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Swann's Way

Swann's Way

Написано Marcel Proust

Озвучено Simon Vance


Swann's Way

Написано Marcel Proust

Озвучено Simon Vance

оценки:
4.5/5 (45 оценки)
Длина:
17 часов
Издатель:
Издано:
29 сент. 2010 г.
ISBN:
9781400186150
Формат:

Описание

Swann's Way is the first novel of Marcel Proust's seven-volume magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. Following the narrator's opening ruminations about the nature of sleep is one of twentieth-century literature's most famous scenes: the eating of the madeleine soaked in a "decoction of lime-flowers," the associative act from which the remainder of the narrative unfurls. After elaborate reminiscences about his childhood with relatives in rural Combray and in urban Paris, Proust's narrator recalls a story regarding Charles Swann, a major figure in his Combray childhood, and his escapades in nineteenth-century privileged Parisian society, revolving around his obsessive love for young socialite Odette de Crécy.



Filled with searing, insightful, and humorous criticisms of French society, this novel showcases Proust's innovative prose style. With narration that alternates between first and third person, Swann's Way unconventionally introduces Proust's recurring themes of memory, love, art, and the human experience-and for nearly a century, audiences have deliciously savored each moment.
Издатель:
Издано:
29 сент. 2010 г.
ISBN:
9781400186150
Формат:

Об авторе

Marcel Proust (1871–1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time; earlier rendered as Remembrance of Things Past), published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. He is considered by critics and writers to be one of the most influential authors of the twentieth century.


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  • (3/5)
    The only way I can truly describe this book is by analogy. You know when you have a really sore spot on your gum, and it hurts, and you are compelled to press on it, which doesn't relieve the pain but changes the sensation to something strangely enjoyable (or at least less painful), then you remove the pressure and the pain returns? That is reading this book. It has been lauded as a masterpiece, so I tried to get it, but all I came away with was a very original, sometimes sublimely written, self-indulgent piece of inner vision. It makes sense to me it was written by a guy in a room lined by cork. Short on story and action, long on self-consciousness. The breathtaking prose is oddly compelling, but I often felt cheated. Unlike others, I will not be reading the other volumes. I saw the beautiful movie, "Time Regained", and that satisfied my need to find out what happens/doesn't happen in the opus, but I'm not so masochistic that I'll actually read page after page of description of a leaf. I'll just accept my philistine status when it comes to Proust.
  • (4/5)
    Eerste deel van 7. Heerlijke scenes (het wakker worden, de madeleine-ervaring, ....). Trage, spiraliserende zinnen. Ogenschijnlijk niet spectaculair, maar Proust blijft ook lang na de lectuur door je hoofd spoken.
  • (4/5)
    I've been listening to this book on and off for quite a while. I've listened to some parts over again. It's beautifully written, with lyrical, lush depictions of people and places and the feelings of the narrator and other characters.

