CP 02843/en

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This page is a translated version of the page CP 02843 and the translation is 100% complete.
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Marcel Proust to Daniel Halévy [Monday 7 September 1914]

(Click on the link above to see this letter and its notes in the Corr-Proust digital edition, including all relevant hyperlinks.)


Dear friend

I’m writing these few lines to tell you that I couldn’t read les Trois Croix without crying [2]. These days, when there is so much of the sublime in deeds, and so little in words said or written, when every other person proclaims that the War has transformed minds, but the proclamation is done in such a style that it is evident the war hasn’t transformed anything at all, when the same silly nonsense, the same platitudes are repeated, either even worse than before or only appearing so in contrast to those great things they pretend to express, these days, when one cannot read a newspaper without feeling repulsed, and when there hasn’t yet been a decent line written about the war, I think that les Trois Croix is the first piece of literature on the war (don’t be offended by the word "literature"; how I mean it and how you understand it, I hope, it is a noble word indeed) worthy of its name that has been given to me to read. I have so much to tell you at a moment such as this when a complete disarmament of minds has never been as fatal.

Yours, so moved and admiring,

Marcel Proust

[3] [4]


  1. This letter, only dated with “November 1914” in the review, must have been written [shortly after Monday evening of 16 November 1914], because Proust cites in the letter an article of his addressee that appeared in le Journal des Débats from Tuesday 17 November, the evening newspaper bearing the date of the following day. [PK, CSz]
  2. Article by Daniel Halévy that appeared in le Journal des Débats from Tuesday 17 November 1914, p. 2, under the title “Les Trois Croix” [The Three Crosses]. The addressee reproduced his article with the letter from Proust in the review "Le Divan" (January-March 1956), p. 294-298; he asserts that he translated and adapted the account of a soldier; he found the text of the account in "an English journal whose title his memory hasn’t retained". The same event is briefly reported in L'Intransigeant from 15 November 1914, p. 1, under the title "To save the enemy". It recounts the heroic death of an officer in command of an English infantry’s section, death that took place on a plain near the town of Ypres. [PK]
  3. Translation notes:
  4. Contributors: Ktulyakova