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October 29, 2008

Never-before-translated Proust just shows some things never change


“A hundred years ago, Marcel Proust lost money in the stock market, too,” observes Robert Hiferty. “And, as he would in the epic In Search of Lost Time, he converted the stuff of life into art” — specifically, a book of pastiches called The Lemoine Affair, in which Proust imitated French masters including Balzac, Flaubert, Chateaubriand and Goncourt all writing about it. Bizarrely, the book has never been translated into English until now, in a just-released translation from Melville House by Charlotte Mandel. In a review for Bloomberg News, Hiferty details the reality behind the book: a stock fraud perpetrated by Henri Lemoine, who said he could manufacture diamonds from coal, and got the head of the DeBeers diamond empire, and others — including Proust himself — to invest heavily.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives