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A beautiful book in its own right and a marvelous companion to Proust's novel, especially for those of us with a minimal knowledge of paintings and painters.
 
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lschiff | 3 andra recensioner | Sep 24, 2023 |
Very clever idea. Indispensable, now, really. If Proust said someone resembled the third guy to Jesus' left in a work by Giotto, I just nodded and moved on, now, here he is. Beautifully printed. ...also acts as an interesting summary of the work, since an introductory sentence and the relevant quote are included, - [you almost never see the rare comma dash] from the graphic arts point of view.
 
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markm2315 | 3 andra recensioner | Jul 1, 2023 |
Karpeles book is almost unclassifiable. It melds biography with intellectual and cultural history, but is not complete without a personal memoir aspect.That it works well in all of these areas speaks well for both the author and the subject. I learned a lot about the world of art and the people in it from this book.
 
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jwhenderson | 1 annan recension | Mar 10, 2022 |
This is one of the best companion books to read and keep by your side as you journey through Proust's magnificent In Search of Lost Time. The author opens with an introductory essay that explains how he has "attempted to reassemble in a single volume the fleeting paintings weaving in and out of a moving narrative, to offer for the first time to the reader of In Search of Lost Time 'a comprehensive and continuous picture'."

To this end he combines color plates for all of the art referenced in the novel along with lucid contextual commentary and relevant quotations from the novel. When a specific work of art is not mentioned he has chosen a representative piece to complement the passage from the novel. The presentation of art works from artists as disparate as Manet and Michelangelo, Delacroix and Degas, and many others is a feast for the reader's eyes.

The result of his comprehensive work is a successful melding of art with literature that will please both those who are encountering Proust for the first time and those who know and love his literary masterpiece.
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jwhenderson | 3 andra recensioner | Jun 22, 2021 |
Józef Czapski is a well-known -- yet not very profoundly -- figure in Poland. His account of imprisonment in Soviet camps and his wartime search for the twenty thousand murdered comrades, collected in "Inhuman Land" and "Memories from Starobielsk" (both forthcoming from NYRB), from banned books have gained the status of required reading. Yet Czapski was much more than a survivor. Like Proust, whose writings became his life companion, Czapski was above all an artist of great sensibility, registering with keen perceptiveness minute changes in the quality of light that fell across objects as well as fine expressions of human face and body that often speak to their true feelings or hidden motives. Trained to be a painter in Paris between the wars, Czapski was thrust into history against his will, but never recoiled before the encounter. The first uniform he wore was that of Tsar's guards. Then he fought on the Polish side in 1920 against the Bolsheviks. In 1939 he joined the Polish army again, as an officer, with the intention to fight the Germans, but instead found himself facing a surprise attack of the Soviets on the Eastern front, near Lvov. Captured, along with thousands of others, he was among the 395 (and just over seventy from his camp) who survived the Katyn massacre. The disappearance of these tens of thousands Polish officers, Czapski's comrades, was not known until Germany had attacked Russia and, in desperate need of fighting forces, Stalin issued an "amnesty" to Poles caught in the enormous web of Soviet gulags. A river of migrants -- both soldiers and civilians -- flowed to the banks of the Caspian sea where General Anders was gathering his army. The breadth of Karpeles's historical research is impressive, but perhaps more importantly, an artist himself, he is able to present his subject with great feeling, yet without unnecessary sentimentalism. The pages describing Czapski's search, in 1942, for the missing officers are probably among the most moving in the book: even while we know the outcome of that search, we cannot help but be swept by the slightest hope that Czapski might be successful. As a historian, Karpeles has a well-honed sense of the present moment: that is, of that moment in the past as experienced by those who lived it, knowing what they knew and what was unavailable to them at the time. He is also closely tuned in to the changes in historical perception: for example, something that might come as a shock, the early and staunch support for Stalin in the West -- to the point that anything critical of his regime was immediately censored (e.g. on his early fundraising trip to America to gather support for the emigrant cultural/political publication "Kultura" in Paris, Czapski was explicitly forbidden from mentioning Katyn; similarly, in France, copies of his "Souvenirs de Starobielsk," published with the support of de Gaulle and other well-placed figures, against the popular communist condemnation, were being bought out by the French Communist Party and burned...). At times, Karpeles's book reads like a political/historical thriller. At others, Karpeles taps into the shared fascination with Proust whose work and life provide a canvas against which Czapski's own development and sensibility come into focus. As a painter, Karpeles can be critical of Czapski's creative output and able to appreciate both his failures and the moments of brilliance and inspiration obtained in Czapski's dogged pursuit of his craft. For a figure like Czapski, an artist, a diarist and a writer on topics as varied as history, painting, literature, politics, a self-professed Polish patriot and a lover of Polish culture, yet critical of narrowly conceived "patriotism" and opposed to any form of calcified nationalism or Catholicism (dominant in the country then as it is now!), at home in French as in Polish, Russian, and German (German was the language of tenderness between him and his mother), it is a great stroke of luck, or maybe fate, to have a biographer who is equally sensible to nuance, discerning in politics, and capable of navigating often hostile waters. Czapski's story is thus also interwoven with, no less fascinating, narrative of Karpeles's research. Not at all self-centered, this added perspective bridges the past and the present, allowing the reader to view the contemporary world through the artist's lens. Not hampered by the sort of self-censorship that haunts writing in Poland today, Karpeles is able to explore Czapski's sexuality, his inner conflicts, his religiosity, with an uninhibited simplicity. We thus get a full portrait of a complex character who, above all, remained true to himself throughout his life.
 
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aileverte | 1 annan recension | Nov 21, 2018 |
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