Letter to Henri Duvernois

[spring 1921]   


   I think that there has been a slight misunderstanding (Felix culpa). I had mistakenly thought (which comes about no doubt because of my wretched eyes and my extreme tiredness, I haven't been able to leave my bed for 3 months) that Jacques Boulanger was asking me about this collaboration on your behalf, which caused me to reply to him a little too late on the subject. In any case, from whichever side the initiative came is of no importance. What is of the greatest importance is that you have the goodness to hold my works in the same estimation that I hold yours. This has afforded me much pleasure during these cruel days of illness in which I find it difficult to take any pleasure. - The misfortune is that your proposal will probably not happen. I still have three books to publish, if I [illegible], three Sodom and Gomorrah. Don't alarm yourself too much (I say this in all events so as not to place all the bad luck on my side and not to break things off without having tried). Those books are not as "improper" as the ending of my last book (it's true that this point of comparison - my book - is without doubt an unknown quantity to you). I do not want to lie, either in one sense or the other, I would be lying if I told you that there were not a few sodomist stories in it, but intermingled with something completely different and my painful Gomorrhean liaison that ends in a suicide. But it is not condensed into something indecent, like the terrible revelation that I was obliged to provide at the end of my last book.
   Well then, I have been told that 1. you only publish short pieces. 2. that you insist on one year before publication in book form. Alas, I have removed a lot of lines (28 out of 30) but even so my books are still very long. Consequently if that is a condition sine que non you will be doing me a great kindness if you tell me at once as I am very keen to know. As for the question of the year's interval, it isn't so much the displeasure of my editors and reviewers that I fear. I know that come what may they will be furious with me for writing in the Pages Libres, but I shall be glad to explain to you when I am less ill (on the assumption that I ever will be less ill, and it is possible, because even when we go somewhere we don't want to, we don't go in a straight line, and it could be that there are better things ahead), I will explain to you how comfortable I am with the N.R.F. and that even if I offend them I will not act without delicacy. Only an author in such a precarious state would wish to see his work completed. My next volume needs to appear before May (it is already extremely late much to the disappointment of my editors). If you insist that I wait a year, they won't be any more nor less angry, but as for myself I would have much less chance to get it all finished. Assuming that there is no objection to the 1st question (the length of the piece), you must give me permission to be published in book form in October 1922. Alas, it may be that even if you do allow it the N.R.F. won't agree because they would think the interval too short. But I don't think so. In any case as it seems fairly unlikely to me that you would accept, I still haven't spoken to Gallimard about any of this. I trust in your loyalty, for which I have nothing but praise, that you would not speak to him about the 1st point. Once the enterprise is launched I will be able to speak to him about it. [...], I think that would be better too. - I am looking forward to having a reply from you as soon as possible. This is why. The N.R.F. is not only a publishing house but a review. Jacques Rivière has asked me for extracts of my next volume for the October issue. Naturally I will not give them to them if I am obliged to appear in the Oeuvres Libres. But in that case it would be better for me to notify him quite soon, so that he has time to prepare his issue. - If I have a little respite I will ask to see you one time - whether it is in the Oeuvres Libres or not in the Oeuvres Libres, that has no bearing on it. But it will be one evening soon, because even when I am not suffering a new illness my asthma attacks prevent me from receiving during the day. Mutual friends - or lady friends - will take it upon themselves to explain to you the frightful arrangements of my existence, the concessions they make to fit in with it, and ask you to be just as indulgent and to do the same. Please accept, Monsieur, my feelings of admiration, honour and gratitude.

   Marcel Proust.


Henri Duvernois was director of the review Les Oeuvres Libres and wanted to publish the first part of Sodom and Gomorrah. See http://www.museedeslettres.fr/public/


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