Sunday, 25 March 2012

Proust's Museum

I didn't know much about Marcel Proust the famous French Novelist, essayist, critic.The opportunity arose to visit the museum which was originally his Aunt Leonie's house so I thought, why not.

The house is situated in the village of Illiers-Combray in the Centre region. It was last owned by Jules Amiot, Marcel Proust's uncle, until his death in 1912. His wife Elizabeth was the sister of Marcel Proust's father. Marcel vacationed at the house as a child until his first attack of asthma or hay fever in 1880. He never came back to the village after a last visit in 1886 when he was fifteen years old. He did a lot of reading and writing while there.

What interested me in particular was the original decoration of the rooms: the fabric on the walls,curtains, flooring etc. It's not in a great state, in fact the house is quite shabby but still, it's interesting as an example of the times. Unfortunately, this museum doesn't cater for Non-French speakers.

Proust's father, Achille Adrien Proust, was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist, responsible for studying and trying to find a cure for cholera through Europe and Asia; he was the author of many articles and books on medicine and hygiene. Proust's mother, Jeanne Weil, was the daughter of a rich and cultured Jewish family from Alsace. She was literate and well-read.

Proust's long holidays in the village of Illiers combined with recollections of his great-uncle's house in Auteuil,Paris became the model for the fictional town of Combray, where some of the most important scenes of In Search of Lost Time take place.

As a young man, Proust was a dilettante and a social climber whose aspirations as a writer were hampered by his lack of discipline. His reputation from this period, was as a snob and an amateur. He attended the salons of Mme Straus, widow of Georges Bizet and mother of Proust's childhood friend Jacques Bizet, and of Mme Arman de Caillavet.

Proust had a close relationship with his mother. To appease his father, who insisted that he pursue a career, Proust obtained a volunteer position at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in the summer of 1896. After exerting considerable effort, he obtained a sick leave that lasted for several years until he was considered to have resigned. He never worked at his job, and he did not move from his parents' apartment until after both were dead.

Proust was a closeted homosexual, and homosexuality is mentioned several times in his famous work In search of lost time. Lucien Daudet and Reynaldo Hahn were known to be his lovers.

Proust lived at 102 Boulevard Haussmann in the centre of Paris. He spent the last three years of his life mostly confined to his cork-lined bedroom, sleeping during the day and working at night to complete his novel. He died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922, at the age of 51. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, a cemetery renowned for containing the remains of many famous people.


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