Roger Pearson’s Review of Two Outstanding Biographies of Marcel Proust
William C. Carter Jean-Yves Tadié
The world, when viewed from Paris, appears to be essentially different than it was when seen from London, New York or Tokyo. Life experienced in a francophone world is unique.
Many writers, sculptors and painters from England and other countries in the world believed that residing in Paris and in Provence was necessary for them to reach their highest level of artistic creation. After moving to Paris or to the South of France and living there and painting in this new country for one or two years, something new would happen which they could not imagine to have happened if they had stayed in their original country. It was like a transformation from a crysalis into a butterfly, which was brought about only by living and painting in France.
Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Dora Carrington and other writers and artists of the Bloomsbury Group, for example, felt it was absolutely necessary to visit France each year and to live there to renew their spirits and to recover from a depression which settled on them in England. Virginia Woolf would write, “I felt a kind of levity and civility and frivolity and congeniality come upon me with the first sight of Dieppe. How much more enjoyable in some queer way France is than England.”
Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant rented a cottage in Cassis almost every summer throughout the 1920s. Their summer home on the south coast of France served as a spiritual oasis for them and for many of their English friends, and it came to be regarded as “Bloomsbury on the Mediterranean”. Roger Fry would write to a friend, “I like all of Provence, and my joy at returning there is so great . . . I always feel myself back at home; I always feel as if I had come back from exile.”