Lorenza Foschini - Proust’s Overcoat (3 stars)

Lorenza Foschini - Proust’s Overcoat

Short, slight but fascinating tale on obsession and status


In Proust’s Overcoat lies an intriguing and dainty little tale of a man who finds his vocation in preserving items of a lost time. Jacques Guérin is a wealthy perfumier and bibliophile who started to read the works of Proust at the age of 20 and never stopped. After a bout of ill health, he stumbles into an acquaintance with the author’s brother, Dr Robert Proust, and his passion is inflamed. Thus begins a lifelong devotion, an impulse to become a saviour to the ‘precious talismans’ of Proust: furniture, ephemera, the bed in which Proust wrote, the fur coat which rarely left his back.

It’s a short, slight but fascinating tale by Lorenza Foschini (translated from Italian by Eric Karpeles), paved by photos and buffered by social mores and Parisian history. But it’s less about an overcoat and more about obsession, status and how one man’s raison d’être saved the ‘earthly remains of a literary deity’ from the destruction of family rancour and the ravages of time.

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