Quoted: Justice Stephen Breyer on Proust

October 23, 2013

In this photo taken Jan. 24, 2013, file photo U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer reacts during a lecture at Boston University School of Law in Boston. Breyer is in a Washington hospital after shoulder replacement surgery following a bicycle accident injury to his right shoulder Friday, April 26, 2013. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg says the 74-year-old Breyer is expected to make a full recovery following the operation Saturday. Previously he broke his collarbone in an accident in 2011 and sustained broken ribs and a punctured lung in a bicycle mishap in 1993, before he joined the court. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/AP Photo

“To me, Proust is the Shakespeare of the inner world.”

Justice Stephen Breyer in an interview — conducted in French — about his favorite French author and translated in the New York Review of Books. Breyer taught himself the language by reading all seven volumes of “À la recherche du temps perdu” as a legal intern in Paris, then immediately rereading it. (Doesn’t that make you feel like a slacker?) The French language, said Breyer, gave him an entrée into another culture — and made him a better jurist: “This empathy, this ability to envision the practical consequences on one’s contemporaries of a law or a legal decision, seems to me to a crucial quality in a judge.”

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