Le Pré Catelan

The Pré Catelan

Jules Amiiot, who Marcel called his “early rising, gardening uncle”, indulged his passion for horticulture by spending a portion of his wealth on the creation of a large pleasure garden, just beyond the banks of the gently flowing Loir River. He called it the Pré Catelan, after a section of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

It must have seemed natural to Marcel, a Parisian who often played in the Bois, for his Illiers uncle to name his own garden after the one in Paris. Although Jules’s Pré Catelan was no more than a postage stamp compared to the one in the capital, for the little town of Illiers its proportions were impressive. In the novel, Proust makes his uncle’s garden that of Swann at his country estate named Tansonville. Proust also preserved the name Tansonville which is that of a country manor house just outside Illiers.

Photographing Literary Landscapes

In 1913, Marcel Proust published Swann’s Way, the first part of his monumental novel In Search of Lost Time. He worked on his book for over fourteen years, writing seven volumes and creating many unforgettable characters. His novel encompasses many themes, love and jealousy, the snobbery of high society, the dangers of mistaking Eros for art, the stirrings of memory and the unstoppable nature of time. Since its publication, this vast novel continues to delight and inspire readers throughout the world.

The scenes depicted by Proust in the novel captivate his readers so much that many travel to visit the places that inspired him. These literary landscapes are to be found in Paris, Illiers-Combray, and Cabourg. I admire a writer’s ability to see a real object or place and make it visible to others through words. By using photography, I can return to the location that inspired the writer and capture the same landscapes as they continue to exist in time. The resulting juxtaposition of reality and art is a phenomenon that I find endlessly fascinating.