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Monsieur Proust [Paperback]

Our Price $ 16.96  
Retail Value $ 19.95  
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Item Number 426397  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   416
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.9" Width: 4.9" Height: 1.2"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2003
Publisher   NYRB Classics
ISBN  1590170598  
EAN  9781590170595  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Céleste Albaret was Marcel Proust's housekeeper in his last years, when he retreated from the world to devote himself to In Search of Lost Time. She could imitate his voice to perfection, and Proust himself said to her, "You know everything about me." Her reminiscences of her employer present an intimate picture of the daily life of a great writer who was also a deeply peculiar man, while Madame Albaret herself proves to be a shrewd and engaging companion.

Buy Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret, Andre Aciman & Georges Belmont from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781590170595 & 1590170598

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More About Celeste Albaret, Andre Aciman & Georges Belmont

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Celeste Albaret (1892-1984) was born into a peasant family in the mountainous region of Lozere, France. In 1913, she married Odilon Albaret, a Parisian chauffeur, whose clients included Marcel Proust. Odilon suggested that his new wife, who was lonely in the big city and at a loss for something to do, run errands for Proust, and before long Celeste found herself employed as the writer's full-time (indeed round-the-clock) housekeeper, secretary, and nurse, filling those roles until his death in 1922. In later years, Celeste ran a small hotel in Paris with her husband and daughter, and after Odilon's death in 1960, she became the caretaker of the Musee Ravel in the town of Montfort l'Amaury. Monsieur Proust was published in 1972. In recognition of her decade-long service to Proust, Celeste Albaret was made a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. She died of emphysema at the age of 92.

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Intimate Portrayal of Proust  Dec 31, 2003
If you're a writer, you can't help but feel curious about the habits of other writers -- particularly the great ones, the writers you admire. How and when did they work? How did they accomplish their masterpieces? Of course, a cross-section of famous writers only demonstrates that there is no one way of working. Hemingway got up at dawn and wrote until lunch or so. Kafka had supper late in the evening and then began to write after ten or eleven o'clock, when everyone else was going to bed. Evidently day is as good as night, if you have talent and the will to write.

One of the more unusual schedules had to be that of Marcel Proust. Unlike Kafka, who wrote at night even though he had to get up in the morning to go to the insurance firm where he worked, Proust was a man of independent means and was thus able to maintain as irregular a schedule as he liked. Or rather, his schedule was highly regularized, it just wasn't exactly "normal." Typically, Proust woke up around four in the afternoon -- if he even really slept that much, which is an open question. Upon awakening, he would "smoke," which was his term for a fumigation process meant to relieve his asthma. Afterward he would drink one or sometimes two cups of cafe au lait prepared according to very stringent requirements. Sometimes he would eat a croissant, sometimes not. If he were staying home for the evening, as he often did in the years he was writing A la Recherche du temps perdu, he might begin work right after this "breakfast." If he was going out, he might not return until the middle of the night. Arriving home at, say, three in the morning, he might spend a few hours telling his chambermaid all about his evening -- and then, at perhaps six in the morning, after having been up all night, he would begin to write. What's more, he always wrote in bed. It really gives new meaning, when you consider this, to the famous opening line of his masterwork: "Longtemps je me suis couche de bonne heure." For a long time I went to bed early -- this was written by a man lying in bed after having been up all night.

The chambermaid who was Proust's nocturnal confidante during the last decade of his life -- precisely when he was writing his masterwork -- outlived him by more than sixty years. (Proust died in 1922, Ms. Albaret in 1984). For the bulk of those years, she maintained a strict silence about her former employer, honoring Proust's own sense of privacy. But finally, late in life, she felt the need to set the record straight and thus agreed to be interviewed for this "as told to" memoir. This is fortunate for fans of Proust, and for fans of literature in general, for her memoir is as intimate a portrait as you can find of any writer. It is the kind of view you produce of a person whom you love, respect, admire, but also serve in the most minute and detailed capacities. You can practically smell Proust's underwear in this book -- which is not to say that it's a lurid tell-all, because it isn't. Ms. Albaret seemed only too content to keep Proust's underwear perfectly clean.

Too clean, some critics have said. And it is true that Ms. Albaret flatly denies Proust's homosexuality. She admits he went to a certain male brothel, but only -- in her view -- to gather information for his book. Otherwise, if he had any trysts during her decade with him, she didn't see them, or didn't want to. But then again, so what? Do you really have to look for stains in the man's underwear? In comparison to all the vanguard writers who were absolute jerks, it comes as something of a relief to read of a writer who comes off as a sweet, generous, nostalgic, insightful man.

Not that Proust didn't have his eccentricities, because certainly he did: his nocturnal schedule, abstemious diet, the cork walls lining his bedroom to prevent noise, the curtains closed to keep out the sunlight. It can almost be harrowing to read of Ms. Albaret's indoctrination into Proust's neurotic universe, and yet at the same time you can recognize that this controlled climate was necessary to enable Proust to recreate the splendid universe of memories in his book. Ms. Albaret says it best herself:

"Now I realize M. Proust's whole object, his whole great sacrifice for his work, was to set himself outside time in order to rediscover it. When there is no more time, there is silence. He needed that silence in order to hear only the voices he wanted to hear, the voices that are in his books. I didn't think about that at the time. But now when I'm alone at night and can't sleep, I seem to see him as he surely must have been in his room after I had left him -- alone too, but in his own night, working at his notebooks when, outside, the sun had long been up."

And perhaps that is also the truest thing anyone can really say of a writer's schedule. Hemingway's dawn, Kafka's evening, Proust's night -- what they all have in common is their own internal rhythm, a private sequence of sun and moon. It was Proust's thesis that writing could recover time lost in reality, and yet the unspoken irony is that in reality you also lose time just in order to write.

The woman who knew and loved Proust best  Nov 22, 2003
The pleasure of memoirs is that for all that they allow a circumscribed vision of things they tend to offer coherent narratives of the past, and let you know "what it was like." This famous memoir by Celeste Albaret, Proust's housekeeper for ten years while he was writing his masterpeice, gives us thus a better and more complete view of the writer during his most productive years than could be imagined otherwise. Albaret was not a writer herself--the memoir was composed by others who shaped her oral reminiscences--but this work is beautifully shaped, and flows wonderfully. Almost all the major questions anyone would have about Proust--how he wrote, what he was like, who the bases were for the characters in his novel, and what his relations with his family were like--are answered in due course, and though Albaret retains her biases (she refuses to give much credence to his affairs with his chauffeur and others, for example) she is still as honest as can be. It's clear that she considered knowing and working for Proust the great event of her life, and she feels bound to tell as much as what she saw as she can.

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