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Nine Newly Discovered Proust Stories to Be Published

The works were slated to be part of the French author’s first collection of poems and stories, but were cut for unknown reasons

Marcel Proust in 1900. (Public Domain)
smithsonian.com

Almost 100 years after his death, fans of Marcel Proust will be getting a new book from the late French writer. Publisher Editions de Fallois announced that it will release nine unpublished novellas and short stories by the literary master and author of the epic seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time this fall.

Agence France-Presse reports that the pieces were originally composed by Proust in his early 20s for inclusion in his first book, Plaisirs et les Jours (Pleasures and Days), a collection of poems and short stories first published in 1896. But for some reason, Proust decided to cut these nine works from the book.

The pieces were discovered by Bernard de Fallois, founder of the publishing house, who died in late 2018. They will be collected together under the title The Mysterious Correspondent and Other Unpublished Novellas. The 180-page book, which will be published on October 9, will include facsimiles of Proust’s original pages.

According to the publisher, most of the stories follow a conventional short story format, though a few are more meandering and meditative, suggesting some elements of his later work. Stylistically, the publisher says, the works suggest inklings of Proust’s future writing, including striking metaphors and wry comedic insights.

The big mystery is why Proust abandoned these works and left some of them incomplete.

It’s possible that the young writer decided the works, which address physical love and touch on homosexuality, were too scandalous for his audience. It’s also possible that he cut the pieces to try and balance out his short story collection.

Whatever the case, the texts cover some of the same territory found in 1913’s Swann’s Way, the first book in In Search of Lost Time, which follows a narrator’s memories of his life and childhood, and delves into his philosophical musings.

This is not the only Proust manuscript that Fallois, who was one of the world’s leading Proust scholars, recovered. Notably, he identified the 900-page novel Jean Santeuil, published after the author’s death; he also uncovered an unfinished work called Contre Sainte-Beuve, an unfinished book of essays, many of which were critical of the literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve.

Proust isn't the only author who continues to publish from beyond the grave. The estate of Ernest Hemingway keeps releasing works by the Nobel-prize-winning American writer and J.R.R. Tolkien has had two dozen posthumous books published since his death in 1973.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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