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Marcel PROUST A la recherche du temps perdu


A la recherche du temps perdu

Grasset & Nrf, Paris 1913-1927, 12x19cm pour le premier volume & 13x19,5cm pour le second & 14,5x19,5cm pour les suivants, 13 volumes brochés sous coffrets.

A la recherche du temps perdu [In Search of Lost Time]

Grasset & Nrf | Paris 1913-1927 | first volume 12 x 19 cm & second volume 13 x 19.5 cm & other volumes 14,5 x 19,5 cm | original wrappers with custom boxes.
First edition. First volume with all the characteristics of the first issue (Grasset error, the first plate dated 1913, no table of contents, publisher's catalogue at end), one of the advance (service de presse) copies (the head of the second plate marked with the publisher's initials). First edition on ordinary paper with a false edition statement stating the fifth for the second volume. Numbered first editions on pur fil paper, the re-impositions on grand papier (deluxe copy) only for the other volumes.
This complete set of In Search of Lost Time bears three important, attractive inscriptions from Marcel Proust to Lucien Descaves:
«à monsieur Lucien Descaves. / Hommage de l'auteur. / Marcel Proust» in Du côté de chez Swann.
«à monsieur Lucien Descaves. / Respectueux hommage de l'auteur. / Marcel Proust» in Le Côté de Guermantes II - Sodome et Gomorrhe I.
«à monsieur Lucien Descaves. / Admiratif hommage. / Marcel Proust» in Sodome et Gomorrhe II-1.
Each of the thirteen volumes is present in a full black morocco box, spines in the Jansenist style with date at foot, the interior lined with khaki green sheep by Goy & Vilaine. The copy of Swann is, furthermore, preserved within a chemise and slipcase of decorative paper and edged with ochre cloth, as is typically the case with books from the library of Lucien Descaves. Inscribed copies of Swann's Way are themselves of the utmost rarity, but this one is moreover testimony to the 'young' author's first attempts to approach the prestigious Académie Goncourt, of which Lucien Descaves was one of the founding members.
The stormy deliberations of 1919 are often brought up with regard to Proust and the Goncourt, but what people usually omit to mention is that, urged on by Grasset (cf. letters to M. Barrès and R. de Flers, v. XII, letters 127 and 155), Proust manifested an ardent desire, right from 1913 on, to be submitted to the verdict of the Ten, and made a number of moves in this direction:
«My publisher [had me send] my the Goncourt judges. Officially, it's not too late, they're still accepting books, but I think the winner is already more or less decided. There remains the hope that if I could find - not having one as yet - someone to act as advocate for the book, who could make sure it was discussed, it would carve a way for my work so that they'd read it, which is all I could hope for... I am very much afraid that no one will read me, because it's so long and tightly packed. But have some friends in the Académie Goncourt. There are two judges with whom it's not worth bothering. The elder Rosny, because Madame Tinayre (whom I don't know but who, it appears, has a predilection for my writing) has already recommended the book to him (without having read the rest); and Léon Daudet who will most likely not take my part, but with whom I am too closely tied to be able to put myself forward without making a fool of myself. Finally, Louis de Robert, (all this off the top of my head, for this letter that I'm writing is my first step in all this) has written to Paul Margueritte. But I don't think that'll have much effect. Perhaps you know someone else? There are, I believe, Geffroy, Rosny junior, Elémir Bourges, Descaves (but I doubt he'd come back for this), Mirbeau...In any case, perhaps all this will be in vain. I just wanted to mention it, in case,» (letter of the 8 November - the date the printers finished the book - to Madame de Pierrebourg, XII, 140).
Madame de Pierrebourg did not know anyone and Louis de Robert's efforts came up against an obstacle, namely Proust's independent means: «As for the prize, there's something quite comic in that at a time when I'm...more or less fortune should be an obstacle!» (letter to Louis de Robert, XII, 164). For his part, Léon Daudet - to whom he had, in fact, turned for support - held his age against him: «As for the Goncourt...I shall certainly mention your book to my friends. But...but the majority don't want to vote for an author over the age of 35 [underlined]...I, happily, do not share this disposition,» (XII, 144).
Resigned, Proust nonetheless hopes to be mentioned by the Academicians: «It seems impossible that I should have the prize...In any case, if my book is discussed by the Goncourt jury, it will in some measure make up for the distance I've been at for some years from literary life, which means that at my age I am less well-known than a number of people just starting out. Perhaps in seeing my book deliberated over by the jury, some people will decide to read it, and who knows if there won't be among them some friend to my thinking who without this would never have discovered it,» (XII, 170). But none of the members referred to Swann during their deliberations and only the elder Rosny, according to Proust «gave [me] a voice» (XVIII, 221).
When In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower did win the prize in 1919 (despite the same obstacles of Proust's age and fortune) Lucien Descaves disagreed with the decision, preferring instead Roland Dorgelès' Les Croix de bois. Proust mentions his animosity in a letter to the Abbé Mugnier: «I'm sorry that you found out [about the Goncourt prize] from Monsieur Descaves, because he must have accompanied this piece of good news with some rather unflattering comments. In effect, he had campaigned against me and presented the results in the following terms: Monsieur Proust has the prize; Monsieur Dorgelès has the originality of talent and youth. You can't have it all.» Proust goes on to add: «Don't think I harbor the least resentment towards Monsieur Descaves. Those who don't like my books are of exactly the
same opinion as me,» (XVIII, 333).
The copies of he Guermantes Way and Sodom and Gomorrah that Proust gave to this harsh critic of his are proof of the honesty of this statement and the respect he had for the author despite their differences. For his part, 'the Bear', as Lucien Descaves called himself, took great care of his copy of Swann in protecting it with a slipcase and chemise, no doubt aware of the importance of this founding work of modern literature. Nonetheless, one can note that he stopped reading Sodom at page 153, after which the quires are no longer opened.
In his study on Proust and the Goncourt prize, Luc Fraysse highlights that «the awarding of the Goncourt prize to Proust in 1919 for In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower is a major literary event in 20th century history...It was an unparalleled summit in the life of the Académie Goncourt...[and] a decisive and definitive turning point in the literary evolution [of Proust]...[who] went - with no intermediate stage - from relative obscurity to world-wide fame. It was the Goncourt prize that led a larger readership to discover the depth and importance of Proust's work.»
An exceptional set of In Search of Lost Time as it appeared, bearing three attractive signed autograph inscriptions from Marcel Proust to Lucien Descaves.

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