    I still have no idea how to describe this book. I totally, though, want to read or listen to the next two volumes.
  • (3/5)
    I read the first part, Combray, which was reasonably enjoyable. But then the part about Swanns love became more and more annoying and I gave up, restarting at the last part which unfortunately continued with the endless philosophies about love, this time as experienced by the young author. Reading the afterword in the Dutch translation tells you more or less what you may learn from the novel, but then in a few pages only! If you love the authors style, you may enjoy entire 500 pages. For me, the authors style doesn't really add to the content of the story. I prefer Flaubert.
  • (3/5)
    I'm not sure what to make of this. At one level, nothing much happens - the first 20 odd pages are about him struggling to go to sleep and how is mind wanders when it does. It wanders back to his childhood and his relationship with his mother and father. this then moves on to where he spent childhood holidays, and the village. It introduces Swann, who is then the topic of the second section, which retells a love affair in his life. The third section is back with the narrator, and feels to be later than the first section. In the book not a lot actually happens. It does, however, do not a lot it in very languid and descriptive prose. It almost seduces you.
  • (4/5)
    Eerste deel van 7. Heerlijke scenes (het wakker worden, de madeleine-ervaring, ....). Trage, spiraliserende zinnen. Ogenschijnlijk niet spectaculair, maar Proust blijft ook lang na de lectuur door je hoofd spoken.
  • (4/5)
    Not gonna lie, this wasn't exactly the easiest book to get through. I started reading it because my beloved John Linnell said he had read the whole series, and he added that it took him fourteen years. I can kind of understand why.It was just *incredibly* dense, and required a lot of concentration. There were parts I liked a lot, particularly the third section, but a lot of the second (and longest) section just didn't really hold my attention. But overall I did enjoy it, and I am planning to read the others.One issue I had with this particular translation was the footnotes. I love footnotes because I'm a nerd like that, but I didn't really get very much information out of the ones here. They were almost all about references Proust was making to art, contemporary French culture, etc, and the footnotes would just say "oh this is a painting by this one guy" etc rather than explaining exactly how that painting etc related to the story. So that was frustrating.
  • (3/5)
    OMG. Sure, 'omg' is a very modern slang word, but it applies to this novel. Swann is a melodramatic dude who falls in love with a rather modern woman named Odette. Swann pursues her for years, being odiously possessive, dishonest, and manipulative with her all along, swearing he loves her and that his love is why he acts the way he does about her. He does end up married to her, but by the end of the account of his years 'courting' her, I was a bit surprised that she would accept him. For all the narrator's insistence that Odette was not intelligent, she seemed smart enough to see through Swann and find someone more trustworthy to marry. The narrator seems bipolar, throughout the book, though I was a bit confused as to who the narrator is from one section to the next. In the last chapter Swann is old, married to Odette, and has a daughter named Gilberte, who the narrator falls in love with, and the narrator in this section is a boy still living with his parents, so he can't be the same narrator as the one telling about Swann's romantic obsession. I was not really impressed with Proust's storytelling so far, with his narrators being so unsatisfactorily introduced, and so many pages devoted to drivel.
  • (5/5)
    Sentimental, vivid, and intricate in its management of interior memory / external plot. Finally getting to Proust after all these years.
  • (5/5)
    The opening book of In Search of Lost Time is Swann's Way. It in turn is divided into three sections, the first being Combray. We enter the world of the narrator as a young boy when he is trying to sleep while being interrupted by his thoughts. It is these thoughts, described as "reflections on what I had just read" that engage us on the first page of this first section of the first of many volumes. The young boy gradually returns to sleep only to find himself dreaming of the origins of woman from the rib of the first man. It may be that this is one way to view the beginnings of Proust's long tale as the origin of the story of one man's life from the imagination of our narrator as he remembers the events of his life as a young boy at the village of Combray in the house of his Aunt Leonie with his parents. Why is it that reading generates in the imagination of the young boy such strong reflections that they interrupt his sleep? One way to answer this is to look first at the mind from which the imagination emanates. It is a mind described thusly,"And wasn't my mind also like another crib in the depths of which I felt I remained ensconced . . . When I saw an external object, my awareness that I was seeing it would remain between me and it, lining it with a thin spiritual border that prevented me from ever directly touching its substance; it would volatize in some way before I could make contact with it, just as an incandescent body brought near a wet object never touches its moisture because it is always preceded by a zone of evaporation." (p 85)Marcel's mind (for Marcel is his name) is invigorated by his reading "from inside to outside, toward the discovery of the truth," reading that aroused his emotions as he experienced the dramatic events in the book. It is these emotions that bring with them an intensity that makes Marcel feel more alive than any other activity. He relates,"And once the novelist has put us in that state, in which, as in all purely internal states, every emotion is multiplied tenfold, in which his book will disturb us as might a dream but a dream more lucid than those we have while sleeping and whose memory will last longer, then see how he provokes us within one hour all possible happiness and all possible unhappiness just a few of which we would spend years of our lives coming to know and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slowness with which they occur prevents us from perceiving them" (p 87)It is not only reading that defines young Marcel, but also his relationships with people around him, not only his mother and aunt, but others including the faithful servant Francoise, the wealthy Jewish neighbor Swann, also Legrandin and Bloch who are introduced to him at Combray. Bloch is interesting in part because he introduces Marcel to the writing of Bergotte. It is Bergotte who above all others entrances the young boy."In the first few days, like a melody with which one will become infatuated but which one cannot yet make out, what I was to love so much in his style was not apparent to me. I could no put down the novel of his that I was reading, but thought I was interested only in the subject, as during that first period of love when you go to meet a woman every day at some gathering, some entertainment, thinking you are drawn to it by its pleasures. Then I noticed the rare, almost archaic expressions he liked to use at certain moments, when a hidden wave of harmony, an inner prelude, would heighten his style; and it was also at theses moments that he would speak of the "vain dream of life," the "inexhaustible torrent of beautiful appearance," the "moving effigies that forever ennoble the venerable and charming facades of our cathedrals," that he expressed an entire philosophy, new to me, through marvelous images" (pp 95-96)Reading Bergotte yields a "joy" within Marcel that allowed him to experience "a deeper, vaster, more unified region" of himself. It is through such experiences of reading and the resulting flights of imagination that the reader is introduced to the book that to be read and understood must yield similar emotions for the reader. Yet it is not only reading that thrills Marcel in Proust's story but also, as can be seen from the description of Bergotte's novel, music and its even stronger impact on his imagination.
  • (5/5)
    The last time I read this was in the early 1980s and so it is with a nearly empty set of preconceptions that I am returning to it now to begin this centennial Year of Reading Proust. I do remember the sensation of the words just washing over me, not being quite sure what they were describing (now I can see that the book has virtually no plot and just enough action to keep the prose stirred up a little), and no clear impression of where the rest of the series would go, except certainly later in the life of the Narrator. Proust writes as if he can divide up perception into its constituent atoms and chart the way their paths evolve over time, assembling these bits into a portrait fixed at a particular time and place only if it suits his purposes of depicting a certain character or spotlighting some aspect of his theme. Thus, it is very easy to get disoriented, especially a century after it came out.

