It’s hard to believe that Marcel Proust, whose mammoth seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time holds the Guinness World Record for longest novel based on character count, was well-practiced in the art of leaving things on the cutting room floor. As it turns out, he was. Smithsonian.com reports that French publishing house Editions de Fallois will release a 180-page book, The Mysterious Correspondent and Other Unpublished Novellas, containing nine previously undiscovered novellas and short stories by the prolific author.
According to Agence France-Presse, Proust decided to omit the selections from his first book, Plaisirs et les Jours (Pleasures and Days), an 1896 collection of poems and short stories. If you’ve read Proust, you may recognize the style and themes from his later writing within this content. Smithsonian.com reports that though most of the stories adhere to a traditional short-story format, some pieces are more “meandering and meditative” with “striking metaphors and wry comedic insights.” They even overlap a bit with Swann’s Way, the first volume from In Search of Lost Time.
The stories were unearthed by Bernard de Fallois, the founder of Editions de Fallois who passed away late last year. A leading Proust scholar himself, he left behind an impressive legacy of recovering lost Proust manuscripts—before this book, de Fallois had found Proust’s 900-page novel Jean Santeuil, as well as an unfinished book of essays titled Contre Sainte-Beuve, which critiqued literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve.
We’ll probably never know exactly why Proust decided to abandon these newly revealed works. It’s possible he thought the subject matter, which explored physical love and homosexuality, was too risqué for society at the time. Or maybe the young writer just wanted to make his collection perfectly streamlined for prospective publishers. If that’s the case, he didn’t employ the same “kill your darlings” strategy for everything; before In Search of Lost Time made it to press, at least one publisher rejected it, saying, “I rack my brains why a chap should need 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”