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The World of Proust

KNOWN TO POSTERITY as the supersensitive freak who withdrew to his stuffy, cork-lined room to spin gossip, reverie, and insomnia into the greatest novel of the twentieth century, after throwing a good-bye dinner at the Ritz (partly to show he still had his marbles), Proust only seemed to retire from society. In fact, he invited tout le monde into his bedroom to recast them in realer roles—in his personal psychic puppet theater that would outlive them all. Subsisting on little more than caffeine and asthma meds, the electively bedridden night owl sated his appetite for intrigue through a lively correspondence, midnight visits, and chats with the help.

Photos play a funny role in Proust’s world. On the one hand, his oeuvre is the antithesis of photography, demonstrating that art (and personal truth) begin where the mere objectivity of photography ends. The only reality is the darkroom of the

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