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Lazy Proust and Literary ‘Work’

Bray, PM; (2016) Lazy Proust and Literary ‘Work’. Nottingham French Studies , 55 (1) pp. 18-28. 10.3366/nfs.2016.0136. Green open access

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One of the enduring clichés about Proust and his narrator in À la recherche du temps perdu is the image of an effete snob who wastes half his life in high society and spends the other half writing a self-indulgent autobiography. In popular culture, those who read Proust are thought to waste an almost inconceivable amount of time on a frivolous object of elitist culture, all the more so since only the rich can afford the leisure time to read 3500 pages of dense prose. Yet Proust's novel reveals the true nature of creative work. This search for lost time is in fact a manual for time regained – time stolen back from habit, from abstract intelligence, from the material conditions of labour (as Rancière might say). In the last volume of his novel, Proust discovers that the material for his book comes from his past life, acquired ‘dans les plaisirs frivoles, dans la paresse’. Only through a certain laziness, which would allow the narrator to absorb experience, can he then be receptive to the flow of time as duration. Literary work, for Proust, consists in undoing the ‘busy work’ of the everyday (the foundation of the Protestant work ethic) in order to make connections between the past and present sensations – to see the work of Time.

Type: Article
Title: Lazy Proust and Literary ‘Work’
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3366/nfs.2016.0136
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3366/nfs.2016.0136
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085237
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