    I'm boosting my rating a star now over what I had previously. Swann's Way really does belong among the first rank of novels ever written.

    It is fascinating to see how certain motifs are woven in and out: music, flowers, social convention, and the advent of the modern world. I am looking forward to watching how these develop over the remaining volumes. If the effect of reading this work is really as life-changing as some have claimed, I am still uncertain, or rather I cannot tell whether it is more so than any other monumental work of literature to which one has been exposed.
  • (2/5)
    Was this ever a slow, difficult read! Though I typically become very absorbed in novels (even lousy or trashy ones), I never managed to truly get into this. I love Lydia Davis's other work, so I don't think the problem is the translation.

    I'm generally a very fast reader, but this was impossible to take at anything but a glacial pace--the sentences are so long and ponderous that it's easy to lose the thread of meaning unless you focus intensely. The payoff was not always equal to the effort expended.

    I will say that there were many staggeringly beautiful descriptions, especially of flowers.

    On top of all that, at times I was frustrated and disappointed by both the narrator and Swann. I just wanted them to build a bridge and get over their issues.
  • (4/5)
    I'm conflicted. I started off thinking that the writing was lovely and evocative, although the young narrator perhaps provides detail that one might politely call "a little excessive" about such things as bedtime routines and the importance of the narrator receiving a goodnight kiss from his mother. Within a few percentage points (I read this on the kindle, so instead of seeing the pages of the book move from the "unread" side to the "read" side, I only had the agonizingly slow movement of the percentages as feedback - flip, no change, flip, flip, flip, no change, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip ... ah, finally!), where was I? Oh right, within a few percentage points I was hoping to never hear about the layout of the French town of Combray, church spires, walks, weather, hawthorn bushes, or the narrator's damned mother again. I was moderately enlivened for a while by the story of his great-aunt Leonie's invalid behavior. She entertainingly always managed to be too ill to do the things she didn't want to, but healthy enough to manage the things she did.We've been introduced to M. Swann through his interactions with the narrator's family, although Swann's wife and daughter are off-limits as the wife is not one to be introduced to polite company, and therefore neither is the daughter. Eventually we start into the meat of it, talking about M. Swann. And we are with him for what seems like a million years as he is enchanted by Odette, a woman of dubious moral character. Much is made of who is associating with whom, who is going to the theater, the opera, riding home in carriages together, having dinner at whose house, etc. We are spared no detail of Swann's thoughts about Odette and how he spends seemingly every waking moment. The last section returns to our child narrator and his love for (or really, fixation on) Gilberte Swann. Once I discovered that Gilberte had red hair, I couldn't stop thinking of the narrator as a Parisian Charlie Brown, obsessed with his little red-haired girl. Definitely not the mood Proust was going for. I will say, though, that as frustrated as I was with this book at times (and boy was I - telling myself "I'll read 2 percent of this thing today if it kills me"), I'm glad I made it through. The last page threw the whole thing into a more positive light and gave me more to think about, as well as the motivation to continue on with the next volume. I just wish that change in perspective had taken place a little earlier.Recommended for: fans of Ingmar Bergman, Francophiles, people who like to be honest when they say, "I read that."Quote: "I do feel that it's really absurd that a man of his intelligence should let himself be made to suffer by a creature of that kind, who isn't even interesting, for they tell me, she's an absolute idiot!" she concluded with the wisdom invariably shewn by people who, not being in love themselves, feel that a clever man ought to be unhappy only about such persons as are worth his while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the common bacillus."
  • (3/5)
    Okay, I only read the first book. It smells good.
  • (5/5)
    "Swann's Way," the first book in Marcel Proust's epic "In Search of Lost Time" is definitely a challenging read. But I got so much out of it and enjoyed it so thoroughly, I really didn't mind.Plotwise, there are essentially two different stories here. Our faithful narrator famously dips a cake known as a madeliene into tea and is flooded with memories from his childhood. Branching off into a tangential story about a figure from the narrator's childhood, the book also tells the story of Swann and his love affair with the unworthy and promiscuous Odette. The book's prose is just astoundingly beautiful and filled with eye-opening ideas and philosophical points. This is definitely a book that I would get more out of reading it again.Looking forward to reading the remaining six volumes of this series as the year progresses.
  • (5/5)
    I was shocked by how good this was. This first volume had a good pace to it and managed that (almost sublime) blend of plot development and poetic nostalgia. The parallels between Swann's life and the narrator's life were deftly handled and really added emotional punch to the final chapter.

