Proust's duchess : how three celebrated women captured the imagination of fin-de-siècle Paris / Caroline Weber.

Weber, Caroline, 1969- author.
First edition.
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.
715 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), color map ; 25 cm
Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922 -- Sources.
Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922 -- Contemporaries.
Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922. À la recherche du temps perdu.
Straus, Geneviève, 1849-1926.
Chevigné, Laure de, 1859-1936.
Greffulhe, Elisabeth, comtesse, 1860-1952.
Women -- France -- Paris -- Biography.
Aristocracy (Social class) -- France -- Paris -- Biography.
Paris (France) -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
Paris (France) -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
"A brilliant look at the glittering, decadent world of turn-of-the-century Paris through the first in-depth study of the three women who inspired the character of the Duchesse de Guermantes, the epitome of high-born glamour, in Marcel Proust's great novel, In Search of Lost Time. Geneviève Halévy Bizet Straus; Laure de Sade, Comtesse Adhéaume de Chevigné; and Elisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay, Comtesse Greffulhe, were the three superstars of fin-de-siècle Parisian high society who, as Caroline Weber writes, 'transformed themselves, and were transformed by those around them, into living legends: paragons of elegance, nobility, and style.' All of them were stifled in loveless marriages and, between the 1870s and 1890s, sought freedom and fulfillment by reinventing themselves as icons. Weber offers a stunningly intimate look at the illicit passion, secret heartbreak, and fierce, indomitable ambition that lay behind her heroines' exquisite public facades. At their fabled s alons, they inspired and championed the creativity of several generations of well-known writers, artists, composers, designers, and journalists who regarded them with boundless fascination and longing. Against a rich and vivid cultural and historical backdrop--the collapse of the Second Empire in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Henri V's court in exile, and the first stirrings of anti-Semitism before the Dreyfus affair--Weber takes the reader into the daily lives of these three seductive women as they attend the ritualized masked balls, formal dinners, nights at the opera and theater, hunts, and royal fêtes. Proust would worship them from afar as a young man in the 1890s and would later meet them, gathering material to create his famous composite character. Drawing extensively on private family archives, Weber has discovered new material as well as two unknown articles by Proust. A beautifully written tour de force of storytelling and scholarship, Proust's Duchess is a swee ping and enthralling narrative, an unforgettable saga of the end of an era: the epic decline and fall of a rarefied aristocratic ideal and the last gasp of the pageantry and privilege of an elite society soon to be lost forever in the trenches of World War I."--Dust jacket.
Overture: Like a swan
Rara avis (June 2, 1885)
Leitmotif: pretty birds
My Don Giovanni, my Faust
The kingdom of shadows
Habanera: oiseaux rebelles
Bohemia's child
The fall and the rise
Good for the goose
Improvisation: trills and feathers
The art of being seen
Bagatelle: birdsong
Prince Charming
Paris high and low
A modern-day Aramis
Chorale: lovebirds
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Lame ducks
Variations: caged birds
Kisses never given
Fodder for sonnets
Birds of paradise
The picture of Mme Bizet
Cadenza: painters, writers, parrots, prophets
Elegance for beginners
Our heart
Pavane: pair-bonding
In which Proust is disappointed
Lament: oiseaux tristes
Dead love, still undying
The replacements
Goddesses and monsters
So long as the gesture is beautiful
Sovereigns of transitory things (May 30, 1894)
Rondo: the real king of birds, or Vive le roitelet
Coda: Swan song.
"This is a Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf"--Title page verso.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 595-697) and index.
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