It’s a daring illustrator that attempts an erotic comic version of the section of Marcel Proust’s epic À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) which tells of the love affair between Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy. Un amour de Swann (Swann in Love) comprises a central part of the first volume of À la recherche, Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way), which was published in 1913, to be followed by six further volumes, finally reaching completion in 1927.
The young Swann is an idly wealthy eligible bachelor in the best circles of belle époque Paris, although he is still regarded as something of a social outsider because of his Jewish background. He has been having an affair with the Duchess de Guermantes, but becomes intrigued and then obsessed by the young courtesan Odette.
Because it works as a standalone novella, and is a much easier introduction to Proust’s epic than the seven-volume complete À la recherche, Un amour de Swann has been published separately by a number of publishers. Recent English translations include those by Brian Nelson (2017) and Lucy Raitz (2022).
It goes without saying that Guillaume Berteloot’s version of Charles and Odette’s tempestuous relationship goes well beyond the original narrative, involving a rampant sexuality that Proust may not have been able to imagine, and certainly not imagine being illustrated. Un amour de Swann shows Berteloot having skilfully mastered all the techniques required to portray convincing and highly-charged sexual encounters.