Book Review

Chardin and Rembrandt by Marcel Proust

short post that took a month to not write

I’ve had an artsy few weeks, having packed my last bit of time in Spain with numerous galleries in disparate parts of the country. I skimmed through the overwhelmingly underwhelming Picasso museum 



Oh my fucking god, soooo much time has passed. It is now literally almost a month since I made the above notes of what I wanted to write here in relation to this little book. I’m no longer in Spain, no longer in France or even England, I’m instead fucking transported across the ocean and am sat, over-caffeinated and semi-employed in fucking Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

It’s cold here, as you’d expect. And though my dog seems to be surprisingly cool with the temperature (he’s both an idiot and technically a mountain ), I’m personally struggling to adapt, though the reappearance of the weight I lost in November and December is helping somewhat with keeping me warm. It does have the rather obvious side effect, though, of making me feel absolutely fucking disgusting. Need to get back to exercising. But I also need to find more work. Eurgh: adulthood, it’s awful.


I’m across the ocean, I’m a long way from my troubles. I’m also a long way from where I read this book, which was bloody great.

I bought Chardin and Rembrandt from one of the many indie bookshops I went to on the day of my book release, promoting myself. I ended up buying a book everywhere I went, so it turned out to be quite an expensive day, but I am aware that is entirely my fault. I cannot resist ’em, the books, especially beautiful little half-size paperbacks that include plates and writing on art by one of literature’s top voices, i.e. Marcel Proust.

The essay is short and youthful. It predates the conception of À la recherche du temps perdu by roughly a couple of decades, and though it’s juvenilia it’s crisply written and well-translated (I don’t have my copy with me to write down the name of the translator which is an unethical oversight on my behalf for which I do, deeply, apologise), and is also more simple, stylistically, than Proust’s writing would become.

In this short piece – which he did tinker with in later life – he writes about pictures and creativity with a vivid engagement, he writes of nonchalance and wandering around galleries with an enthusiasm and a charm that is confusingly engaging given that this is basically the notes of a privileged little prick from a hundred and whatever years ago. Proust is witty and droll and insightful: his descriptions of pictures are evocative, and in particular the way he writes about Chardin is far more interesting and timeless than Chardin’s actual paintings.

The essay is unfinished, and shifts briefly and wanderingly towards Rembrandt for a moment, but no one is reading this for its completeness, or its cohesion. This is a pleasurable little text because it’s one of the written word’s most wonderful proponents testing, teasing and learning his craft. Yes, there is some pertinent and engaging art criticism here too, which – when done well – is something I always enjoy. It’s a good read.


massive Bilbao flower dog

I went to lots of art galleries in December, engaging with pieces from Medieval Spain in the Catalunyan National Museum, and also the sketchbooks-as-Art that make up Barcelona’s underwhelming Picasso Museum. My dog, my lover and I left Barcelona and fled to Madrid for a two-day gallery crawl where I acquainted myself with the breath-taking Guernica for the second time in my life, and also went and gawked at the incredible selection of Hieronymus Bosch pieces that are found down underground in the massive (I’d go so far as to say too big) Prado. After that, we drove northwards to Bilbao and wandered through the Guggenheim before returning to grey England. Now I’m here in Canada, which isn’t bright like Spain but isn’t grey like England either. It should be fun, moving forwards. Like this little book was.

little Bosch detail

This is just a little post, blogfans, because I don’t remember the book very well. And I want to wrap this up so I can close the tab, as it’s been bugging me for fucking weeks now.

See you soon.


Order Chardin and Rembrandt direct from the publisher via this link.

Oh, and the translator is Jennie Feldman. Wasn’t too hard to check, actually…

On November 14th 2018, I launched my first book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:

Order Bad Boy Poet from the publisher here.

Order Bad Boy Poet with free Worldwide Shipping from The Book Depository here.

Order Bad Boy Poet from Amazon/Waterstones/Hive/Foyles etc if you’d prefer.

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It ain’t easy living this hard. I work and I work and I write and I write and only rarely does the writing sling me any dinero. If you like what I’m doing here, then please consider donating me a fiver or multiples thereof. The more you donate, the less time I have to spend doing other things for money and the more ice hot content I can carve out for you. I don’t expect anything to come through here, tbh, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Christ, I hope it doesn't hurt to ask. If posting this here a few times cripples my viewing figures I'll feel like a right Icarus.


1 comment on “Chardin and Rembrandt by Marcel Proust

  1. Pingback: Pissing Figures 1280–2014 by Jean-Claude Lebensztejn – Triumph Of The Now

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