Céleste Albaret (1892-1984) was born into a peasant family in the mountainous region of Lozère, France. In 1913, she married Odilon Albaret, a Parisian chauffeur, whose clients included Marcel Proust. Odilon suggested that his new wife, who was lonely in the big city and at a loss for something to do, run errands for Proust, and before long Céleste found herself employed as the writer’s full-time (indeed round-the-clock) housekeeper, secretary, and nurse, filling those roles until his death in 1922. In later years, Céleste ran a small hotel in Paris with her husband and daughter, and after Odilon’s death in 1960, she became the caretaker of the Musée Ravel in the town of Montfort l’Amaury. Monsieur Proust was published in 1972. In recognition of her decade-long service to Proust, Céleste Albaret was made a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. She died of emphysema at the age of 92.
This lovely book is as close as we can come to meeting Proust in person.