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Fontainebleau, Kings & Proust

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Fontainebleau vibes

Fontainebleau has been a place of pleasure and celebration for many French kings over centuries.

“A daily comedy”, wrote French poet Ronsard in 1564. Even the very serious Napoleon got caught up in the excitement after extraordinary victories in 1807 (two months of intense partying after the battle of Friedland, won against Russia). Yet, within the castle, one can feel the hard-working spirit of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte coming back abruptly. His office seems larger than his bedroom - the latter giving the impression of a (very) luxurious military camp bed. The working library is huge. And it was at the bottom of the stairs that he uttered his first goodbyes in 1814 after having lost everything... tears, screaming everywhere.

The adventure ends, the legend begins.

After the visit, it was very moving to meditate on these tumultuous events at the bucolic, peaceful Hotel de Londres. It is located right next to the Chateau of Fontainebleau; and it is precisely where a young and wild Marcel Proust placed a decisive telephone call to his mother in October 1896.

There, in this hotel, Proust wrote these words: "suddenly, her poor voice reached me, shattered, bruised, permanently altered from the voice I had always known, full of cracks and splits". The source of inspiration for a crucial segment of his masterpiece, "In Search of Lost Time", and even of this book’s essence, namely that our emotional memory matters more than physical reality.

The infamous “madeleine” is not very far off.

____ Sources ____

>> Painter, "Proust, 1871-1922", 1959
>> Bainville, "Napoléon", 1931

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