©1999 Edmund White; (P)2000 Books on Tape, Inc.
"White's simple and elegantly written biography weaves literary criticism with respectful insight and will appeal to general readers as well as scholars." (Library Journal)
"No one can match White's sensibility or his sympathy for the subject. His criticisms of Proust's work are consistently trenchant and insightful, and he brings to Proust's life the earned, respectful familiarity of a distinguished acolyte." (Publishers Weekly)
Edmund White’s biography of Marcel Proust weaves biographical research about its subject with material from ? la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), Proust’s seven volume masterpiece, arguably the greatest literary achievement of all time. White covers Proust’s life as well as material from all seven of the titles that comprise ? la recherche, though Le temps retrouv? (Time Regained) gets rather short shrift.
For someone with absolutely no knowledge of Proust, this book would make a decent little introduction, though it is somewhat scattered, both in presentation and selection from the literary and biographical material. Even those who have only read Du c?t? de chez Swann (Swann’s Way) and have yet to read the remainder of the novels might find some interesting insights into the overall architecture of the entire work (though White tends to pick only the rather obvious).
Indeed, one would get a better introduction to Proust simply by reading his own writings (which are now available on Audible in the unabridged so-so C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation).
For veteran readers of Proust as well as for Proust scholars, this book is largely a waste of time, unless academic pressures require one to know what Edmund White happens to think of the author. Scholars certainly do not share some of his views, for instance that Proust’s women in ? la recherche are merely the men from his life in literary drag.
The narrator for this title, David Case, has a nice reading tone. He does, however, have the annoying habit of affecting quotations from Proust in an odd exaggerated voice that starts to seem demeaning. His pronunciation of French is also inadequate. For instance, he pronounces “fille” (daughter) like “fils” (son).
Overall, I found this book disappointing.
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