cover image Living and Dying with Marcel Proust

Living and Dying with Marcel Proust

Christopher Prendergast. Europa Compass, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-760-0

Prendergast (Counterfactuals), the general editor of Penguin’s English reissues of Proust’s work, sheds light on the novelist’s rich sensory world in this bibliophile’s treasure chest. Focusing on In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu in the original French), Prendergast lays out a Proustian feast in each chapter. “Pinks” examines color in Proust’s writing (he called pink the “color of life”); “The Proust Effect” looks at the “strenuous work of forgetting and remembering” in Proust’s sentences; and in “Death and Black Holes,” Prendergast posits that “The world of the Recherche is accordingly death-haunted from start to finish.” Prendergast comments on the structure of the work, too (it “remains loyal to the tradition” of a bildungsroman) , and gets into some linguistic nitty-gritty: the word life “recurs with even greater frequency” than the word time in Recherche. Well-chosen quotes enrich the text—Prendergast notes a particular description of a lunch as an example of Proust finding “the profound in things”—as does Prendergast’s dry humor: he imagines Proust “choking on his croissant” over the thought of his novel functioning as a “how-to manual... about how to stop wasting one’s life.” This one’s not to be missed. (June)