On November 18, 2020, Antoine Compagnon talks with Elisabeth Ladenson about his new research on the reception of Marcel Proust’s novel, In Search of Lost Time, by the French Jewish community in the 1920s. Proust has sometimes been characterized as anti-semitic, and his treatment of characters such as Swann, Nissim Bernard or Rachel shock today’s sensibilities. In Sodom and Gomorra he equates Jews with homosexuals, a portrayal some commentators view as a form of dual self-hatred. But many young Zionists appreciated Proust in the 1920s and were not put off by his Jewish characters. Does it make sense to qualify him as anti-semitic, applying today’s standards retroactively? How did Jewish readers respond to his writing at the time, and why?
Antoine Compagnon, also a professor at the Collège de France in Paris, is the Blanche W. Knopf Professor of French and Comparative Literature.
Elisabeth Ladenson is Professor of French and Comparative Literature and General Editor of Romanic Review.Check out Professor Compagnon’s weekly series about “Proust Zionist” on the website of the Collège de France.This event is organized by the Maison Française.
Co-sponsored by the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, IRCPL, Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. This event was made possible with the support of the Knapp Family Foundation.