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A Night at the Majestic (unabridged audio book) Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged
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Davenport-Hines' book is wholly engrossing. --Simon Callow
A sheer pleasure to read. --Frances Spalding
An imaginative, gracefully written book. --The Independent
A Night at the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines tells the intriguing story of the most extraordinary dinner party of all time - the night Proust, Joyce, Picasso and Stravinsky all met at the Majestic in Paris. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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It's just that it seems to me I've read all of this before...and often better written. Mr. Davenport-Hines' contributions seem to consist of asserting that the night in question was unparalleled -- undoubtedly true, but we actually don't hear much about it...some about Joyce, a tiny bit about Stravinsky, a miniscule touch of Picasso, a few assertions about Diaghalev's manipulation of the staging of the evening...and a good deal about Proust, but again, twice-told tales. Most of the text focuses not on that eventful, although disputed, evening, but on the author's conviction that the Baron Charlus is Proust's most fully developed and most "loved" (by Proust). Possibly, possibly...indeed, very possibly. And yet... the book we're given here fails in my humble you-know-what to live up to its promise because it is so preoccupied by this premise.
If the objective, on the other hand, is to help us to "know" Proust, better to read the master himself, and the Painter and Jean-Yves Tadie biographies, or Shattuck, as well as Samuel Beckett's memoire, not to mention Celeste Albaret...oh, there are so many.
But how much better not to read of, but to read, Proust himself.
There are moments when Mr. Davenport-Hines inspires, but they are, for me at least, few.
The place: Paris’ renowned Majestic Hotel. The guest list: an almost unbelievable collection of aesthetes including James Joyce (arriving drunk in an effort to calm his nerves), Sergei Diaghilev (the taskmaster Russian ballet impresario), Pablo Picasso (little examined here), Igor Stravinsky (whose debut of the ballet Renard the party was to celebrate), and the belle of the ball, our little Marcel (last to arrive and clad as always in white gloves, brushed tuxedo and near immovable top hat).
What this book is: a wonderfully brief but engaging portrait of Proust as we all know and love him – toiling throughout with neurotic throes of insomnia, asthma and finally, pneumonia – all threatening to cut short the 4,000 page odyssey that despite the debilitating effects of his self sacrifice– was heroically completed in almost ‘unscriptable’ drama just days before his death.
What this book is not: an investigation or literary ‘play-by-play’ of the famous dinner party of 1922. Notable quotes are few, fiery exchanges non-existent (Wittgenstein’s Poker this ain’t), and no great manifestos or buzzwords are penned.
This is all Proust – modestly accompanied by the cream of early Modernism – and a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in French literature, Modernism, the Belle Epoque or the power of a little lime tea and a few misplaced paving stones. Great stuff indeed.
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