Proust’s Overcoat: The True Story of One Man’s Passion for All Things Proust by Lorenza Foschini, translated by Eric Karpeles

I have to admit that I knew nothing about Proust before reading this short quirky book, but that in no way affected my enjoyment of the story. It might have actually enhances, since every bit of information was new to me.

Jacques Guérin was at the head of a successful perfume company, but his true passion was collecting: books, art, photographs, letters, and other sundries. Among all of the artists and authors he collected, he identified most deeply with Marcel Proust. Guérin cultivated relationships with Proust’s family and acquaintances, collecting all of Proust’s manuscripts, furniture and personal items that he could, a collection crowned by Proust’s overcoat, which Proust had worn every day and used as a blanket while writing in bed at night.

Through Foschini’s telling of Guérin’s story, we also learn a lot about Proust, about his personal life, his writing, his relationships with family and friends, and, most important to the book itself, why Guérin is drawn to him and his stuff.

He had sought out his treasures passionately, had loved them, but he had never exhibited them, preferring instead to preserve them exclusively for his own pleasure. “When a man loves a woman, he doesn’t share her with others,” he confided to the poet Franco Marcoaldi in an interview. “I was like that with my treasures. Like Bluebeard with his women, I kept them in my closet.” (pg. 112, uncorrected proof)

Guérin was an odd duck, I’ll grant you, devoted to his search and acquisitions, but I got a kick out of reading about him and the folks he meets, the bookstores he frequents. Guérin was a true bibliophile, and his story certainly appeals to other book lovers and collectors.

Publish date: August 1, 2010
144 pages

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Challenges: 100+

I received my uncorrected proof from the publisher and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.