The Introduction focuses on Proust’s response to the Dreyfus Affair as reflected in his unfinished early novel Jean Santeuil and examines Georges Bataille’s claim that the aspiring author showed radical social instincts in his defence of Dreyfus. Challenging the conventional image of Proust as the effete young socialite currying favour with the aristocracy, Bataille highlights a political Proust and homes in on those pages of Jean Santeuil where political scandal dominates. Reading the narrator’s reaction to questions of social justice biographically, Bataille sees in the early novel’s moral and philosophical defence of truth a reflection of the young Proust’s position. The chapter goes on to consider the representation of the Dreyfus Affair in A la recherche and reflects on how the later Proust moves away from a position of engaged solidarity and instead chooses to stress the ephemeral nature of culture wars and causes célèbres.
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