Brain Pickings

Moleskine Celebrates 100 Years of Swann’s Way: Illustrated Portraits of Ira Glass, Rick Moody, and Others Reading Proust


In search of lost time in pen and ink.

“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life,” Marcel Proust wrote in Swann’s Way (public library; free ebook) — the first volume of his legendary magnum opus In Search of Lost Time — published on November 14, 1913. A city-wide “nomadic reading” by the French Embassy in New York is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Swann’s Way with appearances by such beloved luminaries as This American Life’s Ira Glass, author Rick Moody, Paris Review editor Lorin Stein, and NYPL’s Paul Holdengräber, and the fine folks at Moleskine, who brought us the wonderful Moleskine Detour, invited students and alumni from the Illustration as Visual Essay MFA program at the School of Visual Arts to live-illustrate each of the readings — a pairing particularly apt given Proust himself was a semi-secret illustrator.

Proust Nomadic Reading, sketch by Cun Shi

Marcel Proust by Mark Bischel

Here are some favorites from the live series:

Ira Glass reads Proust, sketch by Maelle Doliveux

Ira Glass reads Proust, sketch by Carol Fabricatore

Rick Moody reads Proust, sketch by Lauren Simkin Berke

Dominique Ansel reads Proust's 'The Cookie,' sketch by Jade Shulz

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory — this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?

McNally-Jackson owner Sarah McNally reads Proust, sketch by Maelle Doliveux

Ron Chernow reads Proust, sketch by Lisha Jiang

Paul Holdengräber reads Proust, sketch by Doug Salati

Judith Thurman reads Proust, sketch by Carol Fabricatore

Jonathan Galassi reads Proust, sketch by Maelle Doliveux

Lorin Stein reads Proust, sketch by Doug Salati

Julian Tepper reads Proust, sketch by Lauren Simkin Berke

Proust's original notebook of writings and sketches, 1909

Pair with Proust’s previously unknown illustrated poems — a fine addition to famous creator’s secret obsessions and little-known talents — then peek inside the Moleskine sketchbooks of celebrated artists.

Images courtesy of Moleskine

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