Thursday, February 16, 2017

Marcel Proust: the Zapruder fragment

Proustians around the globe  rejoice today, as an old film-clip dating from 1904  shows their seldom-photographed and almost never filmed idol  skipping down the steps after a wedding.  You can read about it, and watch the film, here:

C'est Marcel Proust, aimable écrivain mondain à l'audience encore confidentielle, qui se trouve être un ami proche du marié. Peut-être est-ce lui, ce jeune homme en manteau clair, coiffé d'un chapeau melon qui laisse les yeux dans l'ombre, laissant apercevoir la moustache et l'ovale du visage, dévalant précipitamment les marches, doublant le cortège sur le côté droit, afin de rejoindre avant les autres l'éblouissante belle-mère ? On le voit quelques secondes sur un film d'amateur – une pellicule de deux minutes à peine, conservée aux Archives françaises du film à Bois-d'Arcy.

It’s actually an odd little sequence:  stately couple after stately couple slowly descend the outdoor stairway, the ladies in their finery (as awkward to walk in as a burka ), the gentlemen all without exception  in top-hats -- when suddenly from stage-left  a rather dapper but hardly fancy figure, in a Chaplinesque bowler hat, hurries past all the worthies and disappears, rather like a streaker.  He seems more like Zellig or Forrest Gump, than like a society figure, or anyone destined to greatness.
The film cuts off  just before the shots rang out, changing history forever.


The question then presents itself, whether the World of Dr Justice TM (headquarters: Geneva) might possess, in our extensive private holdings, additional images of the famous novelist, not previously recognized for what they are.   And indeed, such proved to be the case.  We submitted an old daguerrotype taken at the Exposition Universelle (Paris, 1900) to an entero-chiasmic homothetic image-analysis of the sort that is probably familiar to you from “24”, and were able to make the identification.   The incomparable man of letters is the fourth figure from the left:

Le grand romancier essaie de se perdre parmi la foule


These are just the latest discoveries of previously unrecognized Proustiana in slightly over two years, the earlier having been a letter from Proust, written to his friend Charles Haas but never posted, containing fairly explosive material, which it was our own good fortune to unearth.  You can read the background to this literary coup here:

and the text of the letter here:

Note:   Owing perhaps to quantum entanglement, a chunk of Du côté de chez Swann once became lodged in the throat of the Riemann Conspiracy, with results you can read here:

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