CP 02892/en

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This page is a translated version of the page CP 02892 and the translation is 100% complete.

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Marcel Proust to Madame Scheikévitch [9 January 1915]

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

9 January 1915[1]


I had no idea! I suspected nothing. As always, I thought often about you, in the midst of the great sorrow that overwhelmed me last summer[2], and that formed, in fact, my “pre-war period,” [3] and then since the beginning of the war my anguished heart begins to rally, to summon its most cherished people.

And then, the day before yesterday, in a newspaper, I saw a list with the members of the Bar… And that name[4]! I had a dreadful fright but I hoped that it was just the same name. But now I know. I know that you, the person among all others who I wished would prosper in the greatest of joys, this person has a broken heart, my thoughts cannot escape this idea, suffer with it, try to detach themselves from it only for it to return once more, just as when we are hurt we make that movement a hundred times over which makes us hurt all the more. It’s no doubt the young man I caught a glimpse of at Larue's[5]? How I wish to see you, I am so saddened with your pain that my company would not place any constraint either on you or on me.

I too have a brother at the front. The German shells were hitting his hospital all day, while he was operating, shells hitting the operating theatre itself [6]. He is now in Argonne. As for me, there is a hearing to review my declaration of unfitness for service and I don’t know if I’ll pass or not. I put all of my hopes onto your son whose sweet tenderness and charm alone can alleviate your suffering. Yours, ever thinking of you with infinite sadness, affection and reverence, Marcel Proust

[7] [8]


  1. The Andrieux auction catalogue from 12 March 1928, lot no. 174, indicates that this handwritten letter is dated 9 January 1915. In the absence of the letter’s original, we cannot verify whether the date is correct and written by Proust or noted down by the addressee. The fact that Proust asserts having seen the name of the addressee’s brother “the day before yesterday” among those who died for their country, dates the letter 6 or 7 January (see note 4 below). But these chronological inaccuracies are frequent in his correspondence. [PK, FL]
  2. Allusion to the mourning following the accidental death of Alfred Agostinelli that took place on 30 May 1914. In his letter to Louis de Robert written a few days before (see CP 02890, note 3; Kolb, XIV, no. 1), Proust asserts likewise that “the whole of the last summer was the cruellest in my life” and refers to this period of intense sorrow also as “[h]is pre-war period”. [FL]
  3. Allusion to the title of the work by Léon Daudet, L'Avant-guerre: études et documents sur l'espionnage juif-allemand en France depuis l'affaire Dreyfus [Pre-war Period: studies and documents on the Jewish-German espionage in France since the Dreyfus affair], Paris, Nouvelle librairie nationale, 1913. [PK, JE]
  4. Proust apparently refers to the information published in Le Figaro from 4 January 1915, p. 3, in the section “Le Monde & la Ville, Deuil” [The World & the city, Mourning], recounting the tribute paid at the Palais de justice by the president of the Bar to the forty members of the Bar who died for their country, among which was the name of Victor Scheikévitch, the former secretary of the Conference of lawyers. The same information, with a less exhaustive list of names, is given in L'Intransigeant from 5 January 1915, p. 2, in the section “Nos Échos” [News in brief]. Proust is referring to the addressee’s brother. Posted as second lieutenant with the 103rd infantry regiment, he was killed on 15 September 1914 in Tracy-le-Val (Oise), not long after being selected for promotion to the rank of captain. (See his dossier in the database of the portal Mémoire des hommes.) [PK, JE, NM]
  5. Restaurant Larue, open in 1886, was situated at 27, rue Royale, in Paris’ 8th arrondissement. [JE]
  6. See the letter to Lucien Daudet from [Monday 16 November 1914, or shortly after] which gives the same information (CP 02844, and the note 10; Kolb, XIII, no. 193). [JE]
  7. Translation notes:
  8. Contributors: Ktulyakova, Yorktaylors