CP 02996/en

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This page is a translated version of the page CP 02996 and the translation is 100% complete.

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Marcel Proust to Antoine Bibesco [about 9 September 1915]

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


Dear Antoine

I say to you as people say idiotically: “I was so pleased to see your handwriting.” Even though yours (not quite so much as mine though) is frightful. But the sight of it delighted me. It’s one of those mysteries of friendship.

I am useful (because I do a rare thing which is to reconcile two rather common qualities: clairvoyance and abnegation) only as a go-between and as a doctor. I am useless as a strategist. In any case your question is strangely put. You say: “For how long will the Russians withdraw?” Which it seems to me means: “For how long will the Germans advance?” It amounts to the same thing, but it is an unexpected way of saying it. I would prefer you to tell me when the Roumanians will be on the march[2].

If I don’t dare speculate on the future (except like everybody else on the certainty of final victory) I am happy to justify myself about the past. When you told me[3] that the Courland expedition[4] was an eccentric whim on the part of the Germans I replied[5] that in the case of a people who prepared meticulously for something that they could not foresee (munitions for the duration of a war which they alone believed would be short and were the only ones to be fully equipped, retreat at Lens[6] in order to take it from us and to help themselves to it when they did not think they would retreat, taking the Dardanelles[7] to cut off Russia who they thought defeated etc.) one should not imagine that it is a disorderly whim and that the Courland expedition was, in the long term, either a pincer movement against the Russian army or at least against Warsaw[8], or else a counterpart to the Dardanelles (but Bardou who said[9] two weeks ago that events in Riga were a show of strength, has written a marvellous article[10] since then pointing out the symmetry between the Dardanelles, the shutting down of Russia, in imitation of the War of Secession). If Emmanuel is with you give him my very best wishes.



P.S. I received your second letter[11]. You know quite well that I would have been very happy to get acquainted with Monsieur Morand[12] when you asked me, but, remember, he wasn’t free, leaving for London and at a time when I feared I would be unwell. I would be delighted if you sent me his letter[13] because I had been so eager to get to know him.

My fondest regards to Henri Bardac[14] who I like very much.

[15] [16]


  1. Allusion to an article that appeared "two weeks ago" in Le Journal des Débats of 27 August 1915 (see n9) which allows us to date this letter around 9 September 1915. [PK]
  2. The Roumanian government hesitated for a long time taking sides in the conflict, before declaring war on Austro-Hungary and Germany on 27 August 1916 ("L'Intervention roumaine : Déclaration de guerre à l'Autriche-Hongrie" [Roumanian intervention: Declaration of war on Austro-Hungary], Le Figaro, 29 August 1916, p. 1). [PK, FP]
  3. The letter has not been found. [FP]
  4. The German offensive in Courland (an eastern province of Latvia) at the end of April 1915 was a diversion; the German general staff were preparing for an offensive in Galicia. [PK, FP]
  5. The letter has not been found. [FP]
  6. The Germans retreated to the north of Arras (the location of a major freight yard) on 8 October 1914 ("67e jour de guerre : L'ennemi recule sur plusieurs points" [67th day of war: the enemy retreating at several points], Le Figaro, 9 October 1914, p. 1). The battle continued next on a line that included Lens and Arras. [PK, FP]
  7. During the course of 1915 the Anglo-French forces attempted, without success, to take the Dardanelles straits, defended by the Turko-German forces. [PK, FP]
  8. Prince Leopold of Bavaria entered Warsaw 5 August 1915 (Polybe, "Varsovie" [Warsaw], Le Figaro, 7 August 1915, p. 1). [PK, FP]
  9. Henri Bidou, "La situation militaire" [The Military Situation], (Journal des Débats, 27 August 1915, p. 1). [PK]
  10. Henri Bidou, "La situation militaire" [The Military Situation] (Journal des Débats, 31 August 1915, p. 1). [PK]
  11. The letter has not been found. [FP]
  12. During this time Proust made the acquaintance of Paul Morand. He wrote to Georges de Lauris, in the [first days of September 1915]: "A charming attaché from the French Embassy in London [...] is in Paris for four days and would like to meet you as well as Gide" (CP 02995; Kolb, XIV, no. 107). [FP]
  13. The letter has not been found. [FP]
  14. Henri Bardac was, at that time, attaché to the French Embassy in London. [PK, FP]
  15. Translation notes:
  16. Contributors: Yorktaylors