How Proust Can Change Your Life

From the chapter ‘How to take your time’

The lesson? To hang on to the performance, to read the newspaper as though it were only the tip of a tragic or comic novel and to use thirty pages to describe a fall into sleep when need be. And if there is no time, at least to resist the approach of Alfred Humblot at Ollendorf [1] and Jacques Madeline at Fasquelle [2], which Proust defined as ‘the self satisfaction of “busy” men – however idiotic their business – at “not having time” to do what you are doing’ (p.51)

[1]Alfred Humblot was head of Ollendorf’s publishing house, when asked in 1913 to look at the manuscript for Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ he rejected the text with the words: My dear friend, I may be dense but I fail to see why a chap needs thirty pages to describe how he tosses and turns in bed before falling asleep.
[2]Jacques Madeline was a reader for the publishing house Fasquelle, he was also asked to read the manuscript and like Humblot, rejected it [3] reporting: At the end of seven hundred and twelve pages of this manuscript, after innumerable griefs at being drowned in unfathomable developments and irritating impatience at never being able to rise to the surface- one doesn’t have a single, but not a single clue of what this is about. What is the point of all of this? What does it all mean? Where is it all leading? Impossible to know anything about it! Impossible to say anything about it!
[3]The rejection of ‘In Search of Lost Time’ from all other publishers forced Proust to self publish. Luckily the work was widely acclaimed and Proust was able to enjoy the regrets and apologies sent by the publishing houses later.

de Botton, A. (1997). How Proust can change your life. London, England: Picador.

NB. Much of this text is taken verbatim from Botton’s book, I am playing with footnoting as a format. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t actually have superscript for footnotes. 😦


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