CP 04012/en

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This page is a translated version of the page CP 04012 and the translation is 100% complete.

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Jacques Boulenger to Marcel Proust, 29 December 1919

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

29 December 1919

22 rue Oudinot

Dear Sir,

I'm very happy with the opportunity[1] which was offered to me to say (very badly: I blame myself) a little of the good that I find in your beautiful book. I have rarely read anything that has excited me more. If I had had a little more space, I would have better explained why. But, after all, what is the point of explaining, or wanting to “explain why”? I would be very concerned, in any case, if you did not take this objection that I make to your "composition" as I understand it myself.[2]. No doubt your book is wonderfully composed according to the laws of your own sensibility. But it seems to me that it is not according to those who presided over the composition of most of the works from “our country”. If you don't find that distinction very clear, please don't blame me, because I did a lot of boxing before dinner and I am dead tired.

I would be happy to hear that you are doing better and that your prize[3], so justly deserved, has been officially notified to you, so officially that you can no longer have any doubt that you have received it, despite the incredible maneuvering of the publisher of M. Dorgelès[4]. Everyone remembers so well that you were granted what Jean de Pierrefeu announced to me, a few days ago, that he intended to discuss "the Marcel Proust case" in les Débats[5]. I will answer him in the l'Opinion[6], if he realizes his project. Here I am, your champion, despite your already having one. I welcome it because À la recherche du temps perdu is certainly the most "original" book that has appeared, to my taste, in ten years. And I love it with all my heart. It is, moreover, one of those books that one cannot love without feeling a deep sympathy for their authors.

Please find here the assurance, dear sir.

Jacques Boulenger

[7] [8]


  1. In his letter of [20 December 1919] (CP 03998; Kolb, XVIII, no. 318), Proust expresses his gratitude to Boulenger for the "wonderful" article, although "here and there unjust and false", published in L'Opinion the same day (12th year, no. 51, p. 610-612). This article was reprinted under the title "Marcel Proust — I" in the collection ...But Art is difficult! (Paris, Plon, 1st series, 1921-1922, p. 86-97). [PK, ChC, FP]
  2. Also in his letter to Boulenger of [20 December 1919] (see note 1 above), Proust responds to the criticisms of the critic by asserting that he composed his work with “an inflexible although veiled rigor”. [PK, ChC]
  3. L'Académie Goncourt had awarded Proust its prize for À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs on 10 December 1919 by six votes out of ten, against the four received by Les Croix de bois by Roland Dorgelès (CP 03973; Kolb, XVIII, no. 293). [ChC]
  4. The “maneuvering” of which Boulenger speaks, and also mentioned by Proust in his letter of [20 December 1919] (CP 03998; Kolb, XVIII, no. 318), consists of the distribution of misleading advertisements in the press, reproducing the headline: “Les Croix de bois: Prix Goncourt” in large print, followed by “4 votes out of 10” in small print (see for example Le Figaro of 18 December 1919, section “Bookstore”, p. 3). This commercial action by Albin Michel was to cost the publisher of Les Croix de Bois a fine of 2,000 francs in damages. [PK, ChC]
  5. Pierrefeu's article, “Le Cas de M. Proust”, would appear in Le Journal des débats on 2nd and 3rd January 1920, p. 3. [FP]
  6. Boulenger's response, "On M. Marcel Proust", would appear in L'Opinion of 10 January 1920, p. 43-45: it was reprinted under the title “Marcel Proust — II” in ...But Art is difficult!, p. 97-106. [FP]
  7. Translation notes: Raw translation for placement; need to clean up dates, etc. On 20 Nov Marcelitaswann corrected one 'no.'
  8. Contributors: Marcelitaswann, Yorktaylors