Friedlander, Saul. “Proustian Uncertainties: On Reading and Rereading ‘In Search of Lost Time’”, Other Press, 2020.
So many of us have struggled with reading Marcel Proust that often we have to read and reread him several times. Saul Freidlander in “Proustian Uncertainties” shows us how to do that successfully as we explore the idea of identity in both his own and Proust’s life. He looks at how
he sees himself, how this compares to what we know of Proust, and the importance is of these various points of commonality and divergence. Proust did not hide his homosexuality but the narrator did. Friedlander tried to marginalize his part-Jewish background while Proust did not. Does this say something about Friedlander’s position, and how he handle what he tries, but does not manage, to tuck away? These are major questions raised by the text and reflected in the text. The answers to this are hardly obvious as Friedlander reflects on time, on death, on memory, and on love.
Friedländer draws on his personal experience from a life spent investigating the ties between history and memory to offer a new perspective on “In Search of Lost Time”.
As a historian, Friedländer has always filled his scholarship with literary sensibility and we certainly see that here. He is the great historian of Nazi Germany and the Jews who also wrote his own Proustian memoir, “When Memory Comes” and here heargues that Proust’s narrator is a “disembodied presence unlike that in any novel before” and it is here that the relation of that presence to Proust himself makes his memories significant as well as a satire on the society of the time.
He shares his thoughts and presents theories that he has collected over many years about a book that he loves and does so by a careful study of the novel in which he points out the “continuities and contradictions that are hard to see from within the teeming thickets of Proust’s prose.”
Looking at the hidden depths of Marcel Proust’s novel, he gives us his personal thoughts on it. Here is time as reflected by Proust as he looks at“the historical controversies that have raged around so many of the topics he covers with untiring fair-mindedness”.