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Remembering Marcel Proust’s Real Name

We are sometimes asked why we don’t put in a particularly famous person when adding a name page to the main name meaning site. Most of the time, the answer is because you already know him (or her). But not always. Sometimes the answer is because that was not his/her given name at birth.

On the name Marcel, both answers applied. We didn’t pick the famous French mime, Marcel Marceau, because he may well be the very first Marcel that comes to mind if you were asked to name a famous Marcel. Or perhaps French author Marcel Proust would be the first.

Proust’s given name, however, was really Valentin. Marcel wasn’t his middle name either, or his third — his full given name was Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust. It seems particularly odd that he picked Marcel out of all those names when one considers that there was another well-known and successful writer at the time named Marcel Prévost.

“I am totally unknown”, Proust complained in 1912. “When readers write to me at ‘Le Figaro’ after an article, which happens rarely, the letters are forwarded to Marcel Prévost, for whom my name seems to be no more than a misprint.”

Perhaps one of his friends or relatives said: “Dude! You don’t have to go by Marcel. You’ve got a whole bunch of other names.” He did write articles under various pen names such as Bernard Algouvres, Dominique, Laurence and Marc Anthony. And he did have nicknames. Proust’s mother affectionately called him her little wolf. Proust and his friend, Antoine Bibesco, spelled each other’s names backward and that made Proust “Lecram”.

Proust’s first four names may remain on his birth and baptismal records but not on his gravesite. He died in November of 1922 and was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Marcel Marceau died in September 2007 and was also buried at Père Lachaise.

Click here to see the three Marcels on the name meaning page.


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