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First, and likely only, footage of French novelist Marcel Proust surfaces

© Screengrab, Centre national du cinéma, France

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-02-15

Literature experts believe an extraordinary film clip of a 1904 wedding -- stored in the French national film archives -- very likely features the only known footage of legendary French writer Marcel Proust.

The grainy, black-and-white wedding clip of Proust’s friend, Armand de Guiche, to Elaine Greffulhe, daughter of Countess Greffulhe, features a brief glimpse of the influential French novelist, according to some Proustian scholars.

The discovery was revealed in the latest issue of Revue d'études proustiennes, a biannual journal released by French publishing house, Garnier.

The film clip of the wedding procession was preserved in the French national film archives and was probably intended for the Greffulhe private collection, according to Proust scholars.

The man believed to be Proust appears in the 37th second of the clip, which runs for just over a minute. A solitary man, wearing a grey coat and bowler hat, hurries down the steps of a church. "Everything tends to suggest that it is Proust," Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, a professor at the Quebec-based Université Laval, told French weekly, Le Point. “The silhouette and the profile match him, although it is always difficult to identify for certainty with a film of this type.”

‘Dandy in the English fashion’

While the appearance is brief, there is an undoubted physical resemblance to Proust, as well as evidence that the great, 20th century author did indeed attend the Greffulhe-de Guiche wedding.

Proust was born on July 10, 1871 in Paris and dies on November 18, 1922, in his birth city.

The clip from 1904 shows a single man dressed elegantly for the occasion. The gay French writer was one of the few unaccompanied guests at the Greffulhe-de Guiche marriage ceremony.

The clothes also correspond to Proust’s sartorial tastes. "The clothes he wears, elegant but distinct from those of the other men at the wedding, correspond to what he wore at the time, when he was a dandy in the English fashion,” said Sirois-Trahan. Proust was then a young man of 30, a socialite who was admitted into aristocratic circles due to his reputation as a spiritual, reclusive man working on a massive book project.

"Since every detail of Proust's life is known, there are several sources who say that in those years, he wore grey clothes and a bowler hat,” said Luc Fraisse, director of the Revue d'études proustiennes.

The discovery has been welcomed by Proustian scholars such as Jean-Yves Tadié. "I always thought that one day we would end up seeing him in a news clip. The shape of the face, the way of dressing, all this corresponds to him, and the identity seems quite convincing to me. I’m very moved by this discovery,” said Tadié.

Date created : 2017-02-15

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