By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
Among the young men Proust fell in love with was Bertrand de Fénelon (above), who is said to have partly inspired one of the novelist’s most attractive creations, Robert de Saint-Loup (like Fénelon, Saint-Loup was an admirer of Wagner, and bisexual). Born in 1878 – and therefore seven years Proust’s junior – Fénelon was killed in battle a hundred years ago today.
For William Carter, one of Proust’s best biographers (2000), Fénelon was “as handsome as he was distinguished, . . . Slightly aloof, blond, and dapper”. He goes on to say, “His ‘bright blue eyes and flying coat-tails’ reappeared among the elements used to create the marquis de Saint-Loup’s special appeal”. “Like Fénelon, Saint-Loup betrays his class by scorning high society and endorsing leftist policies”.