    I am looking forward to reading the second volume.
  • (5/5)
    Proust blew me away. Some of the smoothest, most comforting writing I've ever read. Externally, not much develops in terms of plot. But Proust manages to capture, in stunningly beautiful writing, the nuanced emotional depths that define our thoughts and, by extension, the whole of ourselves.

    Really just beautiful..

    As a codicil- comforting to see your most critical thoughts (the ones that flicker by you every moment one way then the next) captured. Thoughts that you have trouble expressing, that perhaps you deemed draining, overwhelming, abnormal in some way. Proust catches it all. Though not written with a reassuring tone it nevertheless is comforting.
  • (5/5)
    To try to review a masterwork like this would be silly, so instead I will simply say (as I did for Crime and Punishment) that this novel is difficult for contemporary American readers--approach with lots of time on your hands. Where my note here differs from my note re: Crime and Punishment is that with this book I say "do approach!" There is a powerful, multi-generational story, here, and it's heartbreaking and lovely. WELL worth your time.
  • (5/5)
    This is a book you very much have to be in the mood for. You can't rush it and you need to be in the position when you can honestly read as if you had all the time in the world. It's a contemplative book, the kind that reads like a long poem. Not to say that there is no plot, that would be unfair - the plot is there and the characters are well fleshed out, but Proust takes the time to really analyse every single feeling and emotion and you shut this book looking at the world differently. It's an experience in itself and I'm changed for having read this. I know that I'll appreciate the complexity of every moment more.
    Proust isn't an elitist writer, anyone can read this. His writing isn't obscure or prone to pedantism, it's honest and beautiful and very often funny, the out loud kind. I loved this so much. My favourite part was the first as I think Proust really shines when he talks about his own direct experience and his memories of Combray had me completely fall in love with his writing and with little Marcel. I'll reread this for sure.
  • (4/5)
    My summer of re-reading Proust got off to a great start; it turns out that I hadn't forgotten everything about Swann's Way (which I read about 10 years ago), but that I was also much better equipped to deal with it now. It's really not that hard, it's a lot funnier than I'd realized as an undergrad, and I no longer feel the need to take all the essayistic interludes as gospel truth. This translation is beautiful, whatever it demerits when it comes to literal meaning; Proust really is an extraordinary observer of mental habits, and this volume has enough variation that you won't get bored slogging through too much of the same sort of stuff.

    But that variation comes at a price: there is no obvious reason for 'Swann in Love,' which is the central third of the novel (and, let's be honest, a free standing novel), to be there at all. The narrator can't possibly know much more of the story than 'Swann fell in love with a hussy, and eventually married her,' but the tale itself is narrated by an omniscient observer. It's great, and I'd much rather read it a third or fourth time than tackle the Albertine novels (Fugitive/Prisoner) again. But it makes Swann's Way very disjointed. Yes, Swann in Love raises many of the issues that A la Recherche will tackle for the next however many thousand pages (jealousy and homosexuality as types of the difficulty of knowing others from their actions, or the difficulty of properly predicting our own behavior or that of others etc etc...). But I can't help thinking it would have made more sense to publish it separately, and then mix the rest of Swann's Way (including the famous cake and tea scene) into the next volume. That said, I am not Proust, and what the hell do I know? I know that this is well worth reading, and re-read. And I can't wait to get onto 'Within a Budding Grove.'
  • (4/5)
    Swann's Way is an opening of this life work and serves to present all kinds of ideas, and all the characters, too. I must admit that I found the book to be much "smaller" and "larger" at the same time. Some passages lead into a great unknkown realm of new ideas and are very philosophical, too, wheras other seem to busy themselves with stuff one could consider to be gossip. It was difficult for me to decide what to think, really, because the ideas I liked were sometimes buried under the rambling of the society. I suppose this is exactly how Proust felt himself most of the time and just shows his genious, but it made reading somewhat laborious. As many readers before me, I also wished I were able to read it in French, because somehow I am not sure whether English does Proust justice. I also compared it with a German translation and I almost think this works better.
  • (3/5)
    I have a love-hate relationship with this book, or more accurately, a 'occastionally like - often hate' relationship. The prose is lyrical with amazing word selection. Listening to this in audio felt like I was hearing poetry. Much of the story describes Swann falling in love with his mistress who has several affairs with other men. The feelings of jealousy and frustration were so incredibly written and described. But several things drove me absolutely crazy about this book. First, the structure. The sentences are long making it difficult to parse and follow a thought. I read along with this on my Nook and many sentences took more than a screen so that I had to flip back and forth just to capture the entire thought. Much of the story is stream of consciousness musings about memory and the past making it hard to completely grasp. But my biggest complaint is that the two major characters, Swann and the narrator Marcel (Proust as a young boy perhaps?) were over the top as far as expressing their emotions. Marcel, a young boy, is devastated when his mother does not kiss him good night and when he leaves Combray, he weeps over the fact that he won't see the beautiful hawthorns. Swann's angst over his cheating lover was genuine and well described but the emotions associated with it were way too intense. This is only the first book of seven in this very LONG series. I'll definitely wait before picking up the next one.
  • (4/5)
    I finally finished this after I made myself avoid other more entertaining books and buckled down for the ride.

