Adjunct Professor Benjamin Taylor Publishes Proust Biography
December 2, 2015
Marcel Proust died at the age of 51 and left behind more than a million words of classic literature, known to American readers as In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s monumental autobiographical novel has long been known as a masterpiece, as pleasurable as it is daunting to read.
Adjunct Professor Benjamin Taylor’s biography of Proust, Proust: The Search (Yale University Press) has been praised for its psychic attunement to Proust’s spirit—in fewer than 200 pages of prose, no less.
Robert McCrum, reviewing the book for The Guardian, writes, “For anyone who has gazed in wonder at the dizzying monument of Proust’s Search and retreated from its grandeur with a sense of deep personal inadequacy, or perhaps a secret hankering for Monty Python’s ‘All-England Summarize Proust Competition,’ Taylor’s scintillating narrative is the perfect introduction to an intimidating prospect.”
In the book, Taylor explores Proust’s shift from a striving young would-be author to the brilliant artist that earned his enduring reputation. The biography follows Proust through the libidinous misadventures and stinging rejections from publishers that shifted him toward his focus on the project of writing his life. Taylor focuses on various public and private events that fueled Proust’s major project, including his homosexuality, his mother’s Judaism, the Dreyfus Affair and World War I.
“Proust’s Search is the most encyclopedic of novels, encompassing the essentials of human nature,” Taylor writes. “His account, running from the early years of the Third Republic to the aftermath of World War I, becomes the inclusive story of all lives, a colossal mimesis. To read the entire Search is to find oneself transfigured and victorious at journey’s end, at home in time and in eternity too.”
Taylor is the author of the book of essays Into the Open, the travel memoir Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bayand two novels, Tales Out of School, winner of the Harold Ribalow Prize, and The Book of Getting Even, a 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award Finalist, a 2008 Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year and a Ferro-Grumley Prize Finalist; the Spanish translation of The Book of Getting Even was named a best book of the year by El Pais. Taylor is a graduate of Haverford College and Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate in English and Comparative Literature. He has contributed to such magazines as Bookforum, BOMB, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The New Leader, The Georgia Review and Raritan. Taylor is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University and was a Guggenheim Fellow for 2012–2013.