Cover image for Proust in the power of photography
Proust in the power of photography
Brassaï, 1899-1984.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Marcel Proust sous l'emprise de la photographie. English
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xii, 140 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates: illustrations ; 20 cm
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ2631.R63 Z526513 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



One of the most original and memorable photographers of the twentieth century, Brassaï was also a journalist, sculptor, and writer. He took great pride in his writing, and he loved literature and language-French most of all. When he arrived in Paris in 1924, Brassaï began teaching himself French by reading Proust. Captured by the sensuality and visual strategies of Proust's writing, Brassaï soon became convinced that he had discovered a kindred spirit. Brassaï wrote: "In his battle against Time, that enemy of our precarious existence, ever on the offensive though never openly so, it was in photography, also born of an age-old longing to halt the moment, to wrest it from the flux of duration in order to 'fix' it forever in a semblance of eternity, that Proust found his best ally." He quoted Proust in his own writing, and from the annotated books in his library, we know that he spent a lifetime studying and dissecting Proust's prose, often line by line.

Drawing on his own experience as a photographer and author, Brassaï discovers a neglected aspect of Proust's interests, offering us a fascinating study of the role of photography both in Proust's oeuvre and in early-twentieth-century culture. Brassaï shows us how Proust was excessively interested in possessing portraits of his acquaintances and how the process by which he remembered and wrote was quite similar to the ways in which photographs register and reveal life's images. This book-beautifully translated by Richard Howard-features previously obscure photographs from Brassaï's High Society series and offers a rare glimpse into two of France's most fascinating artistic minds.

Author Notes

One of the most important & influential photographers of the twentieth century, Brassai (1899-1984) moved to Paris from Hungary in 1924. He is best known for chronicling the city in the 1930s & for his portraits of artists such as Picasso & Matisse, & writers including Henry Miller. His fifty-year artistic career also encompassed drawing, sculpture, writing, & filmmaking.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

When he first read In Search of Lost Time in 1926, Brassai was not a photographer; when he reread it in the late 1960s, he realized that Proust's appreciation of photography anticipated the work of Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes and that, in fact, "photographic art is at the heart of Proustian creation." Throughout his life, Proust collected photographic portraits and used them as models. He also relied on reproductions when he studied painting and architecture. Thus, photographs are an important part of Search, and Brassai draws attention to specific scenes and the functions photographs perform in the narrative, as powerful "simulacra" or metaphors. The poses and multiple images of people perceived through time and through the narrator's varied lenses, sometimes close-up and sometimes from afar, seem to Brassai inextricably connected to the form and purpose of a photo album. He connects Proust's image-making with the function of the stereoscope (two images creating three-dimensionality) and with the way in which chronophotography could deconstruct movement. Linking Proust's vision to the camera and his idea of involuntary memory to the development of the latent image in the darkroom, this thought-provoking study (accompanied by 16 of Bressai's photographs) is a must for those interested in the relationship between photography and literature. All levels. S. Vander Closter Rhode Island School of Design

Table of Contents

I Photography in Proust's Life
1 Birth of a Passion
2 Exchanges of Photographs
3 The Role of Photography in Proust's Artistic Formation
II Keys for the Search
4 The Giant Photograph of the Knights of Malta
5 The Portrait of Berma
6 To Win Back Her Husband, Gilberte Obtains Photographs of His Mistress
7 Saint-Loup's Disappointment
8 The Longed-for Photograph of Gilberte Swann
9 Miss Sacripant, the ""Lady in Pink,"" and Odette: One and the Same Person
10 The Fascinating Duchess d