Happily working my way through William C. Carter's Proust in Love, and soon to turn to The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust's Swedish Valet, and afterwards probably returning to finish Richard Davenport-Hines' Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed Paris, I realise that I'm always in the mood for some Proustiana! And then, yesterday, Slightly Bluestocking brings my attention to Henri Raczymow's Swan's Way. The publisher's blurb reads thusly:
What begins as a meditation on the fictional identity of the elegant "swan" of Proust's In Search of Lost Time becomes, through a series of turns and twists, an ingenious investigation of the character's real-life counterpart, Charles Haas. Part novel, part essay, part literary sleuthing, Swan's Way is a critical tour de force. Through an inspired reading of Proust's text, Henri Raczymow gradually unravels the multiple contradictions of Charles Swann's personality, brought into focus by the fault lines in Proust's narrative method. The author traces Swann's evolution and the multiple ways in which his Jewish identity keeps peeping through the veneer of respectability of this sophisticated dandy. Through a parallel inquiry into the history of the Jockey Club--to which Haas, a Jew, was, like Swann, exceptionally admitted--and the transformation of the German-Jewish Haas into the fashionable British Swann, Swan's Way evolves into an examination of the question of personal identity and posthumous survival. Charles Haas's Jewish identity is the invisible thread that guides Raczymow through the maze of Proust's work, which serves as a backdrop against which fin-de-siècle French society enacts the ugly drama of anti-Semitism. Blurring the boundaries between life and fiction, Swan's Way leads the reader ever deeper into the unresolved question of literary and personal character.