Proust and the Mystification of the Jews

         The controversy over whether Proust was in any sense a Jewish writer or, on the contrary, in some way essentially a Jewish writer, began in France only weeks after he was buried. It still persists there. But before we dip into these muddied waters, some clarifications are in order about the contradictory milieu from which he sprang.          Proust, who was born in 1871 in Auteuil near Paris, was, of course, a half-Jew, though that is not how he defined himself to others. His mother, Jeanne Weil, was the daughter of a wealthy Jewish stockbroker. Her son remained deeply attached to her all his life, and her image is affectionately inscribed in In Search of Lost Time in the figure of the Narrator’s mother and to some degree in that of his grandmother as well, together with his actual maternal grandmother. Jeanne’s marriage with Adrien Proust, a perfunctory Catholic, was undertaken for social reasons on her part and for economic reasons on his. He was a highly ambitious physician who would attain considerable professional success, and the substantial dowry that Jeanne Weil brought to the union helped launch him on his career. The son of a grocer, he could not offer her lofty social standing through his background, but his identity as a Catholic gave her and the two sons she would bear him the necessary entrée into French society. A stipulation of their marriage contract was that any children of their union would be baptized as Catholics. Jeanne, however, never contemplated conversion, nor did her husband attempt to persuade her to convert, as far as we know.           There appears to have been no great romantic element in the marriage, and as was very common in haute bourgeois circles at the time, he had mistresses,

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