Anatole France (essay date 1928)
SOURCE: France, Anatole. “Preface to Les plaisirs et les jours, by Marcel Proust.” In Prefaces, Introductions and Other Uncollected Papers, translated by J. Lewis May, pp. 223-28. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1928.
[In the following essay, France provides a laudatory assessment of Pleasures and Regrets.]
Why did [Marcel Proust] ask me to stand sponsor to his book, and why did I promise to undertake that very pleasant but quite superfluous task? His book is like a young poet, full of rare and delicate charm. It bears with it its own commendation; it pleads its own cause and offers itself in its own despite.
Of course it is young. It is young with the author's own youthfulness. But it is old too, as old as the world. It is the leafage of springtime on the ancient branches of the age-old forest; yet it might be said that the fresh shoots sadden over the immemorial past of the woods and robe themselves in sorrow for so many dead springs.
To the goatherds of Helicon, the grave Hesiod sang the Works and Days. It would be a sadder task to sing The Pleasures and Days to the fashionable men and women of our times, if there be any truth in the saying of that English statesman who averred that “life would be tolerable were it not for its pleasures.” And so our young friend's book shows smiles tinged with languor, attitudes of fatigue which are not...
(The entire section is 535 words.)