The Cork Lined Room

Even people who haven't read Proust usually know two things about him: the madeleine scene and the cork-lined room. The idea of such insulation did not originate with Proust. He got the idea from two other writer friends—poet Anna de Noailles and playwright Henry Bernstsein, who were the first to have their bedrooms lined with cork.

Given the biographical nature of this talk, I will refer to the main character in the novel as the Narrator. Because of his asthma and other illnesses that plagued him from his childhood on, Proust often depicts himself in his letters—as he does the Narrator in the novel—as a reclusive, cloistered individual. In the introduction to his first book, Les Plaisirs et les Jours, most of which was written during his late adolescence and early twenties, Proust tells his readers that due to his many bouts of childhood maladies, he spent long days confined to his room and compares himself to Noah in the ark.

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