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"Proust, Prix Goncourt", vivissection of a literary milieu

Portrait of Marcel Proust by Jacques-Émile Blanche./Sylvestre/MAXPPP

• Proust, Prix Goncourt, from Thierry Laget, Gallimard, 262 p., € 19.50

When can one be certain of being faced with a masterpiece of literature? This question haunts the public, the critics and the jurors of a multitude of prices, first and foremost the Goncourt. For this one hundred years ago, the subject came to the table – already at Drouant's. Against all odds, in 1919, Marcel Proust, valetudinaire esthete, obtained the Goncourt, which passed that year under the nose of the robust veteran Roland Dorgelès: In the shade of young girls in bloom slaying The wooden crosses ! And this, at the end of a sacrificial and glorified war, which the soldiers were supposed to have "Rights to us"in France – doubled by a Chamber – blue horizon: imagine the shambles.

A literary riot

The thing being hardly imaginable a century later, Thierry Laget returns on this "Literary riot" . With a crazy talent: clear and incisive style wielding millimetric irony; It's a good idea to cite your name, without any burial effects, but by putting at your disposal all the offers of proof gleaned from the archives of this troubled time.

This time formerly does not lack of spice: the anti-Semitic Maurrassian Leon Daudet contributes to the success of a Jewish writer and Dreyfusard, vomited by the left which distinguishes, in this Proust, only the supreme stage of bourgeois degeneration. The heart of the book is to exhume bewildering reactions: it's all about "Proustitution"and of "Gallimardtias", about an author that an uncertain Robert Dieudonné then deals with "Dilettante who looks at her face in a mirror and, with attention from young acne, snaps her pimples to see what's inside" .

Bernard de Fallois, the "scout" of Proust

Thierry Laget sums up thus, about the comments that Marcel Proust raises after obtaining the Prize: "When you put the biographical elements that the press thinks you have collected on it, you get the portrait of an eccentric, a broken spirit, a vampire who prefers milk to blood, a pervert literary. " The cross turns out to be the most sober hostile newspaper, noting with just enough disdain that the choice of Goncourt is not enough to "Recommend to our readers" such a work …

The moral of the story

The presentation of these cataracts of misinterpretation, but also of hatred (we dare not imagine the painting a hundred years later with social networks!), Is accompanied by an exciting counter-field on the recipient side: at once a picky strategist aiming at getting and out of the way – Proust was sleeping when someone came to force his door to tell him the good news. The counteroffensive of the Dorgelès clan (up to the banner on The wooden crosses advertising at wholesale "Prix Goncourt"and in small "4 votes out of 10" ) reads like a novel.

Marcel Proust, through the seasons

Moral of the story: Marcel Poust dies three years later at 51 years old. Roland Dorgelès will bow in 1973, at almost 88 years old, not without presiding, since 1954, the Academy Goncourt of which he was a member since 1929: "He will have the pleasure of sitting with some of those who did not wantWooden crossand two unfortunate candidates of 1919, Alexandre Arnoux and Gerard Bauer, as if the fact of having been defeated by Proust had given men who dared to confront him, more than any other, the right to judge their peers ", slips tasty Thierry Laget.

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