How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton (1997)

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p.41, on reading the ‘news-in-brief’ section of the daily paper:

* Tragic end for Verona lovebirds: after mistakenly thinking his sweetheart dead, a young man took his life. Having discovered the fate of her lover, the woman killed herself in turn.

  • A young mother threw herself under a train and died in Russia after domenstic problems.
  • A young mother took arsenic and died in a French provincial town after domestic problems.

Unfortunately, the very artistry of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Flaubert has the tendency to suggest that it would have been apparent even from a news-in-brief that there was something significant about Romeo, Anna, and Emma, something which would have led any right-thinking person to see that these were characters fit for great literature or a show at the Globe, whereas of course there would have been nothing to distinguish them [from the everyday items that make it into news-in-brief.]


There would come a moment with every book when we would feel that something was incongruous, misunderstood, or constraining, and it would give us a responsibility to leave our guide behind and continue our thoughts alone.


…there is nothing inherently three-star about a town Proust grew up in or inherently no-star about an Elf petrol station neaer Courville where Proust never had a chance to fill his Renault — but where if he had, he might easily have found something to appreciate…


It should not be Illiers-Combray that we visit: a genuine homage to Proust would be to look at our world through his eyes, not to look at his world through our eyes.