The key scene is where he comforts his nephew who discovered along the way that he is colorblind and will be unable to fulfill his dream of joining the air force academy….He then tells him about what a “loser” Proust was but then makes the point that Proust understood that suffering was key to his character and missing out on suffering meant he wouldn’t have been the person he was and consequently wouldn’t have been able to write the same way.
Well, I don’t know if Proust ever said that….I do know I found myself either incredibly flattered or incredibly insulted (depending how you look it and your own literary tastes) to have my own writing compared to his twice - once by a literary agent(albeit as part of a rejection letter) and once by a friend….For me, it’s flattering as I do like Proust very much….I originally started off writing a series of autobiographical novels not thinking at all of IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME but instead influenced by Henry Miller and TROPIC OF CANCER/CAPRICORN….However, by the time I completed the fourth one, a little bell went off in my head and I realized Proust was the closer model to what I was doing.
It’s funny because the writings of Marcel Prost are filled with stylistic errors….He will build up a character and then have the key moment (often his/her death) in that character’s life occur off screen or mentioned as an aside by another character totally missing the whole point on spending so much time building up the character to begin with….He will introduce characters as if they were to be very important and then they are never mentioned again….He has no sense of drama and pacing and the literary device he uses to mask discussions and presentations of homosexuality which is having all the gay characters be lesbians, so many lesbians in fact that every female character seems to be a closeted lesbian, just makes certain parts of the narrative utterly ridiculous.
But the six volume IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME is a seminal work and it is an amazing and deeply influential body of writing….What Proust did was find a way to make the biographical merge with fiction writing in a way that has been copied countless ways since but had been not been done much before….His eye for minutiae and detail as well as character’s odd little quirks is without parallel as his portrayal of the fallibility and infallibility of the human memory….I’ve never read a writer who describes group scenes, get togethers, parties better (especially the endless dinners and teas and other high class social functions the narrator attends throughout the books)….Proust is a great writer and one of my favorites for those reasons.
Two writers influenced by Proust that I also like and respect very much are Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac….Both of them described their mission as writers as something along the lines of being like Proust except being a healthy embracer of life instead of being a wealthy hypochondriac shut-in who never worked a day in his life….Your life as a story has merit in proportion to how much honesty there is in it therefore the details of Marcel Proust’s life are not that important except in helping in to understand the story….By documenting his life in this way, Proust developed a blueprint for all writers who look to their own life for inspiration….I think it was a major accomplishment in the history of literature.