En attendant Proust

May 29, 2013 | By Tom Bishop

Tom Bishop, the Florence Gould Professor of French Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at NYU, created and directs its Center for French Civilization and Culture and from 1970 to 2003 also chaired the Department of French. Among his books are a collection of essays, From the Left Bank: Reflections on the Modern French Theater and Novel; Le Passeur d’océan: Carnets d’un ami américain ; Huis clos de Sartre L’Avant-garde théâtrale: French Theater Since 1950 ; and Pirandello and the French Theater.

I read Du côté de chez Swann for the first time as a sophomore and was fortunate in having a charismatic instructor introduce me to the then strange and wonderful world of Marcel Proust. Without the help of a tisane and with no madeleine, the theatrical Professor Floyd Zulli opened up a remarkable universe which beckoned me to enter. Enter I did and have remained faithful to it through numerous re-readings, the renewed miraculous discovery of the remaining volumes of A la recherche, through teaching Proust, and the discovery that my absolute literary hero, Samuel Beckett, had devoted an entire book to Proust by age 25. “Swann is the cornerstone of the entire structure,” wrote Beckett, “and the central figure of the narrator’s childhood, a childhood that involuntary memory, stimulated or charmed by the long-forgotten taste of a madeleine steeped in an infusion of tea, conjures in all the relief and colour of its essential significance from the shallow well of a cup’s inscrutable banality.” What a joy for a Proustian Beckett groupie!

Air France is a proud sponsor of 2013: A Year with Proust, a year long festival organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

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