Famous Writers on Marcel Proust
"What compels my admiration for M. Proust's work is that it is great art based on analysis. . . . I don't think there is in [all] creative literature an example of power of analysis such as this."
"After I had read A la recherche du temps perdu, I said: 'This is it! And I wished I had written it myself.'"
"Proust I put right with Shakespeare, right with him. Proust is the greatest writer of modern times because [he is] a superb craftsman who had all the talents. He had them all. They all came his way."
"A la recherche du temps perdu is a miracle."
"I said I wouldn't name Proust's major talent, but what interests me perhaps more than anything else—on the repeated reading of it—is how he moves that story, the whole time. No matter how many digressions there seem to be, that story is moving forward. It may be a little incident that's nothing, whether it's looking through a window at Montjouvain or whatever little incident it is; later on you'll find out why it was there. And it's that way all through Proust. He's nudging the story forward all the time. And that was the thing I had very much in mind while writing The Civil War: keep the story moving. Proust does that and he does it superbly. And the paradox is, he's thought to depart from the story so frequently. He never departs from the story."
"I've always given myself a reward when I finish something and the reward I give myself is always the same thing. I read A la recherche du temps perdu. That's my big prize. C'est mon grand prix. I think I've read it nine times, now. It's like a two-month vacation because it takes that long to read Proust. I like it better than going to Palm Beach."
To Walker Percy, urging him again to read Proust:
"A la recherche du temps perdu does what all the great books do, and does it superbly: that is, enlarges life. Do for God's sake stay with it to the finish. Don't be put off by any foolish notion that it seems "loose" or undisciplined. It's altogether the tightest, best-constructed and most disciplined novel I ever read."
Pamela Hansford Johnson
"Remembrance of Things Past should be a pessimistic novel. Love fails, is broken, sinks into oblivion. Friendship is an illusion. Beauty is destroyed, even made ludicrous, by age. Yet Proust set out to do this thing: to recapture the secret of Lost Time, and he succeeded. The clue of the sudden memories made brilliant by the taste of a madeleine dipped in lime-tea, the tinkle of a spoon against a cup, the stumble over an uneven paving-stone, showed him how time could be brought back again and established for ever in all its radiance and dew; written for ever into art, never to be lost again.""There is no novel in the world that changes its readers more profoundly than Remembrance of Things Past changes them: above all it teaches compassion, that relaxing of the mind into gentleness which makes life at once infinitely more complex and infinitely more tolerable."
"Proust makes the reader love Marcel, Marcel who is, and is not, himself; so that Proust himself, perhaps more than any writer except Shakespeare, becomes an intimate."
"Remembrance of Things Past is the most intimate novel ever written; full of pain, desperation, cruelty, destruction, but also full of joy, of fun, and of that peculiar young sweetness that was in Marcel Proust himself, "the great, sleeping young man," the sweetness that rises from the hundreds and hundreds of printed leaves like the perfume from hawthorn blossoms in the spring hedges of Tansonville."
"I cannot see any special talent."
"He writes like an angel."
"The transmutation of sensation into sentiment, the ebb and tide of memory, waves of emotions such as desire, jealousy, and artistic euphoria—this is the material of enormous and yet singularly light and translucid work."
"Like the Bible A la recherche du temps perdu embodies its own sources, myths, and criticism. It comes to stand for a state of civilization."
C. P. Snow
"Proustian humor is greater than Dickens', less hectic, and often wears better."
"The book is a clue to the central mystery of France itself, and a work of consolation for all mortals cauhgt in the coils of time."
"Proust's tendrilous sentences seek out an essence so fine the search itself is an act of faith. It was a revelation to me that words could entwine and curl so, yet keep a live crispness and the breath of utterance. I was dazzled by the witty similes—the vanished fresco, the book holding the known name—that wove art and nature in a single luminous fabric. This was not 'better' writing, it was writing with a whole new nervous system."
"Proust abolished the nagging contradiction between the author as God and the author as nebulous character, as reader's confidant. In Proust's cosmos, Marcel (so called only once, in an elaborately hedged aside) is both the most supine of witnesses and the mightiest of Creators."
"Among other writers only Dante lifts us to such an altitude. Like Dante, Proust lives in one work."
"Proust is not only the greatest modern creator of characters; he is among modern authors the most amusing character, the most self-dramatizing (see his letters) and bizarre, whose cork-lined room has become the very symbol of hypertrophied aestheticism."
"The book is not a tract but a religious travail."
"In the interminable rain of his prose, I felt goodness. Proust was one of those men—increasingly rare, as faith further ebbs—who lost the consolations of belief but retained the attitudes and ambitions of a worshiper." "The next sentence goes on to uncover in his momentary 'sense of eternity' a strangely modest secret, a kind of Godless Golden rule and the germinating principle of art"
My experience in the library which I wanted to preserve was that of pleasure, but not an egotistical pleasure, or at all events it was a form of egoism which is useful to others—for all the fruitful altruisms of Nature develop in an egotistical mode. —Time Regained
"No one ever used the material of his life so well as Marcel Proust, who made out of his life, recollected and continuing, what is possibly the greatest novel of our time, The Remembrance of Things Past, in which he made the passage of time (from past to present and to the future shadow) a controlled torrent of personal experience and sensibilities to it. It contains all the elements of a man's psychic history—his love, fear, loneliness, disgust, humor, and, most important of all, his forgiving perception of the reasons for the tragicomedy of human confusion."
"Proust has recreated the world of the novel from the point of view of relativity: he has supplied for the first time in literature an equivalent on the full scale for [Einstein's] new theory of physics."
"Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation and intensification that he procures—there's something sexual in it—that I feel I can write like that, and seize my pen and then I can't write like that. Scarcely anyone so stimulates the nerves of language in me: it becomes an obsession. But I must return to Swann."
"My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I'm only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Far otherwise is it with Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and have thank God, now finished—My martyrdom is over."
"The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom."