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The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren

The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren: Proust's Swedish Valet

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren
    Book Description:

    The memoirs of Ernest Forssgren (1894-1970), the young Swede who served as Marcel Proust's last valet, provide new insights into Proust's life and death. Previously, Forssgren's memoir has been published only in excerpts, in French, with serious omissions and alterations.This book presents the complete text of the memoir, with an introduction and helpful annotations by the distinguished Proust scholar William C. Carter. Also included here is other new material: the inscriptions that Proust wrote for Forssgren's copy ofSwann's Way;an important telegram that Proust sent Forssgren, which defines with greater precision the novelist's activities in the final months of his life; Forssgren's "Summary" of the first English biography of Proust, by George D. Painter, which provides many new details about Proust's last trip to Cabourg in 1914 and his attempts at seducing young men of the servant class; and the notes that Forssgren made in his copy of Painter's biography.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13336-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations of Titles of Proust’s Works
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Ernest Forssgren
    (pp. 1-3)

    Ernest Forssgren was born in 1894, in northern Sweden, to a large, respectable, and religious family of modest means.¹ The only detail that he provides about his family’s circumstances is that his parents were struggling to send a son—presumably the eldest—through Uppsala University. The financial strains the family endured forced Ernest, at the early age of thirteen, to drop out of school, leave home, and venture forth on his own. In his late teens, Forssgren decided to seek his fortune in another country and went to London for a short time, then to Paris.

    Although Forssgren appeared in...

  7. The Job Applicant
    (pp. 4-12)

    In early September 1914, Ernest Forssgren, a nineteen-year-old Swede, recently unemployed, crossed the Seine and headed for 102 boulevard Haussmann.¹ Before ringing the bell, he gazed at the solid stone façade, whose wrought-iron balconies bespoke Right Bank bourgeois respectability and wealth but lacked the stately grandeur of the Russian Prince Alexis Orloff’s mansion in the old aristocratic quarter of the faubourg Saint-Germain, Forssgren’s previous place of employment.

    It is unimaginable how many lives had been forever altered just a month earlier, on August 2, when the French government ordered the mobilization of the army, an action followed the next day...

  8. Introduction to Forssgren’s Memoirs and Related Documents
    (pp. 13-20)

    It was apparently the publication in 1965 of the second and concluding volume of George D. Painter’s biography of Marcel Proust—the first major biography of the novelist in English—that provoked Ernest Forssgren to write his memoirs. He was outraged by Painter’s depiction of Proust’s homosexuality and apparently felt that he himself was being accused as well. Painter himself knew nothing about Forssgren, but the Swede must have told many of his acquaintances in the United States about his service with Proust, perhaps exaggerating their closeness. The publication of Painter’s biography, the second volume of which provides many details...

  9. The Mysterious Visit
    (pp. 21-136)
    Ernest A. Forssgren

    This true story goes back to the beginning of the First World War. I came to Paris with the hope, expectancy and ambition of an optimistic youth of 19 years of age in the year 1913. My goal was to somehow, sometime, eventually be able to enter the great university of Sorbonne for the study of Latin and the Latin languages, principally the French language which I admire and love the most of all languages, for its beauty, refinement, culture and elegance, in which it excels over all other languages. I wanted to become a teacher, a professor of the...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 137-138)

    Sometime after his return to the United States, Ernest Forssgren headed west to California. The 1930 U.S. Census Records show him living in Los Angeles, where his good looks had landed him a movie contract with Jack Warner. His movie career, like his other ambitions, faltered; Forssgren was never called before the cameras. He later owned land in Los Angeles and operated a motel there, but his real estate ventures did not bring him success either. In the spring of 1966, apparently disgusted with life in the United States, he decided to return tola belle Franceand settled in...

  11. Forssgren’s “Summary” of Painter
    (pp. 139-147)

    Summary of my impression and opinion of the book “Biography” of the life of Marcel Proust, “The Later Years,” by George D. Painter. E.A.F.

    After a sporadic, skippingly fragmentary perusal of the above mentioned alleged “biography,” this incomprehensible, nonsensical drivel, perpetrated by this certain Painter I would suggest his immediate return to house painting.

    As I would judge by this persons [sic] picture he must have been born about the time of the death of Marcel Proust.1 Where does he get his data? Certainly not first hand...

  12. Forssgren’s Marginalia
    (pp. 148-160)

    Forssgren wrote these comments in his copy of Proust: The Later Years, volume 2 of Painter’s biography of Marcel Proust (Boston: Little, Brown, first American edition, 1965). All page references below are to this volume. We do not know whether Forssgren owned a copy of volume 1, Proust: The Early Years. The book jacket is missing. Forssgren made his notations in pencil; those on the inside covers were partially erased afterward, making some words illegible.

    This book is, at least 50 per cent fraud, an alleged “biography.” This alleged [illegible] least [illegible] 75 per cent fraud. Shows what people get...

  13. Index
    (pp. 161-164)