Arts & Events

Updated: “Remembrance of Things Proust” on THURSDAY at St. John's in Berkeley

By Larry Bensky
Saturday November 09, 2013 - 10:23:00 AM

In dozens, if not hundreds, of communities worldwide, including Berkeley, THURSDAY November 14 will be commemorated as a kind of “Proust Day.” It marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first volume, “Swann’s Way,” in Proust’s monumental 3,000 page epoch, “In Search of Lost Time.”

Proust had been writing what would eventually, after his death, be a seven-volume work of fiction for four years when he decided he had something publishable. Publishers did not agree. Frustrated, Proust, who came from a wealthy family, self-published, paying for a print run of about 2,000 copies himself.

The book was a modest success, and Proust had hoped to publish parts that he had to cut out (“Swann’s Way” was 527 pages…) in two more volumes immediately. But the outbreak of the First World War meant that resources used in printing – including the printers themselves – were largely diverted elsewhere. And it would be more than five years until “In Search of Lost Time’s” publication started again, with “Within a Budding Grove.” That book won France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, and Proust’s worldwide renown was on its way.

In the years since, Proust (who died in 1922; the last three books were published posthumously) has become one of western fiction’s most iconic figures. The nature of memory, the effect of art on consciousness, the strengths and vanities of society, the conflicts among and between people and nations, are among the themes for which Proust is a point of reference.

Proust’s pages are interlaced with references to other arts –painting, architecture, writing – especially to music.

It is therefore especially fitting that we remember and commemorate Proust by presenting samples of the music he knew and loved – as well as a modern piece whose inspiration and structure he would have appreciated.

The Northern California Proust celebration will take place Thursday, November 14 at St.John’s Presbyterian Church , 2727 College Avenue, 7 p.m. Featured music includes pieces by Debussy, Faure, Saint-Saens, Chopin, and Schubert, as well as a modern piece by Eliot Carter, inspired by Proust. There will be blilingual readings from various Proust texts. Tickets at Mrs. Dalloway’s or University Press books, $10.

And, yes, there WILL be madeleines at the end! 

A bientot! 

Larry Bensky is the Executive Producer of