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Marcel Proust: A Life Paperback – 6 Dec 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1008 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (6 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141002034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0641622076
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 5.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 726,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. R. Birkhead on 2 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback
A Holy Hindu, seated on the suffering sovereign throne of lit, this colossal aristocratic figure was but a suffering child, disappointed by life. This is how the author tenderly depicts one of literature's greatest heros. Arranging a new existence in Le Temps, his real life, bit by bit, faded. However, the glowing reality born by his brilliant, dispassionate brain which painted this rich world as if through the prism of truthful innocence was to gain a momento, an inertia, which carried him to the peaking bliss of the written word.
Outside time, Proust offered his vision of a brevity that was innate in all things, especially beautiful men, hawthorns and the sun. He loved its rays. There is a charming delineation of all mankind's mortal mind. And we see Proust probing it as a psychoanalyst will his patient. Proust was really a doctor, diagnosing his ills through others. But his offerings are more fundamental and spiritual which console those beyond redemption and offer a helping hand to those who can almost see as he does. His writing is a balm for the sick, and he saw it in all of us. A clairvoyant to the last. To those precious few on his own standing (who are they?) he only confirms with acute accuracy the madness and the maddening beauty within life, as it rolls on irresistibly, without a murmur. His soul lost its borders and merged with his world; Proust was everywhere.
A balanced fragile objective soul, his work is a symmetrical extension of his own artful soul. In a way, Proust has revealed or unveiled a key to life and the designs of human existence and its peculiar consciousness, for there is a peculiarity in all his writings, mirroring a disturbed world, which ought to be peaceful and soothing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
a panorama almost as vast as Proust's! 7 Oct 2005
By Daniel Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I concur with the reviewer who suggested that the newbie proceed as follows:

1) Read Edmund White's little Penguin biography so as to orient yourself. This will lessen the culture shock when you are first confronted with Swann's Way (or The Way by Swann's, as the English prefer).

2) Read Proust. This is actually my third perambulation, so I'm a bit unsure how much of the novel to recommend. Whatever you do, get a good start on it, sufficient that you know you will persevere.

3) Read Tadie. Much of what has mystified you in In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past, whatever) will suddenly become clear. For example, how is it that young Marcel (most writers call him the Narrator) with his wheezing and his mother complex and his odd ideas about sexuality is welcomed in the highest reaches of Paris society? Well, why not, since Proust was! People loved him, men and women, rich and poor, nobility and servants. Knowing about Proust's life makes Marcel/Narrator a lot more credible. The same is true of other characters, such as Charles Swann. (Some of Proust's characters, including the Baron Charlus and the awful Madame Verdurin, are so good that their real-life equivalents are but pale imitations. They need no biography to limn them.)

Tadie is a vast undertaking--as of course is In Search of Lost Time. I became so interested in the biography that I have put aside the final volume, Finding Time Again, so as to concentrate on the biography.

A suggestion: skip the footnotes. I began doing so at about the halfway point of the biography, and I'm enjoying it more and following it better. Those constant interruptions (it's not unusual for the footnotes to occupy a quarter or a third of the page) made it difficult for me to follow the text. Maybe Tadie has to be read three times, like the novel itself!

It's a splendid work. I've read three Proust biographies, the third one (apart from Tadie's and White's) being Marcel Proust: A Biography, by Roger Hayman (out of print). It's a better read, but it pales as a biography and as an introduction to the novel.

-- Dan Ford at readingproust dot com
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Tadie disparu 22 May 2006
By Lloyd S. Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I fell in love with Proust's work as a senior in college during a winter study break where we read 100s of pages a day. Later on, I satisfied part of the foreign language requirements for my Ph. D. (in English literature) by spending one day a week for an entire semester in a three person Proust seminar where we read Proust in French, but thankfully, got to hold our discussions in English. I also read Painter's 2 volume biography of Proust back then. In fact, somewhere in my garage, I have a first edition of Shattuck's "Proust's Binoculars." And, over the years, I've happily read and re-read Proust in the Moncrieff, Kilmartin/Enright, and now the new Penguin transations.

But, having read 318 pages into Tadie, I have decided to give up. Tadie is packed full of information, but he doesn't seem to have any real story to tell. It is just one potentially fascinating fact after another. But the reader has to supply all the fascination. Tadie just piles one sentence after another in an exhausting display of joyless erudition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Masterpiece 16 Nov 2006
By I. Randolph S. Shiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What is the nature of biography? Is it the work of the subject? Is it separatable? What is fair? What is accurate? Does a biography of one such as Proust, the 20th century's most famous, best author, have to be a recitation of the work itself melded with events in his life? Or can the work come simply from being an artist: the culmination of the mind that is under study?

Tadie takes Proust as the person: and what he becomes is in essence what the judgment of the biographer says he becomes using his best judgment. And there appears to be no person alive with more knowledge of Proust and his work than Tadie. It is big. It is full. Almost too much. But then we are not dealing with a minor novelist, are we? This book is a classic and a model for all biography in terms of its approach and philosophy: Proust is never to be forgotten from this rendering, which is art in and of itself. For Proust, and Tadie's treatment here, is that of the nature of art itself.
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
What would Proust have thought? 30 Sep 2002
By Alexander McBirney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I picked up a copy of this book when I saw it marked down in price. I did not have to read very far before I discovered why the bookstore was unable to unload the large stock they still have on hand. The writing is simply atrocious.
On every page there are non-sequiturs or convoluted sentence that are impossible to understand, even after reading them two or three times. The fault is not in the translation, which seems to be faithful to the original, but in the publisher who clearly made no attempt to edit the text properly.
How ironic that a work about one of the greatest writers of modern literature should be presented in such a careless, clumsy way.
Illuminating 7 May 2014
By judygarlandheartbreaker.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exhaustive, yes, and you may want to skip some of it, but the author's comprehensive, well-footnoted approach is certainly the way to go if you're doing a biography. Most interesting, of course, is Proust's effort to hide his homosexuality in the text of his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. His affair with the composer and bon vivant Reynaldo Hahn is engrossing, and it's fun to cast the novels with the descriptions Tadie supplies of their prototypes. This is the only bio I'm reading, so haven't compared any others.
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