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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Lemoine Affair

Marcel Proust

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To purchase The Lemoine Affair

Title: The Lemoine Affair
Author: Marcel Proust
Genre: Pastiche
Written: (1918) (Eng. 2008)
Length: 94 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Lemoine Affair - US
The Lemoine Affair - UK
The Lemoine Affair - Canada
L'affaire Lemoine - Canada
L'affaire Lemoine - France
Pastiches - Deutschland
  • First serialized in Le Figaro in 1908, and then published, in a revised version, in Pastiches et mélanges in 1918
  • Translated by Charlotte Mandell

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Our Assessment:

B+ : adroit literary mimicry

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 26/10/1995 EH

  From the Reviews:
  • "Proust caught the sense of the affair, its drama, comedy and scandal, in a range of styles à la Michelet, à la Goncourt, à la Chateaubriand and so on. His Balzac is a memorable caricature of overdone effusiveness, his Flaubert as seductive as Un Coeur simple and his Sainte-Beuve critique of the "Flaubert" rendition of Lemoine suitably sententious." - EH, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Marcel Proust plays mimic in The Lemoine Affair, taking a real-life scandal involving a man who claimed to be able to turn coal into diamonds and who bilked investors out of large sums, and writing variations on the juicy theme in the style of several prominent authors of the day, including Flaubert, Balzac, and Michelet. In one he even has Sainte-Beuve critique the pastiche attributed to Flaubert ..... Proust himself fell for the scam, and in one of the pastiches -- in the Goncourt-journals -- pokes fun at himself as well, the news presented that he had done himself in over his losses (and that he had duked it out with Emile Zola over the merits of the novels of Léon Daudet) -- though the news is corrected by the next day.
       Pastiche is doubly difficult in translation -- which might help explain why this is the first published version of these pieces in English -- but the recognisable names and distinctive voices carry through quite well: Flaubert and Balzac, in particular, are readily enjoyed. Other authors are likely not so well known -- Henri de Régnier, anyone ? Ernest Renan ? -- and that makes it more difficult to judge how well he pulls them off. But, in fact, the de Régnier is one of the more entertaining pieces, because it is also a distinctive take -- and therein lies one of the secrets of Proust's success here, that he chooses wisely in who to imitate and what to present.
       The Balzac is a typical name-dropping society-riff, populated by many of Balzac's own favoured characters (including, somewhat unfortunately, Baron Nucingen, with his heavily accented speech ("Alvays goot !") that always looks somewhat silly in translation). The brief Flaubert is also nicely beside the point -- and comes complete with a lady with a parrot mounted on her hat --, with the nit-picking Sainte-Beuve nicely complementing it.
       Along with the Sainte-Beuve, Proust offers another second-hand take, imagining a theatre-review by Émile Faguet of a play about the Lemoine affair by Henri Bernstein. Though hardly familiar names, it's a pretty funny take on drama criticism generally; as in many of the pieces, there generally seems to be more preening than discussion of the matter at hand.
       Proust jokes at his own expense as well: he has Ernest Renan complain about his "pitifully insipid translation" of John Ruskin, while also making himself look fairly silly in the Goncourt-journals.
       Slim and varied enough not to become tiresome, The Lemoine Affair is still surprisingly fresh a century after it was written. It is, however, the sort of book that probably would be much better appreciated if carefully and fully annotated; the texts do largely stand on their own, even those attributed to authors that are likely unfamiliar to the vast majority of readers, but there are so many references, both obvious and veiled, that a supporting apparatus would be very helpful.
       An enjoyable little oddity.

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The Lemoine Affair: Reviews: Marcel Proust: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Marcel Proust lived 1871 to 1922.

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