NOVEMBER: “SWANN’S WAY” BY MARCEL PROUST IS PUBLISHED
On 13 November, Swann’s Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust’s great novel In Search of Lost Time, is published. After the book was turned down not only by the Fasquelle and Oldenbourg publishing houses and the Nouvelle Revue Française but also by André Gide, the then editor at Gallimard, Proust had the book published by Grasset at his own expense. No sooner does he hold the first copy in his hands than his chauffeur and lover Alfred Agostinelli splits up with him.
Everyone else falls for the author. Rilke reads the book only a few days after its publication. It begins with the golden words ‘Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure’ – ‘For a long time I went to bed early’ – and in saying this, Proust touched the nerve of an exhausted avant-garde who, from Kafka to Joyce, from Musil to Thomas Mann, boasted in their diaries whenever they managed to go to bed before midnight. Going to bed early – to the ever weary pioneers of the modern age it seemed like the bravest struggle against depression, drinking, senseless distraction and the advance of time.
London: Profile Books Limited. 229