Monday, 30 August 2010
Photograph courtesy of Eric Karpeles
Here it is, the literary Turin Shroud: Proust's overcoat. He wore this otter-lined garment in all weathers and used it as a blanket every night while writing in bed.
The photo is to be found in Lorenza Foschini's recently published Proust's Overcoat: The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things Proust. She tells the intriguing tale of Parisian perfume magnate and bibliophile Jacques Guérin's successful quest - which began in 1929 - to save many of the great dandiacal author's manuscripts, notebooks, personal effects - even his bed.
Appalled by his homosexuality, Proust's family - and sister-in-law in particular - had already embarked on a campaign of vandalism against their inheritance when Guérin made it his life's work to salvage what he could. Foschini's literary detective tale channels the Indiana Jones-like spirit of Guérin who saw his chance to do posterity a favour when he was brought by chance under the care of Marcel's brother, Dr Robert Proust. The things Guérin had to do to save some moth-eaten coat!
Tarka the Otter was first published in 1927, a Guérin contemporary. Interview with Foschini