May 16, 2001
- Les Journees des Aubepines
Each spring, the Society of the Friends
of Marcel Proust and the Friends of Combray sponsor a weekend
of activities celebrating the memory of Marcel Proust in the
village of Illiers-Combray. Les Journees des Aubepines means
the day of the hawthorns and it is the time of the year that
the hawthorns of Marcel Proust's Combray are in full bloom. Mid
May is the time to visit the ancestral home of Marcel Proust
and meet the amateurs of his work. Amateur is the
closest word that I can find to the meaning of the English word
"fan". I was pleasantly surprised to find the fans
of Marcel Proust to be so nice. For some reason, I have concocted
an image of Proust fans as snobs but every one that I have met
with an interest in Proust has been a delightful surprise.
We were especially delighted to meet two
Americans who were there to explore the possibility of recreating
a Proustien experience for travelers interested in Marcel Proust.
The company is called Great Composer Tours and it was started
by Joseph and Cynthia Lawton who have been organizing Biographical
Travel Adventures based on the lives of the great composers.
They have decided to expand their adventures to literary figures
and are looking at Marcel Proust as a subject. We especially
enjoyed speaking English for a change and were fascinated with
their new business.
The day started with an exposition and
presentation of new items to the Proust Museum. After the presentation
the guests were allowed to roam around the Maison de tante
Léonie which is the museum. Afterwards we were served
cider and amuse bouche in the garden. We had lunch at
le Florent which the restaurant next to the old grocery that
the Proust family owned. The bus tour started at about 2:30
and made a circuit of Proust's Swan's Way and the Guermante Way.
We stopped at the Pre Catalan and heard passages from Swan's
Way about the hawthorns and saw the blossoms at their height.
We also made stops at Tansonville, St. Eman and the home of Monsieur
The French have a way of doing these things
in such a simple and understated way that it is hard to find
fault with their effort. For a pleasant weekend in the middle
of May, this is something to put on your calendar for next year.