Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Remembering Marcel Proust

In 1999 Montblanc released a new addition to its famous writers series, an elegant octagonal fountain pen named the Marcel Proust. The number of pens produced was 17,000, each of which bears an individual serial number.

The pen is 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) long capped and 5.75 inches (14.5 cm) posted, and weighs in the neighborhood of 32-35 grams. The weight comes from the 925 sterling silver barrel and silver trim. It is definitely a heavy pen, and has a larger than usual white star Montblanc emblem on the cap. The eight-sided barrel is delicately engraved, and includes an engraved Marcel Proust signature. The cap and the top are jet black precious resin. The nib is Rhodium-plated 18 karat gold, and bears the engraving of an hourglass, which is said to be a tribute to Proust’s most popular work, Remembrance of Things Past.

The pen has what is to me (and my large hands) a good heft and feels comfortable in the hand. A beautiful fountain pen, no question about it, but the medium nib on the one I am testing is as hard and as stiff as a rock and moves across the paper—Clairefontaine brushed vellum 90g—with what feels like reluctance. Possible that the stiffness is due to a lack of use, that the pen has not been broken in, to use a term more common to shoes. I can’t help thinking what Nobuhiko Moriyama at Fullhalter in Tokyo could do with the nib, to grind some of the starch out of it. Mr Moriyama worked at Montblanc for years before leaving to open his own shop. I once took my stiff Montblanc 146 to him with the same complaint. He offered to adjust the nib, but told me I could probably improve the situation by using the pen more often. I followed that advice and he was right.

I have been cleaning and polishing this Marcel Proust pen for a friend, who by his own admission is more comfortable with a ballpoint. Too bad he didn’t choose to buy the ballpoint version of the Marcel Proust instead of the fountain pen. On the other hand, maybe he will grow to like the fountain pen.


1992 - Ernest Hemingway

1993 - Agatha Christie

1994 - Oscar Wilde

1995 - Voltaire

1996 - Alexander Dumas

1997 - Dostoevsky

1998 - Edgar Allan Poe

1999 - Marcel Proust

2000 - Schiller

2001 - Charles Dickens

2002 - F. Scott Fitzgerald

2003 - Jules Verne

2004 - Franz Kafka

2005 - Cervantes

2006 - Virginia Woolf

2007 - William Faulkner

2008 - George Bernard Shaw

2009 - Thomas Mann

2010 - Mark Twain

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America