Memoirs and Biographies
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFranz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor

Related Topics
Madame ProustReview - Madame Proust
A Biography
by Evelyne Bloch-Dano
University Of Chicago Press, 2007
Review by Tony O'Brien
Nov 11th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 46)

"For a long time I would go to bed early." While Proust's protagonist and alter ego Marcel lay awake listening to the sound of a distant train or watching the play of shadows on his wall, his thoughts were on his mother. In the first pages of his novel Proust's reader is introduced to the memories of a middle aged man as a young child. Marcel aches for the good night kiss he has been denied, and already we have a character whose life is intimately entwined with that of his mother, who hates to be apart from her, and who in turn focuses her life on her son; his fragilities, his illnesses, his sometimes contrary character, and his genius. As Proust's novel shadows his real life relationships the reader gets to see a mother and son whose lives revolve around each other. This vicarious introduction to Jeanne Proust (nee Weil) can only take us so far, and in her biography of Madame Proust Evylene Bloch-Dano traces the life of the remarkable Jeanne, placing that life in the context of the turbulent events of nineteenth century France, and of the emotional turmoil surrounding her older son.

Madame Proust. A Biography was first published in French in 2004 winning Bloch-Dano the Prix Renaudot. Bloch has previously published a biography of Zola's wife (Madame Zola -1998) and is perhaps making something of a specialty of the lives of the female intimates of French male authors. Alice Kaplan's 2007 translation of Madame Proust provides a welcome resource for Proust's many anglophile readers, and a useful companion to the several biographies of Proust that also touch on the life of his mother. The book is approachable to those who have not read, or have not completed Proust's novel, but some acquaintance with the novel is indispensable if the full import of Jeanne Weil's life is to be appreciated. Tadié's biography of Proust (Marcel Proust. A Life) is recommended by some as preparation for the Recherche, and it contains an excellent background to the Weil family, but Bloch-Dano, with the scope of a full biography at her disposal, goes much further. Her book is a sensitive and engaging portrayal of maternal love, and of Jeanne Weil. Proust's novel is a constant feature of Blach-Dano's work, and she makes many footnoted references to it. Her account of many of the events of Jeanne Weil's life relies partly on her own description, and partly on her analysis of how these events appear in the Recherche.

It might seem then, that the object of this biography is as much Proust as it is his mother, but this would be misleading. Bloch-Dano discusses Weil's family life in detail, including the time before meeting her future husband Adrien Proust, whose social circle and tastes were very different from her own. Here, one can read of the influence of the rather more austere Adrien on Jeanne, and of her devotion to the three Prousts in her life, Adrien, Marcel, and her second son, Robert. Adrien Proust was a public health physician, devoted to his work, and highly regarded. In Bloch-Dano's account, this was an arranged marriage which grew into a loving relationship. Each had room for their own interests, Adrien in medicine, Jeanne in literature and translation. Jeanne's devotion to her family, and her domestically arranged life, shouldn't be read through a twentyfirst century lens; she manages to work within the patriarchy of the times without conceding her own values or interests. Adrien was a sound custodian of the wealth that came with his marriage to Jeanne, and his success as a doctor meant the family were well off. Jeanne had plenty of that most valuable of commodities, time. A devoted reader herself from childhood, she fostered the same quality in the young Proust, another personal characteristic readers of the Recherche will recognize from Proust's descriptions of his frequent retreat into the written word. Although she did not receive a university education, not at all unusual for the times, Jeanne Weil was well educated and proficient in English and German. It was her command of English, much better than that of her son, that enabled Proust's translation into French of Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies. In an interesting commentary on the place of Adrien Proust in his son's life, Bloch-Dano relates how following Adrien's sudden death in 1903, Jeanne exhorted Proust to complete his translations of Ruskin in memory of his father. When his translation of The Bible of Amiens was published in 1904 it carried an affectionate dedication to Adrien.

Bloch-Dano also devotes considerable attention to Jeanne Weil's forebears, something covered in Tadié's biography, but not in such detail. In Madame Proust the exploration of these ancestors' lives sheds light on the social context and character of Weil, and gives us a richer understanding of the woman we feel we already know through the Recherche. One of the fascinating aspects of Jeanne Weil's life is her marriage to the Catholic (although personally areligious) Adrien Proust. Weil's family were Jewish, albeit non-practicing, and such matches were strategically shrewd, as assimilation could be useful socially and materially. The assimilation achieved through marriage must have had particular poignancy for the Weil family. A maternal uncle, Adolphe Crémiuex had served as Minster of Justice, in which capacity he signed a decree granting French citizenship to Algerian Jews. Jeanne's mother Adele attended the Crémiuex salon, where she met writers who we hear so much about in the Recherche, such as Musset, Hugo, and Sand, and where the letters of Madame Sévigné were a frequent topic of discussion. A thoroughly researched biography will turn up a few unusual facts which, if they are not central to the life of the subject, are interesting enough to include. Thus, in Madame Proust we learn that several generations back the Weil family was related to that of Karl Marx, making Proust and Marx distant cousins. The book even includes a special genealogical tree to show the connection. There's something you can impress your friends with.

Just as the First World War forms a partial backdrop to Proust's novel, the Franco-Prussian war and internal conflict loom large in Jeanne Weil's life. Her marriage took place in Paris, the day after the French defeat by the Prussians. Despite an invitation the Prousts did not attend, due to the risks of travelling the hundred kilometers form Illiers in an uncertain political climate. Civil unrest was always a possibility in the capital and was rife in 1871, forcing Jeanne to move to Auteuil ("cursed Autiuel" according to Edmond de Goncourt), on the outskirts of Paris. Marcel was born while Prussian troops held the city, days after the violent suppression of the Commune. From Auteuil the sound of cannon fire could be heard. Even for the wealthy food was scarce, and the Prousts were reduced to eating horsemeat and worse. There are echoes in this of the extreme adversity in which Jeanne's mother was born in 1849, and Bloch-Dano weaves these events together to give a strong sense of narrative to her work. Another significant event in Jeanne Weil's life was the Dreyfus affair, and Bloch-Dano describes Jeanne as one of the early 'Dreyfusards'; those convinced of his innocence. She apparently shared this conviction with Marcel giving the two another bond, and one which set them apart from the many convinced that Dreyfus was a traitor.

Proust left behind a huge volume of correspondence, including a large number of letters to and from his mother. This cache has proved invaluable for Proust scholars, and has provided Bloch-Dano with a useful window into the life and character of Jeanne Weil. Much of Madame Proust is written in the style of a novel, and in this sense won't satisfy the biographical purists. Chapter Ten begins with a description of the Proust family's train journey to Illiers: "The train slowed as it approached the station. Across the fields you could already see the steeple of the church…" a description that not only evokes the images of Swann's Way, it has something of Proust's descriptive narrative style in which perceptions are anchored to objective experiences, and of course the sight of the steeple is the occasion for one of Marcel's great epiphanies.

I am not able to comment on the quality of translation from the French, except to say the book reads smoothly, and is without any noticeably jarring terms or images that would suggest Alice Kaplan was unable to find the right word or expression with which to render Bloch-Dano's original into English. Jeanne never got to see the full realization of Proust's literary ambition, but her contribution to it is palpable as Bloch-Dano's narrative unfolds. When Jeanne died at fifty-six in 1905, Proust remained at her side for two days "weeping and smiling though his tears". He had lost his mother, but the love they shared gave impetus to a work that would change the way literature was understood in the twentieth century.

© 2008 Tony O'Brien

Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil, Senior Lecturer, Mental Health Nursing, University of Auckland, a.obrien@auckland.ac.nz


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716