In Search of Lost Gay: Proust’s Homosexual Love Stories Will Finally Be Published

The esteemed French author kept the 1890 tales private because of their "audacity."

Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is the longest, gayest book you’ve never read. Published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927 (and totaling 4,000 pages), it’s considered one of the most influential literary works of the 20th century. But while Proust, a noted homosexual, touches upon queer themes in his magnum opus, it seems he saved the juiciest stuff for himself.

Proust wrote nine stories in the 1890s during his 20s, as he was discovering and coming to terms with his homosexuality. Or, rather, avoiding coming to terms. The stories were intended for his collection of poems and short stories, Plaisirs et les Jours (Pleasures and Days), published in 1896. Proust ultimately decided not to include them, but this fall these stories—including a mix of fairy tales, fantasy, and dialogues with the dead—will finally see the light of day when they are published in their original French under the title Le Mystérieux Correspondant (The Mysterious Correspondent), 97 years after Proust’s death.

The intellectual, novelist, essayist, and critic—who is basically what France would look like if it was a person—

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—was known to be gay, but he still clutched that closet door tight even while gallivanting around, cruising for that je ne sais cock. In a pique of masc-for-masc realness, Proust even challenged reviewer Jean Lorrain to a duel in 1897 for suggesting Proust’s relationship with fellow novelist Lucien Daudet was more than platonic. The two men did the whole pistols at 25 paces thing, both missing each other and emerging from the standoff unscathed—much like Proust’s reputation.

Still, he wasn’t fooling anybody—Marcel Proust? Her? Proust biographer—and a gay literary icon in his own right—Edmund White wrote of Proust being “eager to make love to other young men” but “equally determined to avoid the label ’homosexual.'” For Proust, writing about homosexuality was one thing, but being a homosexual was beyond the 19th-century pale. Which is kind of understandable.

For context, Proust dueled for his “heterosexual” honor two years after Oscar Wilde was tried for some gay shit in the U.K. Wilde spent two years in jail, lived the rest of his brief life in exile, and died penniless and alone in 1900 at age 46. Sooooooo, the 1890s may not have been the best time to act on homosexual impulses, though it was clearly a fruitful (pun intended) time to write about them.

Luc Fraisse, a professor at the University of Strasbourg who edited the forthcoming Le Mystérieux Correspondant, wrote of the stories:

Without doubt he considered that because of their audacity, they could have offended a social milieu where strong traditional morals prevailed. […] The awareness of homosexuality is experienced in an exclusively tragic way, as a curse. We don’t find, anywhere, those comic notes introduced here and there throughout In Search of Lost Time, which give the work all the colors of life, even in the darkest dramas.

Good times.

French publishing house Éditions de Fallois is releasing the collection this October to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Proust winning France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt. Plans for an English translation have yet to be announced, but let’s hope the French don’t keep all that moody 19th-century homosexual longing to themselves.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat