... brief but haunting ... Mr. Friedländer confirms his late swerve toward literature in the incisive and quizzical essays ... Some readers might expect Mr. Friedländer the historian to focus on the social Proust of salon intrigue and upper-class rivalry—the writer who takes his prose scalpel to a changing elite as the old aristocracy competes with a confident new bourgeoisie. Yet the narrator, as he insists, is not just an 'observer' but a 'dreamer.' Mr. Friedländer also turns a forensic gaze on the Proustian principle of “involuntary memory,” the mental process that re-creates a vanished past ... Mr. Friedländer’s anti-tragic reading seems oddly out of kilter with his own insights into a work built on grievous loss that seeks salvation through enchanted memory. Proustian uncertainties—and contradictions—may ensnare critics too ... intimate and subtle.
... charmingly ramshackle ... Friedländer, a lauded expert on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, describes his short book as an essay, and notes at the start that he is no specialist on Proust. Indeed, the pleasure of the book comes from its old-fashioned, amateur quality, the author unspooling thoughts and venturing theories collected over many years about a book he clearly loves.
Pulitzer-winning Holocaust historian Friedländer (The Years of Extermination) meditates on the 'extraordinary pull' and hidden depths of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu in this intriguing extended essay ... Admiration for the complex 'social tapestry' of the novel and Proust’s 'sumptuous' style permeate Friedländer’s musings on the novel’s exploration of memory, death, the 'invisible presence' of time, and unrequited love (the last theme inspired by, Friedländer speculates, Proust’s unfulfilled attraction to his driver, Alfred Agostinelli). Proust fans will enjoy these appreciative, personal peregrinations through 'one of the most important novels ever written.'
Early on, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Friedländer writes that he believes In Search of Lost Time is not only the greatest novel of French literature, but one of the most important novels ever written. In this brief, thought-provoking examination that is likely to appeal most to literary scholars he focuses on the 'Narrator’s strange, contradictory statements' and how the Narrator functions as Proust’s 'alter ego.' ... His extensive quoting from the novel and his many debates with other Proust scholars create something of a running dialogue among many voices ... The author is a wise, enthusiastic guide to Proust, but this one is mostly for the academic audience. An intimate literary investigation; those seeking a broader assessment will need to look elsewhere.