An unpublished epistolary collection by Marcel Proust sheds light on his relationship with a very strange host

An unpublished epistolary collection by Marcel Proust sheds light on his relationship with a very strange host


To be published on Thursday at Gallimard, Letters to Horace Finalyhis banker friend, traces the writer’s daily life with a parasitic host whom he has the greatest trouble getting rid of and who he hosted between 1918 and 1921.

It is a little-known anecdote about the life of Marcel Proust that resurfaces. In Letters to Horace Finaly, a collection of twenty unpublished missives published by Gallimard on Thursday, we learn that the author ofIn search of lost time had the greatest trouble getting rid of a Swiss host he hosted for three years. It was only with the help of the recipient of the letters that he was able to send it to Brazil in 1921.

This Finaly was one of the masters of French finance in the Belle Époque and in the interwar period, leading the Bank of Paris and the Netherlands (now BNP Paribas). He had studied with Proust in one of the best high schools in Paris, Condorcet. Rochat, on the other hand, remained in the shadows all his life. His date of birth is unknown. This immigrant in Paris, “Server at the Ritz when Proust noticed him in 1917”East “Probably a native of the Joux Valley, in the canton of Vaud” and the Jura massif, a few kilometers from the French border, described in the introduction by the writer Thierry Laget, a specialist in Proust.

The novelist came up with the idea of ​​moving him home in 1918. “Believing on the one hand that he would only stay a few weeks, on the other hand that he could serve as his secretary”he wrote to Horace Finaly.

Letters found

It hurt him: Henri Rochat has no competence. And not content to cling to free housing for nearly three years, he will spend wrongly and through his host’s money. This psychodrama would be unfamiliar without the letters to Finaly. These resurface during an auction in France in June 2021, at the Aguttes house. The Society of Literary Hotels then buys these letters for 78,000 euros in a volume that had been carefully bound by the family. “It simply came to our notice then. When I was shown them, I was amazed. “, Thierry Laget told AFP. They have another scoop: the two correspondents went together in their youth to Dover, the only known foray into England for the writer.

Reading Proust, one understands how valuable Horace Finaly is in helping him get rid of a man who takes advantage of his generosity. “Bored at home, he made two or three small calls.” run away where he unfortunately lost not only the overweight he had earned at home, but also all the money I had given him, which would make a small fortune today (almost equivalent to mine), and that he generously distributed to hens» the novelist laments, frightened by his bills at the tailor’s.

“It brings him closer to Albertine, who is offered dresses and other luxury clothing.”explains Thierry Laget, in reference to one of the central characters in Proust’s novelistic sequel. “He spends a lot more than Proust himself.” He was a dandy, who brought him nothing but inspiration, a few lady parties and piano parties. ”.

A departure for Brazil

Finaly finds a place in the French and Italian Bank of South America in Recife (northeast of Brazil). Proust is wary of a possible Rochat turnaround. He writes that he intends to hand over his final subsidies to the captain of the transatlantic ship, so that he can pass them on to Switzerland once he has released the moorings. Not before.

Swiss genealogists have set out to trace this man, who has an extremely common name. “It simply came to our notice then. We don’t have a portrait of him either. But since it is known that in Brazil he showed pictures of himself with Proust, they could come out one day. “according to Thierry Laget.

While he was long believed to be dead in Argentina, it was recently discovered that he was in the vicinity of Parnaiba (northeast of Brazil), from where he disappeared in 1923. Rochat had taken him to this tropical region. autographed copies of Proust’s novels, who died in 1922.

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