Memory, the tool of the largest literary architecture of the 20th century, as devised by Marcel Proust, is not confined to his pages. It continues in the sights of the city that was the urban pillar of his work. The soul of Paris has to be immensely grateful to Marcel for offering her, yet another chapter to add to her mythology. How can we not think of some corners of the city without recalling the settings where his characters unfold?
His and their names are floating in a confined slice of the city, as if the chosen neighborhoods of his Paris imparted, by making them limited, much higher intensity to its evocation. Nothing in that world extends beyond Auteuil, Parc Monceau, le bois de Boulogne and the Champs-Elysées: the north-west corner of the city, well enriched by the Second Empire and the Third Republic and breathing an air of cosseted comfort.
There remain other relics of his universe: La Pérouse restaurant on Quai des Augustins, which he favored and took him away from his stomping grounds. Or the florist Lachaume on Rue Royale, where he acquired his lapel bouquets on his way to the bubbly Maxim’s.
The more intimate mementoes lead us to his bedroom suite and death bed, adoringly conserved at the Musée Carnavalet. It is a curious sight. A bourgeois furniture choice featuring an ascetic bed that he insisted on taking with him whenever he moved. The bed that supported the creation of a unique oeuvre, a simple iron structure where the genius died. In the infinite variety of sentiments that his work stirs in us, he makes us feel larger inside. His recollection is our gain.