This year we celebrate the centennial of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the first volume in a set of books everyone you know has promised to read, and therefore the only volume everyone you know is sure to have read. To commemorate the event, the Morgan Library has assembled a room of Proustian memorabilia.
Visitors enter a small, unassuming room, which is almost surprising, given the heft of the text it celebrates, until you remember this is a book, not a battle, and you are at the Morgan, not the Smithsonian. There is nowhere for the eye to go first, but luckily there’s not a lot to choose from. One can gloss over the author’s numerous notebooks, all filled with chicken scratch and ink blots and crossed out phrases; book-making fetishists and polite publishing people alike can see galleys overflowing with notes and scraps. The sentences one can actually read will boggle the mind—how did he get “For a long time, I went to bed early” out of that?—and there’s opportunity to stretch those French grammar muscles. One can even marvel at postcards from Proust’s neighborhood, for some reason; these would not be out of place in a tchotchke shop outside that café from Amélie.
Although its size leaves more to be desired, what they have is deserving of a look, and you can always go across the way to the surrealist drawing exhibit, which strains the definition of surrealism by including works by Ellsworth Kelly and Louise Bourgeois, but gets extra points for going to countries you wouldn’t expect. Japanese surrealists: can you believe it?