Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
“Proust? No one is less dead than he is,” said Suzy Proust, Marcel’s niece.
Right she was. Is.
Everything about this one-room exhibition (all the one-room exhibitions at the Morgan seem grand to me, just the right size and feeling) is perfectly chosen and described. All the quotations come directly from Proust himself, from his notebooks over the years he is writing his great novel, so it all feels familiar and yet new, watching, for example, the way the madeleine develops from the rusk or biscotte, as it is written in notebook 25. Here is the church of St. Jacques in Illiers, as it is “summarizing, representing, the town, speaking about it from afar.” How had I not noticed that in the text? That is one of the joys of exhibitions, of course, and the wall or display summaries: what you hadn’t noticed, you suddenly see. These explanations in this layout bring it up to your own remembrance of readings past, up close and personal in the present.
The photographs bring you right into the picture: here is Jeanne, the mother, with Marcel and his brother Robert:
I’d begin here with the beloved mother and brother, right at the outset, and then go on to the way the novel develops. In a letter to the poet Anna de Noailles of December 1908, Proust lays out his decision to write not an essay, like Taine, but a kind of narrative. He imagines a text starting with: “the morning, the awakening” where “Mamma comes to my bedside.” What a morning, and what an opening of another, ultimately famous text: “I used to go to bed early.” How many variations of this iconic beginning preceded this now so celebrated phrase: the curator of the exhibition, the world’s leading Proust scholar (and more) Antoine Compagnon showed them to us on the screen on Monday, March 4. The year 1913, that of the publication of the first volume, marked this as part of the landmark of modernism: the Armory Show, the Rite of Spring, and this great novel. What was originally “The Intermittences of the Heart” became the treasure that is A la recherche du temps perdu, In Search of Lost Time, or, in Scott Moncrieff’s translation of 1922, Remembrance of Things Past. Compagnon, speaking of re-reading, insisted on how we can re-read Proust always freshly. Quite surely, the exhibition gives us a head start
No exhibition could be more heart-warming to someone (that is, so many of us) in love with Proust’s text: the images, the layout, and the tiny tall notebooks given him by Geneviève Straus, Bizet’s widow, on New Year’s Day of January, 1908.
The notebook pages with the repeated crossings-outs — are, each one, described in just enough detail to make sense, a memorable sense. … Here it is, in 1908, that he muses on his writing and his being: “Should it be a novel, a philosophical essay, am I a novelist?” The pages feel in fact so close, rather like a conversation, in this small room, that you want to answer him: “yes, a novelist.”
The letters feel just like what we know of Proust: to his mother, he says he has so much to tell her, but going to sleep is more important. She knows that, and insists he tell her exactly how many hours he was able to sleep each night away. What letters! I especially liked the letter to Gabriel Fauré recounting his adoration of the way Fauré had set Leconte de Lisle’s poem about “le parfum impérissable,” that imperishable perfume… “I do not only like, admire, adore your music, I have been and still am in love with it.”
And us all with Proust.
Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way: 100th Anniversary continues at the Morgan Library & Museum (225 Madison Avenue, Midtown, Manhattan) through April 28.
To showcase this work exactly 500 years after Magellan’s conquest of the Philippines in a space that, 134 years ago, was a “human zoo” of Indigenous people from the Philippines, is certainly poignant.
Since 2014, Alison has been visually dissecting Monique Wittig’s novel The Lesbian Body, which theorizes the split subjectivity women experience in language, an inherently patriarchal structure.
This exhibition in Great Falls, Montana addresses the concept of intention in contemporary fiber art and its complex relationship with the history of women’s art as craft.
N.I.H., short for No Humans Involved, was an acronym used by the LAPD to refer to “young Black males who belong to the jobless category of the inner-city ghettos.”
Cha, who was murdered at 31 years old, explored the nuances of forced migration and language.
Explore new avenues in artistic practice and scholarship amongst a diverse cohort of peers while gaining leadership skills both academically and professionally.
Taping a banana wasn’t enough, so the art world had to do something even more stupid with food.
Stoner jokes, unexpected pop culture references, and an unlikely love story jangle against each other like charms on a bracelet.
In this exhibition, curated by Patrick Flores and presented by Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Paiwan artist Sakuliu reflects on interspecies co-sharing and coexistence.
The plans for Munger Hall may just be the most ruthlessly efficient way to house 4500 students.
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation says tribal leaders were not consulted regarding the relocation of the statue.
The autumn holiday of Sukkot continues to offer solace and community for new generations.