Stalking Marcel Proust from Paris to Cabourg to Illiers-Combray

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Stalking Marcel Proust from Paris to Cabourg to Illiers-Combray
A century after the great author’s death, Michele Kurlander goes on a quest to follow in Proust’s footsteps, and along the way, discovers a new, more readable English translation of “In Search of Lost Time.” One of the wonders of Paris is that so much of the history of those who famously lived and wrote there can still be found by walking the rues to find their homes and hangouts. Buildings are seldom demolished and replaced by modernism in Paris – unlike over here, where the wrecking crane and construction site is ever present. I recently wrote in these pages about how my preferred landing place in Paris is a 5th-arrondissement neighborhood around the rue Mouffetard, once a Roman road leading out of Paris, where Hemingway’s apartment from his early writing days can still be located, along with the bar at which he drank and perhaps wrote parts of A Moveable Feast. Shopping along rue Mouffetard. Photo: Michele Kurlander Yes, the streets and buildings and churches of Paris exude their history and I adore taking it all in and letting my blood be warmed and my heart beat a bit faster with the knowledge. My imagination can run rampant in this town. As I have said in the past – only partially joking – I think perhaps in another life I lived somewhere in the 5th or 6th arrondissement and wrote novels and poetry for a living and had affairs with the likes of Hemingway. Dommage – that this past middle-age lawyer from Chicago has to live such a life only in her head. But let’s get to Monsieur Proust. I attended a special Proust exhibit at the Musée Carnavalet in January and one at the Jewish Museum of Art and History just a few weeks ago and armed with information from those sources as well as a France Today article written by good friend and author Thirza Vallois, I recently stalked the famous man through the 8th arrondissement and beyond. Marcel Proust grave at Père Lachaise. Creative Commons Marcel Proust was born July 10, 1871 in the 16th arrondissement and baptized at the Saint-Louis d’Antin church in the 8th. He died on November 18, 1922 – so this year is the centennial of his death – having lived and worked during much of his life in Paris within those two arrondissements. Honoring this centennial, and the fact that I have finally almost finished the fifth volume of À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), I decided to visit Monsieur Proust and his fictional characters in Paris and also in the towns called in his book Balbec and Combray. Walk and travel along with me, and also do a bit of reading so that you can see that, despite long sentences and multiple volumes, he can in fact be interesting and fun.

Lead photo credit : Marcel Proust statue, lounging, in the interior of Château de Breteuil, Wikimedia Commons

More in Iconic french writers, Iconic writers in Paris, Marcel Proust, Proust Museum, Proust Novels

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Michele is a corporate lawyer and writer who visits France often and is convinced she must have been French in an earlier life -probably hanging around with Ernest Hemingway during what she calls his "cute" stage, living on Cardinal Lemoine and writing on rue Descartes - which just happens to be be her usual stomping ground. From her first time in Paris and that first feeling of familiarity she has returned often as if it is her second home. Now the hotels are Airbnb apartments and she enjoys being a short-term local and shopping at the market, cooking her own meals. Sitting on her own Paris balcony , a wineglass or morning coffee in hand, she writes her journal, describing her walks around town as the proverbial flâneur and taking notes for the future’s stories and travel pieces.


  • Beth Gersh-Nesic
    2022-11-16 09:45:57
    Beth Gersh-Nesic
    Thank you so much, Michele, for this wonderful, detailed essay with all these important Proust landmarks. A treasure for future visits to Paris. Beth


  • Kathryn Gearheard
    2022-10-17 07:01:38
    Kathryn Gearheard
    Thank you for all the Proust details and how to find places related to him. I don’t think you missed a bit. As a single older woman traveler I found very useful you citing how exactly you traveled to the beach and to his aunt’s home.