Bookends of the Search

I have previously blogged about my literary pilgrimages to Proust’s Illiers-Combray and to Montaigne’s Tower. It seems odd that there is no explicit reference to Montaigne in A la recherche du temps perdu: how could he not have been one of Proust’s favourite reads? This great article on Sharon Girard’s wonderful Proust and Other Matters blog shows in fact that there is a hidden homage at the start and end of the novel. The whole site is well worth exploring for its thoughtful and insightful posts on Proust.

Proust and Other Matters

The Bookends of the Search Contain a Secret

The first paragraph and the last form a stunning pair of bookends which contain a secret.  The secret is an homage to an unnamed titan of French letters.  The titan’s name appears nowhere in The Search, but his legacy is felt and Proust knows it and cherishes it.  I call this homage a secret because I’ve never come across it in Proust commentary.  But it’s out of the closet now.  Remember, you read it here first.  (If you find it somewhere else, please let me know!  I first revealed the secret to my Yahoo Proust group in 2003.)

The beginning of The Search, page 1, paragraph 1, takes place in that dusky state of hypnagogia where all is possible.  In bed, M holds a book and reads by candlelight.  Just barely drifting off, he imagines that he himself is the subject of…

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