A Night at the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

The Great Modernist Dinner

A Night at the Majestic


Faber & Faber 384pp £14.99

On 18 May 1922, a rich Englishman named Sydney Schiff and his wife Violet (sister of Oscar Wilde’s friend Ada Leverson) gave a supper party at the Hotel Majestic in the Avenue Kléber. It was in honour of Diaghilev and his Ballet Russe, which that evening had performed a new ballet with music by Stravinsky. Among the other guests were Picasso, Joyce and Proust; and it is with some reason that Richard Davenport-Hines calls it ‘the Great Modernist Dinner’.

Joyce and Proust both arrived late, Joyce rather drunk. It was the only occasion they met. Accounts of their conversation vary, but all agree it was insipid. Joyce had just published Ulysses. Proust – somewhat more celebrated, to Joyce’s irritation – had only six months to live and would be

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