Proust: Mod or Epoque’r?
What nonsense is this? you ask. Before you shout me down for plain lunacy, I do think it’s worth considering whether Proust was a Modernist or was he still entrenched in La Belle Epoque (sounds a like Rock, Get it?)
Personally, I think the fascinating thing about ‘In Search of Lost Time‘, is how it encompasses both. Proust, anxious to recollect his past as fully and completely as possible, recorded seven volumes worth of memories, each carefully pinned and mounted like butterflies in glass cases. He is a collector. To me, this is a key characteristic of a mindset in France in this period, in which scientific discovery and colonialism had raised the practices of collecting and recording data to that of an art form.
However, his exploration of the internal life – the profound and eternal solitude of our existence – is thoroughly Modern. The novel is entrenched in one but saturated with the vision of the other. So, maybe it’s not a case of Mods and Rockers but more Proust looking emo, with his dark hair and ‘Rites of Spring’ t-shirt, but listening to Debussy on his i-pod.