“Le Mystereieux Correspondant” by Marcel Proust— Proust’s Gay Stories Are Coming To Us

“Le Mystereieux Correspondant”

Proust’s Gay Stories Are Coming To Us

Amos Lassen

Nine lost stories by Marcel Proust that were written in the late 1890s and not published and entitled “Le Mystérieux Correspondant” will be published this fall. Many think that they were not published is because is that Proust felt they were audacious. Proust was in his 20’s when he wrote these.

They were discovered by the late Proust specialist Bernard de Fallois, whose publishing house Editions de Fallois will publish them in French in October under the title Le Mystérieux Correspondant (The Mysterious Correspondent).

De Fallois has  said the stories are a mix of fairytales, fantasy and dialogues with the dead and in them we see where Proust got his ideas for “À la recherche du temps perdu” (“In Search of Lost Time”), which was published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927.

The nine stories were secret and Proust never spoke of them”.  Most of the texts are about the awareness of his homosexuality and were written in a darkly tragic way.  Proust never publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, and actually fought a duel with a reviewer who suggested that he was gay. He wanted to make love to other men and he was determined not to be labeled as  homosexual.

Luc Fraisse, a professor at the University of Strasbourg, has annotated and edited the stories for the forthcoming 176 paged book which is being published to commemorate the centenary of Proust winning France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for “À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs” (“Within a Budding Grove”).

Proust was afraid that the stories could have offended a social milieu where strong traditional morals prevailed.  The main theme of the stories is an analysis of “the physical love so unjustly denied” that Proust writes of in his masterwork and to tell the public about  “Sodome et Gomorrhe”, the fourth volume of the series  and in which Proust explores homosexual love.

The stories are an intimate diary of the writer “The awareness of homosexuality is experienced in an exclusively tragic way, as a curse. We don’t find, anywhere, those comic notes introduced here and there throughout “In Search of Lost Time” which give the work all the colors of life, even in the darkest dramas.”

Proust had already, in the unpublished stories, found his “perfect mastery of expression”. While they are not as precise as “In Search of Lost Time”, but they help us understand it better, but showing us what from where it came.

Proust died in 1922 at the age of 51, after pneumonia became bronchitis and then he developed an abscess on the lungs. One of his obituaries described him as “very pale, with burning black eyes, frail and short in stature”. It also acknowledged that “of all idols and masters of present-day literature in France he is most likely to have won a place which time will not take away”.

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