The Next 100 Years According to Marcel Proust

Exhibit Celebrates Our Culture's High Priest of Memory

Proust’s Way: The author with his mother Jeanne and his brother Robert.
BNF. DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS
Proust’s Way: The author with his mother Jeanne and his brother Robert.

By Ezra Glinter

Published March 26, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Everyone loves a centenary. One hundred years might not be more important than 99 or 101, but it’s an occasion to revisit a part of the past we don’t think about every day. Memory doesn’t require a reason — just an opportunity.

With the revolutions, wars and innovations of the 20th century now reaching their centennial points, those opportunities are about to increase dramatically. Already we’ve had the San Francisco Earthquake (1906), the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (2011) and the sinking of the Titanic (1912). In the coming years we’ll have the Russian Revolution, the Depression and both World Wars. We’re about to live the 20th century over again, this time as 100-year anniversaries.

Nestled among these events is a more humble occasion: the 1913 publication of “Swann’s Way,” the first volume of Marcel Proust’s great novel, “In Search of Lost Time.” To celebrate, there is an exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum featuring Proust’s notebooks, manuscripts and galleys, on loan from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. There was recently a marathon reading of the book at a Manhattan bookstore, kicked off by The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. A new edition of Proust’s poetry is being published by Penguin Classics, in both French and English translation. For readers looking to acquaint themselves with the author, it’s a once-in-a-century opportunity.

It’s fitting that Proust, our culture’s high priest of memory, should usher in the coming onslaught of centennials. Though he is celebrated most for his revelatory expression of personal memory — the famous rush that accompanies a tea-dipped madeleine in the first section of his novel has become nearly synonymous with the whole book — Proust was fascinated by history in all its forms. “In Search of Lost Time” is filled with descriptions of paintings, landscapes and architecture that recall scenes from the distant past. Many of Proust’s characters are aristocrats whose pedigrees embody a near-mythical history, even as they exhibit the full range of modern foibles. In Proust’s novel, time is like an imperfect palimpsest, each layer revealing the strata beneath.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.