trade paper (138p) ISBN 978-1-78607-924-4
This revelatory collection by Proust (1877–1922), written almost two decades before he began to publish In Search of Lost Time, offers a lush and emotionally raw view into his evolution as a writer. The nine entries, annotated by footnotes, address topics such as love and suffering, homosexuality, and, of course, time lost and regained. As Friasse observes in his fine introduction, “the very fact of homosexuality” was a taboo subject in late 19th-century France, and thus the stories “comprise, hiding in plain sight, the private diary the writer entrusted to no one” (all but one were left unpublished). “In the Underworld” experiments with the form of a philosophical play, as Samson and the Comte de Quélus discuss the homosexual themes of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Proust would develop further in book four of In Search of Lost Time. The stories have plenty of scholarly appeal, but they are elegant on their own. In “Pauline De S.,” one of several meditations on death, Proust displays a piercing accuracy and poignancy in describing a visit to a dying friend. “A Captain’s Reminiscence,” the only story to have previously appeared, features an older man’s recollections of a corporal he was attracted to in his youth. The best may be the title story, about a woman who fancies a soldier, which is enthralling in its sensorial detail. Each tale features exquisite moments with expert annotations from Friasse. This volume is a fantastic discovery. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/28/2021
Release date: 04/13/2021
Genre: Fiction
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