An unpublished collection of the messages of Marcel Proust lifts the curtain on an unknown aspect of the writer’s life.

Even the greatest writers have bad relationships. AT “Letters to Horace Finaly”, collection of the twenty unpublished messages of Marcel Proust which will appear on Thursday, June 9, in the editorial office of Gallimard, tells an unknown anecdote from the life of the famous writer. For several years the authorIn search of lost time hosted a cumbersome Swiss guest named Henri Rocha in his house. This is what Marcel Proust told his friend Horace Finaly, a former classmate turned financier.

This Finaly was one of the masters of French finance during the Belle Epoque and interwar period, running the Bank of Paris and Pay Ba (today BNP Paribas). He studied with Proust at one of the best high schools in Paris, the Condorcet.

Henri Rocha, on the contrary, remained in the background all his life. The date of his birth is not known. This immigrant in Paris “a waiter at the Ritz when Proust spotted him in 1917”is “probably a native of the Zhu valley in the canton of Vaud” and the Jura mountain range a few kilometers from the French border, described in the introduction by the Proustian writer Thierry Lage.

In 1918, the writer had the idea to move him to his house. “believer in on the one hand, that he will stay only for a few weeks, on the other hand, that he can (him) work as a secretaryhe wrote to Horace Finaly. He took it badly: Henri Roche has no skills. And not content with clinging to free housing for almost three years, he is wrong and will spend his master’s money through him.

“We did not expect at all. When they showed me, I was amazed.”

Thierry Lage, specialist on Proust

We would hardly have known this psychodrama without the letters to Finaly. They resurface on the occasion of an auction in France in June 2021 at the house of Aguttes. The Literary Hotel Society then bought these letters for 78,000 euros in a volume that was carefully bound by the family. “We did not expect at all. When they showed me, I was amazed.”Thierry Lage tells AFP.

They have another sensation: the two correspondents traveled together in their youth to Dover, the writer’s only known invasion of England. Reading Proust, we understand how valuable Horace Finaly helps get rid of a man who abuses his generosity. “Being bored in my house, he made small “runaways” two or three times, where, unfortunately, he lost not only the fat he gained at home, but also all the money that I gave him, which I gave today. earn a small fortune (almost equivalent to mine), which he generously distributed to the “chickens”.laments the novelist, bewildered by his accounts at the tailor’s.

“It brings him closer to Albertine, who is offered dresses and other luxurious clothes.”explains Thierry Lage, referring to one of the central characters in Proust’s romantic suite. “He spends much more than Proust himself. He was a dandy who brought him nothing but this inspiration, a few ladies’ parties and evenings at the piano”.

Finally finds a place for him in the French and Italian Bank of America.
from the south, in Recife (northeast of Brazil). Proust is wary of Roche’s possible conversion. He writes that he intends to give his last subsidies to the captain of the transatlantic ship, so that he can pass them on to the Swiss as soon as he sets sail. No sooner than.

Swiss genealogists are on the trail of this man with an extremely common name. “At the moment we have not identified him. We don’t even have his portrait. But, as we know, in Brazil, he showed his photographs. with Proust they could come out one day”according to Thierry Lage.

Although he was long thought to be dead in Argentina, he was recently discovered to have been in the vicinity of Parnaiba (Northeast Brazil), from where he disappeared in 1923. Rocha took him with him to this tropical region with autographs. novels by Proust, who died in 1922.