Anka Muhlstein is the author of, notably, Napoléon à Moscou and Garçon! Un cent d’huitres, published by Editions Odile Jacob. She is a historian and biographer with a special interest in great queens such as Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart and Queen Victoria.
Most writers are also great readers and Proust is no exception. What distinguishes Proust is the significant role that literature played in his works. What sort of reader was Proust? Even as a child, he took reading very seriously. For the young Marcel, reading was not a form of entertainment: it was a traumatic event.
The influences of Chateaubriand and Baudelaire are particularly noticeable in the way Proust, as a novelist, envisaged his work, but he turned primarily to Madame de Sévigné, Racine, Saint-Simon and Balzac to give depth and texture to his characters.
By examining the works that Proust read in his childhood and youth, the author offers the reader a fresh approach to such a complex work as La Recherche du temps perdu.
• 2013 marks the centenary of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann.
• A rereading of Proust’s works in the light of his own reading.