Proust's Overcoat

The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things Proust

Lorenza Foschini

Published: 3 November 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 144 pages
ISBN: 9781846272721

Translated by Eric Karpeles


The story of the overcoat began with a chance meeting - between an obsessive book collector, Jacques Guérin, and his physician, Dr Robert Proust, brother of the late writer. Guérin immediately glimpsed the possibility of acquiring the novelist's personal effects, but it would be decades before he finally came to possess the relic he had most coveted: Proust's moth-eaten otter-lined overcoat...

About the author

Image of Lorenza Foschini

Lorenza Foschini is an Italian journalist, writer and television news anchorwoman, and a former Vatican correspondent. She is the author of Investigation at Millennium's End (Rizzoli), which won the Prix Scanno. Born in Naples, she lives in Rome. More about the author


‘[A] little gem. If you have a highly literate friend and can't think what to buy them, this is the book. It's a riveting story, and the photograph of the overcoat devours your eyes, but like Proust's great novel, in the end it is the words that charm and engage the reader ... [A] peach of a book.’ Linda Grant



‘[A] wholly enjoyable book, short enough to be a bagatelle.’ John Sutherland

‘A jewel of a book, based on the "invention" of flesh and blood characters.’

‘A rare and wonderfully written book of literary detection that is heartbreaking as well as thrilling, about the afterlife of a writer's manuscripts and the things he carried.’ Michael Ondaatje

‘Foschini delightfully recounts this adventure as if writing a novella, except that everything she writes about is actually true.’

‘Foschini leads her readers to a titillating and ludicrous surprise Proust would have adored.’

‘I read it in two sittings and just loved it.’

‘It's exquisite, delicate, fascinating. I put Proust's Overcoat on the same shelf as Serena Vitale's Pushkin's Button and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.’ Edmund White

‘Lorenza Foschini's portrait of Guérin and his Proust obsession is delightful, and the objects themselves take on a life of their own and do a jig in this little volume.’

‘Suffering from ill-health and insomnia, the eccentric life of Proust makes a great backdrop to this melancholy true story... Foschini's story glints with mentions of the arty stars of the day (Jean Genet, Violette Leduc and Jean Cocteau all make guest appearances) and tantalisingly reveals the behind-the-scenes dramas of Parisian society.’ Eithne Farry

‘There is an elegant, pleasing symmetry to this study in obsession. Foschini relates the story - in which Picasso, Genet and Cocteau pop up as mere extras - with a delightful light touch.’

‘This book is just my style. In the spirit of La Bohème, a brilliant aria to the coat.’

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