The Irish writer Colm Toibin went to an exhibition in the Morgan Library in New York City that celebrates the 1913 publication of Swann’s Way, the first of the seven volumes in Marcel Proust’s monumental À la recherche du temps perdu. Upon seeing a photo of the novelist’s mother, he developed a certain sympathy for her situation:
“Mme Proust is seated, looking to the left, while her sons, young men in their twenties, stand on either side of her. They are beautifully dressed and have a look in their eyes that suggests the boulevard and the salon. There is something feline and sleek about the pair of them. It is easy to imagine why maman is so dour-looking and disapproving, her mouth firmly closed, her eyes fixed on the ground. She is a woman who knows what trouble looks like, and these boys are ready for trouble of the most sweet and tender and pleasurable kind.”
From The Sweet Troubles of Proust in the New York Review of Books blog.