Exhibit | January 31, 2013

The Morgan Library Celebrates Proust

New York, NY, January 30, 2013—? la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past, in the original English translation, or, in more recent translations, In Search of Lost Time), by Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is indisputably one of the seminal works of twentieth-century literature. Breaking new ground with its treatment of experience and memory, and the nature of writing itself, the seven-volume novel profoundly influenced the development of modern fiction. Beginning February 15, The Morgan Library & Museum marks the centennial of the 1913 publication of the novel’s first volume, Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way), with an exhibition exploring Proust’s approach to writing and the personal experiences and relationships that so deeply influenced his prose. Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way: 100th Anniversary will run through April 28, 2013.

Organized by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, with the participation of renowned Proust scholar Antoine Compagnon, the exhibition brings together the bulk of the writer’s manuscripts relating to Swann’s Way, along with a selection of his notebooks, preliminary drafts, galley proofs, and other documents from the Marcel Proust Collection at the BnF. Also on view are several letters between Proust and his mother, from the Morgan’s collection, as well as photographs and period postcards depicting the people and places that greatly affected the author’s life and work.

“Marcel Proust is truly one of the icons of modern literature,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “His writing daringly moved away from the plot-centered realism of the nineteenth century to a more personal, introspective view of a world full of nuance and multiple points of view. The Morgan is delighted to partner with the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to present this important exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann’s Way.”

Swann’s Way and Its Precursors 

Proust culled many of Swann’s Way’s themes, scenes, and ideas from exercise books—several of which are on view in the exhibition—related to his unfinished novel, Jean Santeuil (1895-99), and to an unfinished work that is part-narrative and part-essay entitled Contre Sainte-Beuve (1908-09).

Jean Santeuil, for example, includes descriptions of the ‘pré Catelan' garden that contributed richly to Proust’s depiction of the fictitious town of Combray in Swann’s Way. A childhood friend named Marie de Benardaky, who became Marie Kossichef in Jean Santeuil, was later used as the model for Gilberte Swann. Similarly, the names of Jean and Françoise, characters from Jean Santeuil, were subsequently replaced by those of Swann and Odette.

The Contre Sainte-Beuve exercise books show that by the spring of 1909 Proust’s prose was moving substantively in the direction of his signature use of “involuntary memory.” Several of the themes and episodes of Swann’s Way take shape in the pages on view, including Proust’s portrayal of the bedtime dramas so key to the work, as well as his description of walks around Combray and Swann’s visits. A precursor to the famous madeleine episode also appears in one of the Sainte-Beuve exercise books on display. At this stage, in early 1909, it is toasted bread soaked in tea that triggers the resurrection of the past. Proust wrote: “my mother […] offered me some tea, something I did not ordinarily take, and, without me noticing, brought me […] some biscotti.” The exercise books tellingly show Proust musing about the form his art might take: “Should it be a novel, a philosophical essay, am I novelist?”

The display of typescripts and galley proofs provide valuable insight into Proust’s working process, which relied heavily on revision. In the first corrected copy of the ‘Combray’ chapter typescript, Proust crossed out his original opening passage, replacing it with what would become one of the most memorable opening lines in literature: “For a long time, I went to bed early.”

After rejections from several publishers, Proust decided in February 1913 to publish his novel at his own expense. At the beginning of April, he began to receive from publisher Bernard Grasset the novel’s proofs—a selection is on view in the exhibition—which he edited throughout the summer. It is from these revised proofs that the first edition of Swann’s Way was published on November 8, 1913. 

Proust’s World

The exhibition features a number of photographs and postcards that provide visual context for the places and relationships upon which Proust drew so heavily when constructing his novel. On display are views of Illiers, the town where Proust and his family spent their Easters and summer holidays during his childhood and which served as the model for Combray. Also displayed are photographs of the Champs-?lysées garden where a young and often unwell Proust played after school, as well as views of Paris’s eighth arrondissement, where the writer lived for most of his life. Also included is a photograph of Marcel with his brother, Robert, and his mother, Jeanne, with whom he shared a complex relationship and whose death grieved him deeply and became one of the fundamental motivations in his decision to write In Search of Lost Time.



Reading and Rereading Proust
Monday, March 4, 6:30 pm

In conjunction with the exhibition Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way: 100th Anniversary, Antoine Compagnon, Blanche W. Knopf Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, and Professor at the Collège de France, Paris, will talk about the pleasures of reading and rereading Proust, and discuss the experience of first and consecutive readings of Swann's Way, for both non-scholarly enjoyment and academic study. The exhibition will be open at 5:30 pm especially for lecture attendees.

$15; $10 for members; Free for students with valid ID
212-685-0008 x560; themorgan.org/programs



La Captive
Friday, April 19, 7 pm
(2000, 118 minutes)
Director: Chantal Akerman

Based on the fifth volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, this film explores a vision of love as possession. The beguiled Simon (Stanislas Merhar) pursues Ariane (Sylvie Testud), though suspects she is engaged in an illicit affair with Andrée (Olivia Bonamy). His obsession manifests in a jealous mania that questions who is captive—the lover or the loved.

Free with admission. Tickets are available at the Admission Desk on the day of the screening.


Marcel Proust and Swann's Way: 100th Anniversary at The Morgan Library and Museum is organized by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, with the participation of renowned Proust scholar Antoine Compagnon.

This exhibition was made possible by the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation. 

Generous support was provided by Air France, Jean-Marie and Elizabeth Eveillard, Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt, the Institut français, the Y. A. Istel Foundation, and the Leonard and Elaine Silverstein Family Foundation.

The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with The City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.



The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan's private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

General Information
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station

Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; extended Friday hours, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Morgan closes at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

$15 for adults; $10 for students, seniors (65 and over), and children (under 16); free to Members and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Admission is free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is not required to visit the Morgan Shop.