For the Troubled Writer: Swann’s Way and Proust’s Publishing Problems

Proust jkt mech.inddIn continuing the centennial celebration of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, it is sometimes difficult to remember that this work was not always considered worthy of such fanfare. When Proust first attempted to find a publisher for his first volume of In Search of Lost Time, he was met with rejection letters and confusion. Editors claimed, “you will not find a reader strong enough to stay with it for over a quarter of an hour, especially with the nature of the sentences that leak all over the place,” noting the remarkable length and complexity of Proust’s prose.

This text, which now inspires staged readings and exhibits and op-eds, was at first scoffed at for being too decadent. Eventually, Proust did find a home for his manuscript, but the original publication required Proust to pay the printing costs himself. His editor never even read the text.

In commemorating such an exquisite and timeless work, it is both amusing and comforting to remember that even Swann’s Way faced its share of criticism and close-mindedness. And as the holidays approach, Swann’s Way, newly edited and annotated by Proust biographer and scholar William C. Carter, might make the perfect gift for the aspiring writers on your list — a holiday reminder that even Proust started somewhere!

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