Learning the Meaning of Father’s Day from the Prousts

There is no man of literature that can describe the most humbling father-son relationship than French great novelist Marcel Proust and his father, Adrien Proust.

Two days before 26 November 1903, Adrien experienced a massive stroke attack while teaching in the medical school and eventually passed away, leaving his son so devastated. Of his father’s passing, Marcel wrote in a letter with a heightened feeling of being a failing son:

“Papa was a very sweet and simple man. I tried not to live up to his expectations for I am aware that I am always the dark spot in his life. To show him my affection, […] Other people have some sort of ambition to console them. I have none.”

At the time, Marcel was still in deep disappointment with himself because the novel he was working on, “Jean Santeuil” (an unfinished novel divided in three volumes which was never published during his lifetime).

With his father so hardworking and celebrated as an epidemiologist succeeding to combat cholera plague in Paris, Marcel saw himself as a shadow that never ever surpassed his father’s achievement and strong personality. He had developed a type of Inferiority Complex.

And the disappointment of Adrien was magnified when he learned Marcel failed to have a certain career.  Marcel was ‘only’ able to take up pens and write every night, living like  bat. Marcel’s younger brother, Robert, luckily (or sadly?) went on to study medicine, just like their father, which was quite a source of frustration to Marcel.

Adrien saw Robert’s academic and career attainment soared at medical school. Though he knew Marcel was not interested in attending medical school, as a father he suggested him to join a law firm.

But Marcel knew what he wanted. He write in one of his letters to his father:

“My dearest Papa,

I have kept hoping that I would be finally able to go on with the literary and philosophical studies for which I believe myself fit. As for a law office, I assure you I wouldn’t stick it out for three days.

I still believe that anything I do outside philosophy and literature would be just so much lost time…”

Despite the sibling rivalry, Robert showed full support of Marcel’s literary pursuit and even helped edit the elder brother’s manuscripts after Marcel’s untimely death.

Aren’t we all familiar with this situation as children?

We at times are in the unfortunate position of a child who still wants to devote him/herself to their father. Yet, s/he also has his/ her own stance in life, defending what s/he is,  what s/he wants to pursue in life, whom to marry, etc.

Seeing Marcel defend bravely his literary pursuit, I know that every child, including me, must never be afraid of expressing their minds or opinions even though often children are overshadowed by fathers.

So if you think you cannot make your father proud in HIS own perspective/ stand point, why not trying to make him proud in YOUR own way?

Marcel might be just a sickly, fragile son with little or no aptitude or knack for medicine or laws but I bet, should Adrien know how much Marcel his son is now admired for his literary achievement and how human race still celebrates his works and brilliance even after his death, the disappointed father might turn proud and accept Marcel as a whole human being. (*/)

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