Watch: Found Footage of Marcel Proust
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
A Canadian film professor with a penchant for wedding videos may have just discovered the only known video footage of Proust
A Canadian professor believes he may have found the only known video footage of the legendary Marcel Proust. Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, a film instructor at Laval University in Quebec, was screening the 1904 wedding video of Élaine Greffulhe, daughter of the Countess of Greffulhe, whose spritely reputation as Paris’s it-girl inspired Proust’s character Oriane de Guermantes. (You know, just your typical end-of-week Netflix and chill.) While watching the film, Sirois-Trahan saw a man who looked a lot like Proust. So far, several notable academics have come down in agreement.
A clip from the footage, which can currently be viewed on the Guardian’s site, shows Proust quickly descending a staircase and navigating around a group of old people. Then, voilà! Just like that he vanishes out of the frame.
Despite the brevity of the clip, scholars are nevertheless over the moon about the discovery. Jean-Yves Tadié, a Proust specialist, told the Guardian, “I find this discovery very moving, and all the more so because Proust always had an ambiguous relationship with moving images.” Tadié expressed shock that nobody had thought to sift through the Greffulhes archives before. (The surnames in this story are magnificent, aren’t they?)
Luc Fraisse director of the Review of Proustian Studies, has also weighed in on the new footage and says the circumstantial evidence is strong: “Because we know every detail of Proust’s life, we know from several sources that during those years he wore a bowler hat and pearl grey suit… It’s moving to say to ourselves that we are the first to see Proust since his contemporaries.”
However, Fraisse did note that he wished Proust weren’t moving so fast.
Sirois-Trahan, who appears to be ever the realist, thinks it’s important to point out that there’s no concrete evidence that the speedster is indeed Marcel Proust. However, the evidence seems to be mounting, and the video is still an important historical window into 20th century Parisian life.