UAB to commemorate Proust’s centennial work

UAB is home to the foremost Proust expert and houses one of the largest collections in the world.

proustThe University of Alabama at Birmingham will commemorate the centennial of “Swann’s Way,” the first volume of renowned French writer Marcel Proust’s classic “In Search of Lost Time,” with a special exhibition that opens Saturday, Nov. 9.

UAB houses one of the top three Proust collections in the world and is also home to the world’s foremost Proust expert, William Carter, Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus of French. The exhibition, titled “Marcel Proust: A Centennial Exhibition ‘Swann’s Way’ 1913-2013,” will include autographed works, volumes of books by and about Proust, journals, manuscripts, and original letters and images, as well as copies of objects from the University of Illinois-Urbana’s collection. The public is invited to view the display at the Mervyn Sterne Library, 917 13th St. South, through December 2013.

“We have a nice patchwork of materials,” said Jerry Stephens, Ph.D., the library’s director, referring to the extensive collection. “They would be useful for any Proust scholar.”

Proust’s “Swann’s Way” was originally published on Nov. 14, 1913. In it, the narrator tries to recapture and understand his past, a journey that is set in motion by the taste of a madeleine soaked in tea.

The seven-volume “In Search of Lost Time” is one of the longest novels ever written, about 3,000 pages.

“In it, along with the beautiful language, we find humanity, and we see ourselves,” Carter said.

As part of the centennial celebration, Yale University Press recently released a new edition of Scott Moncrieff’s famous translation of “Swann’s Way,” which includes revisions and annotations by UAB’s Carter. Yale will also reissue Carter’s “Marcel Proust: A Life,” which was dubbed a Notable Book of 2000 by New York Times Book Review and also earned the professor the title of “Proust’s definitive biographer.”

“I am excited, flattered, honored,” Carter said of the forthcoming books. “It serves readers very well.”

Carter has been much-lauded for his research on Proust. Earlier this year, the Renaissance Française bestowed upon him the La Médaille d’Or du Mérite Francophone, a medal presented by the French government in recognition of his work. As part of the centennial celebration, Carter gave the keynote speech at the Proust Society conference in Cabourg, France.

Carter teaches a course on “La Belle Époque,” a look at the period in which Proust lived, when the world was becoming modern with the invention of the airplane and the heyday of Pablo Picasso. He also, along with his student assistant, Nicolas Drogoul, created a short film on Proust and the UAB collection titled “Marcel Proust: A Centennial Tribute.”

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