Reading was so important to Marcel Proust that it sometimes seems he was unable to create a personage without a book in hand. Everybody in his work reads: servants and masters, children and parents, artists and physicians. The more sophisticated characters find it natural to speak in quotations. Proust made literary taste a means of defining personalities and gave literature an actual role to play in his novels.
In this wonderfully entertaining book, scholar and biographer Anka Muhlstein, the author of Balzac’s Omelette, draws out these themes in Proust's work and life, thus providing not only a friendly introduction to the momentous In Search of Lost Time, but also exciting highlights of some of the finest work in French literature.
About the Author
Anka Muhlstein was born in Paris in 1935. Muhlstein has published biographies of Queen Victoria, James de Rothschild, Cavelier de La Salle, and Astolphe de Custine; studies on Catherine de Médicis, Marie de Médicis, and Anne of Austria; a double biography, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart; and most recently, Balzac’s Omelette (Other Press). She has won two prizes from the Académie française and the Goncourt Prize for Biography. She and her husband, Louis Begley, have written a book on Venice, Venice for Lovers. They live in New York City.
“This gemlike exploration of the literary underpinnings of À la recherche du temps perdu reveals a Marcel Proust who did not so much read books as ‘absorb’ them.” —The New Yorker
“With Monsieur Proust’s Library, Anka Muhlstein has added another volume to the collection of splendid books about Proust. A woman of intellectual refinement, subtle understanding, and deep literary culture…Muhlstein is an excellent provisioner of high-quality intellectual goods.” —Wall Street Journal
“[Muhlstein] here turns her attention to Proust’s enthusiasms, antagonisms, and literary influences…sensitive to nuances of style and echoes of older standard French authors.” —Edmund White, New York Review of Books
“[Muhlstein] is thoroughly versed not only in Proust’s life but also in his work…This biography is an easy and interesting read, even for the novice Proust scholar, and an excellent accompaniment to an In Search of Lost Time (re)read.” —San Francisco Book Review
“The author of Balzac’s Omelette offers another sensual appreciation of a classic author, this time submitting to the books that Proust loved…You don’t absolutely need to know In Search of Lost Time to read Muhlstein’s brisk little volume, a mini-biography that dissects the many literary influences of [Proust].” —Daily Beast (Hot Reads)
“The general madeleine enthusiast is bound to be entertained by Muhlstein’s witty and lucid prose…This tome energetically explores the distinct literary tastes of a modern writing genius.” —Library Journal
“[Monsieur Proust’s Library] has become a permanent addition to my Proust library, and is a must read both for Proustians and want-to-be Proustians alike…a marvelous book.” —Publishing Perspectives
“Muhlstein shows admirable restraint, focusing on select topics to contextualize Proust’s work in an accessible way…It’s a quick read, and the tight focus and brisk, topical chapters offer an entrée to a work that is not always easy to penetrate.” —Coffin Factory
“This engaging little volume looks at the writers and literary works that influenced Marcel Proust, a passionate reader whose characters often appear book-in-hand. A helpful introduction to À la recherche du temps perdu, this new work reveals the ways in which Proust’s favorite writers—Saint-Simon, Racine, Mme de Sévigné, Balzac, Baudelaire, Dostoyevsky—inform his magnum opus.” —France Magazine
“Muhlstein has ideas of her own about the way in which Proust not only dealt with the anxieties of influence but also brought to a head a long and rich tradition—something one can scarcely imagine a writer doing today.” —Gay and Lesbian Review