The Seventy-Five Folios and Other Unpublished Manuscripts
by Marcel Proust
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Pub Date 25 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 25 Apr 2023
Harvard University Press, Belknap Press
Presented for the first time in English, the recently discovered early manuscripts of the twentieth century’s most towering literary figure offer uncanny glimpses of his emerging genius and the creation of his masterpiece.
One of the most significant literary events of the century, the discovery of manuscript pages containing early drafts of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time put an end to a decades-long search for the Proustian grail. The Paris publisher Bernard de Fallois claimed to have viewed the folios, but doubts about their existence emerged when none appeared in the Proust manuscripts bequeathed to the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1962. The texts had in fact been hidden among Fallois’s private papers, where they were found upon his death in 2018. The Seventy-Five Folios and Other Unpublished Manuscripts presents these folios here for the first time in English, along with seventeen other brief unpublished texts. Extensive commentary and notes by the Proust scholar Nathalie Mauriac Dyer offer insightful critical analysis.
Characterized by Fallois as the “precious guide” to understanding Proust’s masterpiece, the folios contain early versions of six episodes included in the novel. Readers glimpse what Proust’s biographer Jean-Yves Tadié describes as the “sacred moment” when the great work burst forth for the first time. The folios reveal the autobiographical extent of Proust’s writing, with traces of his family life scattered throughout. Before the existence of Charles Swann, for example, we find a narrator named Marcel, a testament to what one scholar has called “the gradual transformation of lived experience into (auto)fiction in Proust’s elaboration of the novel.”
Like a painter’s sketches and a composer’s holographs, Proust’s folios tell a story of artistic evolution. A “dream of a book, a book of a dream,” Fallois called them. Here is a literary magnum opus finding its final form.
Marcel Proust (1871–1922), French novelist and essayist, is best known for his seven-volume masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. Nathalie Mauriac Dyer is a senior researcher at the Institute of Modern Texts and Manuscripts Division of the National Center for Scientific Research in France, where she leads the Proust team. She is the author of Proust inachevé: Le dossier Albertine disparue and co-curator of the centenary exhibit Marcel Proust: La fabrique de l’oeuvre at the Bibliothèque Nationale. She is the great-granddaughter of Robert Proust, Marcel’s brother.
“The publication last year of the now famous seventy-five pages was a major literary and scholarly event, the ‘lost’ pages in question shedding valuable light on both the conception and the compositional history of Proust’s novel. To have them now in translation is a real treat for English readers of Proust. Sam Taylor’s rendering is also a treat in its own right, exact and fully responsive to nuance and to the rhythms of what Proust himself called ‘the melody of the song beneath the words.’”—Christopher Prendergast, author of Living and Dying with Marcel Proust
“Can we read Proust’s epic today and not care to know how it came about? In these pages, hidden from public view for a whole century, we can almost feel how Proust spent a lifetime planning and writing his book, picking his way towards what would become his great contribution to humanity.”—André Aciman
“The recent discovery of the long-lost, seventy-five-page first draft that blossomed into In Search of Lost Time was one of the great miracles of modern publishing. Sam Taylor’s magnificently deft and elegant English translation of that work is another. An indispensable read for Anglophone Proust lovers everywhere, The Seventy-Five Folios is a literary treasure in its own right.”—Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris