Director William Friedkin crafted the best lead in Sunday's New York Times: "I married Jeanne Moreau in 1977 at a town hall in Paris."
Writing in the Times' glitzy T magazine, Freidkin goes on to remember how Moreau read Proust to him in bed, first in French, then translating "A La Recherche de Temps Perdu" into English. One who fell in love with Moreau's Catherine in "Jules et Jim," I felt my heart race as I imagined Moreau's lips caressing Proust's sentences.
Alas, Moreau's presentations of the great novel didn't save the marriage, which ended in divorce. While losing her bedtime performances, Friedkin took away with him an enduring love of Proust.
Friedkin tells about his search for Proust landmarks in Paris and Illiers-Combray, the small French village where many of the novel's most poignant scenes take place. Originally called Illiers, the town where Proust's family spent vacations during his childhood is called Combray in the novel.
Friedkin's piece inspired me to reread the last pages of "Time Regained," the final volume of the novel. One of my favorite passages in literature, the conclusion relates how the aging narrator Marcel attends an afternoon party on the Champs Elysees in Paris at the home of the Prince and Princess de Guermantes, recurring characters in the book.
Returning to society for the first time in years, Marcel is amazed at how old age has changed the people he encounters. A stumble on paving stones gives him the memory of a visit to Venice, and other sensory occurrences remind him of experiences from the past. At last, he decides to devote the rest of his life to writing the great novel, the same one the reader is holding.
The final volume in my complete set of the novel is Terence Kilmartin's translation, more accurate and less extravagantly Victorian than CK Scott Moncrief's pioneering work that covers the first volumes. Moncreif was the one who called the English version of the book "Remembrance of Things Past," to Proust's displeasure.
The elderly narrator in the last chapter describes how as a child he lay in bed late at night, waiting to hear the garden gate's bell ring. His parents' neighbor, Mr. Swann, was a frequent visitor to their home, and the bell signaled that Swann at last was going home and that his mother would soon be climbing the stairs to the young boy's bedroom to give him the goodnight kiss he longed for.
The novel's first volume, "Swann's Way," begins with the narrator recalling lying in bed as a child, waiting for his mother's kiss. The echo of that memory in the final pages evokes the passage of time and its recovery through art.