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THE SINS OF PADUA
Proust meets Mme Putbus's maid
In May 1900, Marcel Proust and his mother travelled to Venice, following in Ruskin’s footsteps. In 1931—nine years after Proust’s death—a French consul in Venice came across a surprising entry in the visitors’ book of the Armenian monastery there: Proust’s signature. In itself, this might not seem so strange, but the date was rather peculiar. The entry was made not in May 1900 but on October 19th of that year. We must infer that Proust made two trips to Italy—for he was certainly in France in September; and that the second time, he probably went alone. As to what he did there, the latest research has almost nothing to say. The most recent American biography, nearly a thousand pages long, contains no more than three brief sentences on this final Italian visit. It remains a mysterious blank in the scholarship. 
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