“All my adolescence,” writes Laure Murat, “I heard about the characters in La Recherche, convinced that they were uncles or cousins ​​that I had not yet met. » For someone who was born a princess in a prestigious family (she is descended from Joachim Murat through her father and from Luynes through her mother), reading In Search of Lost Time means meeting several ancestors (her great-granduncle, the Duke of Uzès, is mentioned among the friends of Robert de Saint-Loup) and see these Belle Époque salons revived, of which the Hôtel Murat, located rue de Monceau, was one of the key places. “Mama Cécile”, the author’s great-grandmother, received Marcel Proust himself there without much enthusiasm, placing “this little journalist” at the head of the table. Proust, a family novel, could only be a picturesque but anecdotal evocation of an aristocratic world which was already dying in the writer’s time. On the contrary, it is an intense, fascinating book. Because it tells in the present how an encounter with a masterpiece can turn a life upside down. “It was a shock,” summarizes Laure Murat, renowned academic and essayist (her Maison du Docteur Blanche published by Lattès in 2001 won the Goncourt biography prize).

Key to understanding. Born in 1967 into this bloodless high aristocracy, saturated with codes, devastated by a terrifying lack of maternal affection and conscious of a very Proustian sexual difference, the historian finds in La Recherche a key to understanding her own life. “The most astonishing thing was that all the scenes read where the aristocracy came into play were infinitely more alive than the actual scenes which I had witnessed, as if Proust […] put into words and intelligible paragraphs what was moving before my eyes since I was born. »Research then becomes a necessary presence, the ally of a lifetime. “My reading of La Recherche freed me from the pretenses attached to the aristocracy of my origins, established me as a subject […], opened me to reality. » Happy UCLA students! Laure Murat gives lessons there every year on her bedside book§

“Proust, family novel”, by Laure Murat (Robert Laffont, 256 p., €20).

“’You don’t cry like a servant,’ repeated my great-grandmother, whose hatred of the effusion had pushed her to give a ball after the death of one of her sons, who had fallen for France in 1916.”