Proustbetrieb: A small genealogy of the family of the narrator of the “research”

Whoever begins to read “In Search of Lost Time”, the “research”, does not initially have an easy time with the narrator’s family. Sure, there’s the mother, she’s central to all of Marcel Proust’s work; Of course, there is the grandmother, who played a no less important role in the volume “Guermantes” until her death and was at least given a (rarely mentioned) name by Proust, Bathilde.

The father, on the other hand, although important, not least because the son realizes that he has inherited his temperament, has few appearances in contrast to the two female figures; the father’s parents are also invisible, just like Marcel, the narrator, remains without siblings (Proust had a brother, Robert).

The famous chimes of the bell

But what about the numerous other relatives outside the family core? To those who also seem to attend Combray every year and are in the garden when the famous chime of the bell chimes and Swann stands at the door to pay his visit and bring the mischief of the missing kiss goodnight upon the narrator ?

“Remember to thank him in an understandable way for his wine, you know it’s delicious and the case is huge,” says the grandfather in “Combray” to his two sisters-in-law, who appeared almost suddenly. The grandfather is Bathilde’s husband, so Marcel’s mother’s father, who always hums anti-Semitic songs when Jewish friends come to visit. Amedee is his name.

But the two sisters-in-law, two great-aunts of the narrator? Their names are Flora and Céline and they are Bathilde’s sisters. They are also big fans of Swann, also because he gave them the wine. They only appear briefly, but by name. And they are therefore far from having the importance of Aunt Léonie, in which Proust not least portrayed himself.

Aunt Léonie is introduced as the daughter of a cousin “of my grandfather – my great-aunt.” wanted to leave;”.

Aunt Léonie is one of the protagonists of Combray, as is Uncle Adolphe, albeit brief, who is later no longer seen by the family. A brother of Amédée, Adolphe is the Parisian bon vivant who likes to meet the “lady in pink”, the prostitute who later turns out to be Odette and becomes Swann’s wife.

Gerrit Bartels is a literary editor and sometimes read “In Search of Lost Time” on the subway.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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