An unpublished collection of Marcel Proust’s epistolary sheds light on his relationship with a remarkable host

Published Thursday at Galliard, Letters to Horace Finlayhis banker friend, traces the writer’s daily life to a parasitic host which he had the most difficulty getting rid of and which he hid between 1918 and 1921.

This is an unknown anecdote from the life of Marcel Proust that resurfaces. on Letters to Horace Finally, collection of twenty unpublished letters appearing on Thursday in the Gallimard editions, we know that the author ofIn Search of Lost Time had the greatest difficulty in getting a Swiss visitor he had lived with for three years. Only with the help of the recipient of the letters did he send them to Brazil in 1921.

This End was one of the masters of French finance during the Belle Époque and in the interwar period, managing the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (now BNP Paribas). He studied with Proust at one of the best high schools in Paris, Condorcet. Rochat, on the other hand, has remained his entire life in the shadows. His date of birth is unknown. This immigrant in Paris, “waiter at the Ritz when Proust noticed him in 1917”is “probably a native of the Vallée de Joux, in the canton of Vaud” and the Jura massif, a few kilometers from the French border, described in the introduction by the writer Thierry Laget, a specialist in Proust.

The novelist had the idea to move him to his house in 1918, “believed on the one hand that he would only stay a few weeks, on the other hand that he could serve as (his) secretary”he wrote to Horace Finaly.

The letters were found

He took it badly: Henri Rochat had no skill. And not content to keep the free house for almost three years, he was wrong to spend his landlord’s money and through it. We would hardly have known this psychodrama without Finaly’s letters. It reappeared on the occasion of an auction in France in June 2021, at the home of Aguttes. The Society of Literary Hotels then purchased, for 78,000 euros, these letters in a volume carefully bound by the family. “We never expected this. When they showed it to me, I was amazed., said Thierry Laget of the AFP. They cover another scoop: the two reporters accompanied their youth to Dover, the only known invasion of England for the writer.

Reading Proust, we understand how valuable Horace Finaly is in removing someone who takes advantage of his greatness. “Being tired of my place, he, on two or three occasions, was made small runaways where he sadly lost not only the fat he had acquired at home, but also all the money I had given him, which today is profitable (almost equal to mine), and which he has generously distributed to chickens”,» cried the novelist, confused by his tailor’s fees.

“It brought him closer to Albertine, who was offered dresses and other luxurious outfits”explains Thierry Laget, referring to one of the central characters in Proust’s romantic suite. “He spent more than Proust himself. He was a dandy, which brought him nothing but this inspiration, a few girl games and a night at the piano..

Leaving Brazil

He was eventually found somewhere within the French and Italian Bank of South America, in Recife (northeastern Brazil). Proust is wary of a possible turnaround in Rochat. He writes that he intends to give his final subsidies to the transatlantic captain, so that he can pass them on to Switzerland once he refuses. Not before.

Swiss genealogists began to trace this man with a very common name. “So far we don’t know him. We don’t have a portrait of him either. But as we know that in Brazil he shows photos of himself with Proust, they may go out one day.according to Thierry Laget.

While he is believed to have long been dead in Argentina, it was recently discovered that it was near Parnaiba (northeastern Brazil), where he disappeared in 1923. Rochat took him to this tropical region autographed the copies. in the novels of Proust, who died in 1922.

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