Proust’s Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini is a fascinating and intimate look into one collector’s obsession with the influential French author Marcel Proust. Jacques Guerin’s obsession with and interest in all things Proust lead to an amazing collection that was amassed over a long period of time. This collection was ultimately donated and preserved for posterity’s sake. Had Guerin not so enthusiastically and tirelessly sought these items, many of them would have been lost to the world forever.
Foschini’s book begins with the delicate unwrapping of the preserved, yet crumbling overcoat worn for years by Marcel Proust. An item that can appear commonplace or simple turns out to represent so much more as the book continues on. Guerin, a wealthy perfumer, is referred to Marcel Proust’s younger brother, Robert, a doctor, when he needs medical attention. It is about seven years after the death of Marcel Proust that this meeting takes place and once inside Dr. Proust’s apartment, Guerin is given a glimpse at unpublished manuscripts and letters that once belonged to the author. He is also shown personal journals and sketches. An instant fascination is sparked.
While trying to find out more on Proust, his life and his works, Madame Proust, (Marcel’s sister-in-law), bluntly states that she will burn most of his effects upon the death of her husband. Hearing this, Guerin knows he must do what he can to preserve Proust’s personal objects. Upon Dr. Proust’s death, Madame Proust does burn many of Marcel’s writings and personal items, but not all meet a cruel end. After befriending the young [amazonify]0061965677[/amazonify]man who has been placed in charge of the remaining Proust effects, Guerin makes purchase, after purchase, after purchase, until his collection grows and grows. The magnitude and importance of what he collects is truly amazing.
Foschini tells the story of Guerin with frankness and passion. She does not overwhelm the reader with boring, minute details. The reader cannot help but to root for the man and only hope that his collection continues to grow so the act of conservation can continue. Foschini includes snippets of intimate letters, unpublished passionate poems, and unpublished personal sketches by Proust. Foschini truly did her research and did it well. This quick read is a must for any lover of literature and history.
In addition to working on her own personal writing, editing Messy Magazine, and writing for multiple sites, Lauren is also currently pursuing her MFA in English. More of her work can be found at goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ecco. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.