Dictionary for Lovers of Marcel Proust

Jean-Paul and Raphaël Enthoven

(Plon/Grasset, 736 pages, 2013)


***Winner of the 2013 Femina Prize for Best Essay***

A is for Agony. Z is for Zinedine de Guermantes. While the work of Marcel Proust continues to be assailed by hordes of purists, snobs, and fetishists who often spoil the pure joy of diving into the oeuvre of one of the greatest writers of all time, this seven-hundred-page dictionary catalogs Proust’s more bizarre details, allusions, and heretofore under-remarked curiosa. With Raphaël Enthoven minutely and textually exploring À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) and Jean-Paul Enthoven exploring the variations on Proust himself, the two authors tackle this monument of literature with the casualness (and erudition) it deserves.

Eschewing tired, well-worn aspects of Proustism for delightfully unusual entries, the authors put together this compilation with contagious enthusiasm. From Datura to Kabbalah, from Plotinus to Schopenhauer, and Asparagus to Oscar Wilde (whose rudeness at the Proust residence inspired one of the French writer’s most memorable characters, the Baron de Charlus), these analyses spark a fresh discussion of Proust’s colorful biography and literary genius.

Several excerpts from correspondence and Proust’s actual works are reprinted in this mischievous and thorough addition to the “Dictionary for Lovers of . . .” series, a work as scholarly as it is amusing. While the Enthovens suggest rereading the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time at least four times in order to discover the relevant passages for each phase of life, even the less ambitious will come away from this resource with their curiosity piqued and a desire to revisit Proust’s work with a richer understanding, if not to pick up for the first time what previously seemed daunting.

Jean-Paul Enthoven is a writer, editor, and literary columnist, as well as a member of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In addition to Dictionnaire amoureux de Marcel Proust, four of his other works, all published by Grasset, have also won prestigious literary prizes: Saisons de papier (2016), La dernière femme (2006), Aurore (2001), and Les enfants de Saturne (1996).

Raphaël Enthoven, a professor of philosophy, is an established radio and television host and producer. He is also a prolific writer with over a dozen works published in France.

The two authors, father and son, are media personalities and can count on influential networks of support in the written and audiovisual press.