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Proust among the Nations

From Dreyfus to the Middle East

 Known for her far-reaching examinations of psychoanalysis, literature, and politics, Jacqueline Rose has in recent years turned her attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict, one of the most enduring and apparently intractable conflicts of our time. In Proust among the Nations, she takes the development of her thought on this crisis a stage further, revealing it as a distinctly Western problem.

In a radical rereading of the Dreyfus affair through the lens of Marcel Proust in dialogue with Freud, Rose offers a fresh and nuanced account of the rise of Jewish nationalism and the subsequent creation of Israel. Following Proust’s heirs, Beckett and Genet, and a host of Middle Eastern writers, artists, and filmmakers, Rose traces the shifting dynamic of memory and identity across the crucial and ongoing cultural links between Europe and Palestine. A powerful and elegant analysis of the responsibility of writing, Proust among the Nations makes the case for literature as a unique resource for understanding political struggle and gives us new ways to think creatively about the violence in the Middle East.

256 pages | 4 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2011

Carpenter Lectures

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages


“Jacqueline Rose’s brilliant achievement in her new book is to argue knowledgeably and persuasively for the relevance that reading Proust and Freud has to the violent antagonism opposing Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. This is a compelling work that will provoke much debate.”

Leo Bersani, University of California, Berkeley

“Rose has an exceptional gift for writing about a moment in the past in such a way as to light up an entire landscape of human experience—always with an eye to our own times and predicaments. In a sense, the Dreyfus trial is her Madeleine episode. As she brings it to mind, a whole host of thoughts and emotions are stirred—including ones we would rather resist, not least on the subject of Israel-Palestine. Proust, Rose argues, wants us ‘to worry to the very edge of our convictions.’ Her book, written with style, insight, erudition, feeling, and flair, gets us to do exactly that.”

Brian Klug, University of Oxford

“This book pushes at the limits of postcolonialism and deconstructs some of its certainties—to wit, the smugness that smoothes out complexity in order to make it easier to separate victim from oppressor. Rose shows not only that those in the West are the creators of their own version of the Orient, but that the Orient is embedded, however uncomfortably, in the West, and that there are trading pathways that crisscross between Europe and the Middle East, which must at all cost be remembered and maintained. It is exhilarating to read something so bold, that is reaching so urgently for something beyond itself, so strongly anchored, and yet in search of truths somewhere most people refuse to look.”

Ingrid Wassenaar, author of Proustian Passions | Ingrid Wassenaar, author of "Proustian Passions"

 “Deliberately audacious, the work examines the philosophical and mental resources in Proust and links them to issues as surprising as they are difficult, such as the massacre of Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon in 1982.”

Proust et les ideologies sociales

“Rose makes a provocative connection between Dreyfus and Jewish nationalism, but she is also careful to point out that she does not make this move in a justificatory or redemptive way. She is at all times aware of the power of fantasy to overtake truth. . . . She places Proust and Freud in dialogue here with Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet, not in an isolated textual vacuum but as intellectual activists grappling with ambivalence. . . . The scholarship that underpins [this book] shows how close reading can be used rigorously both to retrieve from the archive, and to support a broader argument. . . . Revive[s] Proust as a political writer.”

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents


A Note on Translations and Editions of Proust

Introduction 3

1 Proust among the Nations

2 Partition, Proust, and Palestine

3 The House of Memory

4 Endgame: Beckett and Genet in the Middle East



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