by Adam Watt
Reaktion Books. 208 pages, $16.95
THIS IS an amazing book, given its small size, standing on the backs of much weightier biographies of Proust, such as the recent door stopper by Jean Yves Tadié. It also makes excellent use of Proust’s correspondence. It covers everything, but its economy provides a perspective that lets us see both the forest and the trees.
Tracing three strands—Proust’s social life, his writing, and his health—Watt carefully walks us through the process by which Proust finally arrived at his masterpiece, including his experience writing newspaper articles, pastiches (parodies of great writers), and essays like “On Reading,” which led to the final form of his own novel—a form that was anything but final as it turns out. In 1986, yet another of Proust’s typescripts was discovered,