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Lonely and bored in the capital, and at her husband's suggestion, Albaret began to run errands for Proust, who was her husband's most regular client.
Before very long she became his secretary and housekeeper. Marcel Proust died in and Albaret moved on to run a small Paris hotel, together with her husband and daughter. Odilon Albaret died in , by which time the hotel had been sold and Albaret had become the caretaker-guide at a museum at Montfort-l'Amaury , on the western edge of Paris.
In the early s she was persuaded by the Laffont publishing company that she should disclose what she could concerning the private life of Marcel Proust, who was still an iconic literary figure among the intellectual classes. She dictated seventy hours of taped material to Georges Belmont , a journalist-translator with a reputation built on interviews with American movie-stars and translations into French of anglophone novels by Anthony Burgess , Graham Greene , Henry James , Henry Miller and others.
The resulting biographical portrait of Proust provided many hitherto unknown details, although the overall picture was in most respects reassuringly consistent with information already provided by Proust in his novels and elsewhere. Ten years older than she, Albaret was already "doing taxi work" in the far away capital.
In , through the intervention of her husband with his illustrious regular client, she was "asked to fill in for a few days",  and permitted to undertake errands for Marcel Proust , delivering letters and books. It may have been as the result of the outbreak of war in July of that year, and the resulting difficulties of "recruiting staff" as the higher wages offered by the munitions barons tempted many women to switch to factory work after their menfolk was called away to join the army, that despite her relative youth she very soon became one of Proust's household servants.
A key point came when Albaret was invited to involve herself in the great man's "breakfast" ritual, which took place at or soon after four o'clock each afternoon, as Proust rang his bell two times in order to be served with two large bowls of strong milky coffee and two croissants.
So we created our own sort of intimacy, though for him it was chiefly an atmosphere within which to work, while I forgot about my own tasks and could see nothing but a magic circle. There was always an appropriate distancing of class, status and background between master and servant, but also a growing practical and spiritual interdependency. Albaret proved hugely loyal, quick witted and adaptable enough to accommodate her employer's idiosyncratic habits, becoming largely nocturnal in order to be on hand when Proust was awake and available to clean his room if he went out .
When he came home in the early hours of the morning she would wait up for him he never carried the key for his apartment. If he wanted to talk she would listen. She agreed at once, though she had absolutely no idea who or what this third person singular was. She read The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas at his prompting, though she rejected his suggestion that she should read Balzac.
Despite her employer's urgings, she never took to keeping a diary. Apart from making coffee and serving the croissants, one task that Albaret was not called up to perform was cooking her employer's meals. Cooking did not take place at home. She was, however, mandated to telephone meal orders to the fine city restaurants: these were dispatched with minimal delay to the address at Boulevard Haussmann.
Permanently ill by this time, Proust ate little by the middle-and upper class standards of Paris at those times, and he hardly drank.
A meal might consist of a little of the white meat from a chicken or a filet of sole, washed down, on rare occasions, with a little flute of Champagne or of Bordeaux, which would suffice. The only meal which he really revered was the coffee and croissants, which he consumed as his tea-time "breakfast". Sources speculate that a more varied diet might have buttressed his failing health more effectively [ according to whom? It would, however, be wrong to think that he was wholly inflexible in his "breakfast" routine.
The kitchens at the Hotel Ritz remained open longer than those of most establishments, but even here the kitchens were not, for most of his purposes, staffed and accessible through the night. Albaret held her own key, however, in order that she might be able to access the hotel kitchens at any point during the night, should her employer require a chilled beer. During the war, with many of his younger friends and associates away at the front, and cafe society for those who remained very much diminished, Proust became increasingly reclusive: that trend intensified as his health deteriorated during the postwar period.
The reduction in his social life seemed to intensify his need to write. Albaret enabled him to remain creative. She wrote down texts as he dictated them to her and became important as a point of contact with the outside world. Some sources attest that she also provided inspiration for his descriptions of certain character traits [ according to whom? Proust had always said that it would be Albaret's hands that would close his eyes when he died "Ce sont vos belles petites mains qui me fermeront les yeux.
It seems likely that the prediction came true. She was certainly present in her employer's bedroom, with the writer's brother, the urologist and gynaecologist Robert Proust , when Marcel Proust died.
At Robert's request she cut a lock of his older brother's hair which made an appearance in at a "Proust exhibition" held in central Paris at the French National Library. In , it was listed for auction by the Sotheby's auction house. Albaret remained fiercely loyal to her famous employer until and long after his death in As his posthumous reputation soared Albaret made a point of shunning publicity and avoiding any mention of her former employer's personal life that might have been construed as disloyal.
With her husband she opened a hotel along the Rue des Canettes , the Hotel Alsace Lorraine, later renamed the Hotel La Perle,  which the couple ran with their daughter, Odile. The hotel was probably sold around , by which time Odilon Albaret was close to retirement age. This was the house where Maurice Ravel had lived between and his death, and which now functioned as a small museum dedicated to the composer.
Under the terms of a "convention de gardiennage" which the sisters signed with Edouard Ravel, they agreed to look after the house for a term of twenty years.
Proust que de Ravel aux visiteurs". Odilon Albaret died in By this time almost all the celebrities that — thanks to Proust — Albaret had known as a young woman were gone. The Belmont book was well received by critics, and also resonated beyond the literary elite; it was translated, amongst other languages, into English. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Montfort-l'Amaury , Yvelines , France. He told her husband: "Just tell her that if ever she left I would not be able to go on with my work.
New York Review of Books. Retrieved 30 May Helped Proust in Last Years. New York Times. La Repubblica. Deutsch von Margret Carroux. Kindler; Seiten; 38 Mark. Der Spiegel online. Felix Adlon. Bayard Presse La Croix. Sophie Leclerc, Gradhiva. Le Figaro , Paris. Retrieved 1 June Toutes les rues de Paris.
Monsieur Proust Memoir by Celeste Albaret
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