Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

“Everything great in the world comes from neurotics,” said Marcel Proust, one of the most admired and important writers of the twentieth century.

Letters to His Neighbor

Nonfiction by Marcel Proust

Translated from the French by Lydia Davis

Marcel Proust’s genius for illuminating pain is on spectacular display in this recently discovered trove of his correspondence, Letters to His Neighbor. Already suffering from noise within his cork-lined walls, Proust’s poor soul was not ready for the fresh hell of his new upstairs neighbor, Dr. Williams, a dentist with a thriving practice directly above his head. Chiefly to Mme Williams, these ever-polite letters (often accompanied by flowers, books, or compliments) are frequently hilarious—Proust couches his pained frustration in gracious eloquence.…
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Thoughtfully curated in English by New Directions with a scholarly and rigorous afterword by translator Lydia Davis, the letters are inflected by fine observations and moments of deep empathy. They are suffused with the intimate textures of daily life—flowers and fragrance—and allow us an insight into the larger social context of the time, with reports of the wounded returning from war. Thematically, they are often concerned with art, poetry, and ruins. As a collection, they obliquely chart the passing of seasons as well as the publication history of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

Aysmptote

Proust elevated grumbling to an art.

—Jessica Leigh Hester, City Lab

Letters to His Neighbor, brilliantly translated by Lydia Davis, is inadvertently hilarious in hyper-genteel poise; we see Proust at his most desperate, charming to the extreme, an effect no doubt amplified by Davis’s elegant prose.

The Village Voice

If you have suffered from noisy neighbours, you will sympathize with Marcel Proust.

The Times Literary Supplement

A trove of charming correspondence from literature’s most famous ‘noise phobic.’

Kirkus Reviews

Proust whining rhapsodically about the sounds of frolicking children on the other side of his bedroom wall, as translated by Lydia Davis—what’s not to love here?

—Evan Lavender-Smith, HTMLGiant

Lydia Davis’s translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned. Exhilarating.

Publishers Weekly

A sensitive and direct translation. Lydia Davis does us a great service in bringing back Proust.

—Claire Messud, Newsday
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