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Proust Hideaway Opens to Public

February 25, 1996|Times of London

The cork-lined room where Marcel Proust wrote "A Remembrance of Things Past" has been restored in homage to the reclusive writer who craved absolute tranquillity amid the noise of Paris.

The second-floor apartment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, where Proust lived and worked between 1907 and 1919, was no humble writer's garret but a sumptuous bourgeois spread with high ceilings, marble columns and elaborate moldings.

Now owned by a French bank, the apartment has been restored to its earlier grandeur, while Proust's favorite room has returned to its former, sepulchral silence.

Last week it was opened to the public by appointment, and this summer thousands of tourists are expected to visit the latest addition to the Proust pilgrimage trail, which already includes the house where he was born in the suburb of Auteuil, the Ritz hotel where he often entertained and the building where he died in 1922 on the Rue Hamelin.

Proust insisted that the walls of the room where he slept and wrote should be lined with thick panels of cork--an idea he got from Henry Bernstein, the dramatist--while the windows were muffled by heavy curtains to keep out the distracting noise of the boulevard below. The writer worked mostly at night and the sound of the daytime bustle, when he was trying to sleep, drove him to distraction.

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