Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Proust and Roussel

Raymond Roussel riding a white swan
As a child Roussel lived at 25 boulevard Malesherbes, a near neighbour of Marcel Proust - author of Swann’s Way and Swann In Love -, who occupied number 9. Roussel, like Proust, had an overbearing mother who insisted that her son underwent a medical examination every day! In later life when holidaying abroad, Roussel always carried a coffin among his luggage, so as not to inconvenience other travellers in case he passed away. 
Marcel Proust on his deathbed 
For both authors daily contact with reality seemed strewn with pitfalls, and their writings (or 'excavations', as Roussel put it) - written albeit through the employment very different procedures - were a search for lost time. Cocteau (who met Roussel in what would now be known as a rehab clinic) called Roussel ‘the Proust of dreams’. Independent of one another (for it is uncertain that they ever met) Proust and Roussel fasted for days on end then indulged on childish foods: marshmallows, brioche bread pudding – devoured a vast quantity of cakes. 

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