Thursday, November 1st, 5:00 pm, 131 Decio Hall
Award-winning French author
will speak on
"Madame Proust: A Portrait of Proust's Mother"
Event in English. All are welcome. Reception and book signing to follow.
Évelyne Bloch-Dano's biography of Marcel Proust's
mother, Madame Proust, originally
published by Grasset in 2004, won several prestigious literary
prizes, among which the Prix Renaudot de
l’essai. Translated from the
French by Alice Kaplan, it has been published
this fall by the University of Chicago Press.
Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time opens with one of the most famous scenes in literature, as young Marcel, unable to fall asleep, waits anxiously for his mother to come to his bedroom and kiss him good night. Proust's own mother is central to the meaning of his masterpiece, and she has always held a special role in literary history, both as a character and as a decisive influence on the great writer’s career. Without knowing much about her, we think of her as the quintessential writer's mother.
Now Évelyne Bloch-Dano’s biography acquaints Proust readers with the real Jeanne Weil Proust. Written with the imaginative force of a novel, but firmly grounded in Jeanne and Marcel Proust’s writings, Madame Proust captures the life and times of Proust’s mother, from her German-Jewish background and her marriage to a Catholic grocer’s son to her lifelong worries about her son’s sexuality, health problems, and talent. As well as offering intimate glimpses of the Prousts’ daily life, Madame Proust uses the family as a way to explore the larger culture of fin-de-siècle France, including high society, spa culture, Jewish assimilation, and the Dreyfus affair. Throughout, Bloch-Dano offers sensitive readings of Proust’s work, drawing out the countless interconnections between his mother, his life, and his magnum opus.
“Evelyne Bloch-Dano’s Madame Proust provides a wealth of new details about Marcel Proust’s formative years and illustrates, as never before, the importance of his Jewish heritage. It does so by concentrating on the most important love relationship in Proust’s life: the great affection he had for his mother. Carefully researched, richly documented, and skillfully translated by Alice Kaplan, Bloch-Dano’s book deserves to be read by all who are interested in the life and works of Marcel Proust.”
William C. Carter, author of Marcel Proust: A Life
Évelyne Bloch-Dano has published numerous books, scholarly articles, and essays on literature. Literary critic for the magazine Marie-Claire, she is also a specialist
on writers’ homes and publishes a monthly rubric in Le Magazine littéraire. The biographies she has written are
highly esteemed, and she has been the recipient of prestigious
literary prizes. Madame Zola, published in 1997, won Elle Magazine’s readers’ Grand Prize, Flora Tristan la Femme-Messie won the François Billetdoux Prize in 2001, and Madame Proust received the Renaudot Prize for an essay in 2004, as well as
the literary prize from the Circle of the Union and the prize
bestowed by the Proustian Literary Circle of Cabourg-Balbec.
Her most recent book, La Biographe (Grasset, 2007), brings together her mother's own
biography and that of actress Romy
See a complete bibliography of Évelyne Bloch-Dano's works, in pdf format.
Alice Kaplan, professor of French at Duke University, is the author of, among other books, French Lessons, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, and The Interpreter.
This event is co-sponsored by the Délégation générale de l'Alliance Française de Paris aux États-Unis, the Program in French and Francophone Studies, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, The Arts and Letters Beyond the Classroom Initiative, the Ph.D. in Literature Program, the English Department, the Program of Gender Studies, the Program of Liberal Studies, and the History Department.