Proust elevated grumbling to an art.

—Jessica Leigh Hester, City Lab

Brilliantly translated by Lydia Davis, here are Proust’s tormented, touching, and often very funny letters to his noisy neighbor

Letters to His Neighbor

Nonfiction by Marcel Proust

Translated from the French by Lydia Davis

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Clothbound (published August 22, 2017)

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Ebook (published August 22, 2017)


One wonders if the headaches of apartment living might even have inspired him, as a worthy enemy might goad one to action.

Harper’s Magazine

A collection of letters to the neighbours about noise would seem unpromising material for a book, unless they were written by Marcel Proust, who was so sweet, kind, funny and charming that his letters of complaint, written between 1909 and 1919 to Marie Williams and her husband, are a delightful surprise.

—Lewis Jones, Daily Telegraph

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.


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 is a charmer… it’s no wonder the exchange lasted nearly a decade.

—Caitlin Youngquist, The Paris Review

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