Who’s Afraid of Marcel Proust naziv je članka Patrika Mekginisa (Patrick McGuinness) koji je objavljen na sajtu magazina The Telegraph. Autor kroz uvod, koji je o nerazumevanju Prustovog dela od strane izdavača i Žida, preispituje odnos klasika i prvobitnog nerazumevanja od strane čitalaca i kritike, pa čak i od strane drugih pisaca, savremenika koji su kasnije proglašeni, baš kao i Prust, klasicima.
Do we expect our classics to be misunderstood? Is that how we measure their path-breaking greatness? Ten years after ‘Swann’s Way’, Gallimard received a long Irish novel which one of their most distinguished writers dismissed as ‘obscene’ and ‘blighted by a diabolical lack of talent’. The Irish novelist was James Joyce, and disgusted of the septième was Paul Claudel. Even geniuses can misunderstand one another: when Proust met Joyce, his most radical successor, the two men barely spoke except to compare ailments. If we really want to understand how art works, how books and paintings and symphonies and buildings get made, survive and become part of our lives, we need to understand the role misunderstanding plays in culture.
Gide got Proust wrong, but what he said was half-true. Proust, he thought, was a snob, a society writer who dealt in trivia, a nostalgist who evoked the lost days of belle époque France, and whose obsession with memory didn’t just avoid the present but actually denied it.
Proust, born in Paris in 1871 to an upper-class family and Jewish on his mother’s side, wrote the obituary of 19th-century France. Born in his great-uncle’s house during the violent crisis that resulted from the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune, he made himself the elegist of the fin de siècle. An anglophile with imperfect English, he admired and translated Ruskin, whom he claimed to know by heart. After a first novel, ‘Jean Santeuil’ (unpublished until 1952), in which we find many of the themes and characters that emerge in ‘A la recherche’, and a poorly received book of poetic prose and sketches ‘Les Plaisirs et les jours’ (1896), Proust set to work on the novel that would take him 20 years and which he completed hours before his death. Proust wrote obsessively, turning all he had internalised in culture, social observation and vicarious living – through art, music, books – into a moving architecture of words.