Suzanne Guerlac, Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life: Ravaisson, Bergson, and Simmel, Bloomsbury, 2020
Challenging traditional readings of Remembrance of Things Past, Suzanne Guerlac offers a unique angle on the text, arguing that Proust does not record the dead time of recollection, but the effervescent time of becoming and the complex vitality of the real as it was encapsulated by three philosophers contemporary with Proust, Felix Ravaisson, Henri Bergson and Georg Simmel.
It is this openness to the present moment that makes it hard for both the fictional hero and Proust himself to stop writing. By placing Proust’s novel within a web of money and contemporary popular culture such as commercial photography, photojournalism, pornography, the regulation of prostitution and the Dreyfus Affair, Guerlac reveals that Proust’s motivation was not the recuperation of lost time, but the great adventure of living in the present moment, at a definite historical moment and on an individual and social level.
“The sensual prose of Suzanne Guerlac brings new life to Remembrance, grounded in a fascinating history of photographic art and creating unexpected connections with philosophers of the time. In an innovative way, Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life uses images to illustrate how the novelist draws his ideas from places where critics didn’t think to look: business cards, blurry snapshots, photographs of coins, pornographic images… An intellectually subversive, and exhilarating book.” – Anne Simon, Director of Research, The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France
“In this masterful book, Suzanne Guerlac not only challenges how we read Proust (already an ambitious task), she provides a new and convincing framework for understanding photography. Eschewing the by-now conventional references to Barthes and Benjamin, Guerlac asks us to rediscover the overlooked philosophers from Proust’s era: Ravaisson, Bergson, and Simmel.” – Patrick M. Bray, Associate Professor of French, University College London, UK