RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
24 April 2007
Marcel Proust. A la Recherche du Temps Perdu...Forget about Madeleine biscuits & cork lined rooms...
Marcel Proust. A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU. 12 VOLS. Grasset & N.R.F. Paris 1913-1928.
Current Selling Prices
$18000+ / £10000+
The supreme classic of 20th Century European literature, the ultimate roman fleuve, although Powell runs him a close second with his 'Music of Time' also 12 vols. A paperback or paper wraps, at least- I don't have a set about my person at present and have never had all 12 or any 'tetes', although we always have a few sets of the Scott-Moncrieff translation. Admired by Graham Greene, Gianni Versace, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Logan Pearsall Smith, Arnold Bennett, Sam Beckett, Tuesday Weld, Will Self etc., Alain de Botton wrote a pretty useful self help book based on the master's life and work 'How Proust can change your Life.' Even Nabokov liked the early volumes.
Forget about Madeleine biscuits and cork lined rooms and persevere with the first 200 pages, or start with a later book, or download it to your Ipod and walk 100 blocks with it. As Joseph Conrad said: ‘It appeals to our sense of wonder and gains our hommage by its veiled greatness. I don’t think there ever has been in the whole of literature such an example of the power of analysis.’ You don't need to be an intellectual, an epicene snob or a pseud but it might be unwise if your usual fare is shopping and fucking novels. The audio version by John Rowe btw is the one, NOT Neville Jason who doesn't appear to understand what he is reading.
It is on record that James Joyce met Proust at a midnight supper in the fashionable Majestic Hotel in May 1922, the two great men did not speak more than a few words with each other. "Of course the situation was impossible," Joyce recalled later. "Proust's day was just beginning. Mine was at an end." They shared a cab home but again hardly exchanged a word. It seems a pity - Joyce once said 'I never met a bore' and Proust had a similar outlook finding an evening with unimportant provincial burghers no more or less interesting than the most fashionable ball with aristos and jeunesse doré.
VALUE? Btw this is a rejig of an earlier posting with more info, the disco version as it were. Above is a very desirable item, a review copy of the very first book. Decent French sets in the original paper wraps or in attractive and exquisite bindings with the wraps bound in can make (at auction) $18000 or more, it gets much more serious with 'editions du tete' eg one of 12 of just one vol (Du Cote de Chez Swann) made $50,000 in 1999, another inscribed to Anatole France made $70000 way back in 1989. A one of 5 of the same volume on Japon with an ALS loosely inserted made $300,000 in 2001. This was the Calmette -Le Garrec -Blaizot - Meeus - Hayoit copy and you can be pretty sure it didn't turn up at a boot fair. A 13 vol set in a Paul Bonet binding with inlaid letters across the spines and a staircase motif made $50K. The paper on the ordinary editions can become brittle, especially in hot climates and the 'editions du tete' last a lot better. English editions are reasonably easily found, the Scott Moncrieff translation being limited to 1300. Inscriptions help -- usually to toffs and grandees in his circle e.g. the ubiquitous Princesse Marthe Bibesco. Being a French book condition is vital, shagged out copies get thrown in the Seine. [ W/Q ** ]