Literature & literary studies:

Lost Time

Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp


Paperback / softback

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Lost Time by Jozef Czapski

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During the Second World War, in the heart of the malevolent Soviet Union, Polish prisoner-of-war Jozef Czapski brought Marcel Proust's novel la recherche du temps perdu to life without a single page of text available for reference. Presenting a series of lectures in an attempt to distract his fellow officers from their collective misery, he managed to revive the novel and his experience of reading it purely from memory. It was a clarifying moment for Czapski, a Proustian moment. His talks were given in French, helping to focus the men's minds and distract their thoughts from the grim surroundings where they were being held. Calling upon deep reserves of aesthetic knowledge and critical thinking in a variety of languages, Czapski offered aspects of Proust's story, like Scheherazade, night after night. His lectures are a testament to the survival of memories of both worlds woven together, the fictional Faubourg Saint-Germain and the actual Soviet prison camp.

Author Biography

J zef Czapski (1896-1993) was a writer and artist, as well as an officer in the Polish army. In 1918, he enrolled in the Warsaw School of Fine Arts, but shortly thereafter he suspended his studies in order to travel to Russia at the request of military authorities to search for officers in his division who has disappeared in action. At the end of the Russian Civil War, he went back to his studies, this time at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts and soon relocated to Paris with some fellow students, thus founding the Komitet Paryski, or "Paris Committee," later known as the Kapist movement. Czapski was drafted into the army at the beginning of World War II, soon after landing in a Soviet prisoner of war camp. Once free, he was assigned to investigate another disappearance of officers, who he would discover were victims Eric Karpeles, painter, writer and translator, is the author of Almost Nothing- The 20th Century Art and Life of J zef Czapski. His comprehensive guide, Paintings in Proust, considers the intersection of literary and visual aesthetics in the work of the great French novelist. He has written about the paintings of poet Elizabeth Bishop and about the end of life as seen through the works of Emily Dickinson, Gustav Mahler and Mark Rothko. Painter of the Sanctuary and the Mary and Laurance Rockefeller Chapel, he has also translated Lorenza Foschini's Proust's Overcoat.
Release date NZ
November 15th, 2018
Country of Publication
United States
The New York Review of Books, Inc
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