Proust For Beginners

by James Canfield, For Beginners

“Compelling in critical insight and artistic vision, Proust For Beginners brings to life a modern master, the “Proustian moments” at the heart of his work, and their relevance to our own everyday lives.”

William C. Carter, author of Marcel Proust: A Life and editor of


Written by Steve Bachmann and illustrated by Van Howell, Proust For Beginners dives head first into the time and life of French novelist Marcel Proust, author of the modernist classic In Search of Lost Time. Proust was an author who was extremely different than his predecessors, both in terms of style and content. He supposedly cared less about the actual plot and subsequent action, and more about adding richness and complexity. Proust’s words flowed eloquently onto the page, including both of these qualities, while at the same time filling each sentence with both personal and cultural allusions. Many might find it difficult to understand and interpret the works of Marcel Proust, which is attributed to his innate desire to defy the conventional ‘standard punctuation.’

According to Bachmann, “In order to understand Proust and his work, it is best to start with an account of his life.” During his formative years, which occurred during the chaos of nineteenth century Europe, Proust was consistently in and out of the hospital, which was due to his severe asthma. As life progressed and time went on, Marcel Proust came to find himself engaged in a homosexual affair with Alfred Agostelli. Their relationship, unfortunately, was not destined for eternity, as Alfred tragically passed away when the plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of Antibes. The twentieth century rolled around the corner, bringing with it a new glimmer of hope. This too, however, was suddenly cut short. The passing of his father in 1903, as well as his mother 1905 brought great depression onto Marcel Proust. He began to recede into his own cocoon of existence, eventually completely withdrawing from society. This left him with the intense desire to write about themes such as memory loss and separation anxiety.

Climbing Mount Proust is not a challenge to be taken lightheartedly. This lucid biography and essential reading guide peels away the layers from one of the most difficult yet widely taught works of French Literature. Marcel Proust’s 1913 publication of Swann’s Way is synonymous with his life and who he was. When beginning this particular piece of literature, Marcel was torn between wanting to write about either a fictional account or rather something that was philosophical, based around his interests and hobbies. Proust considered such a decision to be quite substantial in its nature, and simply left it to reverberate within his mind. Unable to form a coherent decision within himself, Proust ultimately settled upon both concepts, causing a constant divergence from theme to theme. Additionally, it was not uncommon for him to even include instances where a single one of his sentences would be comprised of 958 individual words. And, Bachmann points out that the art of crafting such writing was only just one of the many languages in which Marcel Proust was fluent in.

Van Howell‘s dazzling collection of cartoons, caricatures, and artistic renderings perfectly portray Proust, his milieu, the people in his life, and the vast realms of his literary imagination. The illustrations boldly stand up on every page, providing a thoroughly detailed, and certainly exclusive, sneak peek inside the conscious of one of the twentieth century’s prestigious and highly acclaimed writers. Bachmann and Howell’s combined work of graphic non-fiction will pull you in like you would never expect. Unravel this time period and experience it for yourself through the eyes of the one and only, Marcel Proust.

Read more about Proust For Beginners and visit the For Beginners website to learn more about their titles.

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