    Proust is not easy reading, and to this day I'm only marginally aware of what actually happened in this book. That said, there is a plot to it if you can pay attention and make it through the stream-of-consciousness meanderings. The way he plays with words makes it worth the price of entry, mind you; but this is not for plot and action junkies. In fact I'm not even sure you'll care much for the characters. Near as I can tell, it's about a kid remembering a rich guy he knew as a kid, who fell in love with a slutty chick and married her despite not liking her, and then the kid falls for the rich guy's daughter.

    The worst part? I kinda miss the style and voice, and feel compelled to keep reading the remaining five books in the series. Help me.
  • (5/5)
    Wouldn't you love to walk the Mesiglisse Way, see and smell the blooming hawthornes in Swann's alley, watch the street scene in Combray with Aunt Leonie, eat a meal prepared by Francoise, and meet Swann, poor Swann with his tragic obsession with Odette. "To think that I have wasted years of my life, that I have longed for death, that the greatest love I have ever known has been a woman who did not please me, who was not in my style." And to experience young Marcel's first love, an obsession almost parallel to Swann's, his yearning for Swann's daughter Gilberte.I liked this much more the second time around. There's everything to love about the lush language of course, but I made a lot more connections on this reading, and picked up on many details I don't remember, or maybe didn't grasp the first time I read it.Highly recommended.5 stars
  • (5/5)
    For a long time I would go to bed early.

    With those words, one of the greatest achievements of Western literature begins. Despite being a lit major, classicist and language-lover, I have somehow lived 28 years without ever committing myself to read Proust. In retrospect, I'm not sad about that, as I feel my heart, soul, and mind are more open to understanding the Frenchman's great 20th century tome with every passing year of my life.

    In the opening volume, Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way, perhaps better translated as The Way By Swann's), the Scott Moncrieff-twice-updated-by-Kilmartin-and-Enright translation depicts the narrator's youth at Combray, his first crushes, and his elderly reminiscences of a world now gone by. Meanwhile, piecing together a tale that occurred before his youth, the narrator tells us of Charles Swann and his love for Odette de Crecy, in the fractured world of Paris society. It's a portrait filled with endearing and frustrating characters, precise observations about all kinds of humanity, always painful or poignant, hilarious or sly, erudite and insightful. I am eager to read the second volume, and excited for the journey I will take with Proust for the rest of my life.

    Oh, marvellous independence of the human gaze, tied to the human face by a cord so loose, so long, so elastic that it can stray alone as far as it may choose!

    Of course, it's no surprise that most people of my generation would never dream of reading these books, and many who start won't finish. Proust (or, perhaps, his narrator) is absorbed by description and detail. Pick any 20 pages and it's unlikely that much will happen - although I believe that's partly because this is the opening book in the series, and there is still much setup. Yet, for me, I've rarely been so delighted by a novel in all my life. Even when little plot moves (for instance, the sequence in which Swann grows increasingly jealous of Odette takes a good 100 pages), there is so much dense character development, growth of the novel's world, and immense understanding of human nature. After all, unlike what today's soap operas would tell us - or, indeed, what the 19th century romances before Proust would either - the story of love and human connection is not told in big revelations. It is told in those tiny moments, those repetitions, those instances. And they are so ably captured here. I've been reading an intelligent (if tragically brief) blog as I go, "182 Days of Proust", and have thus learned that many of the characters and places here will go on to develop later in the seven-volume sequence. This was something that, of course, Proust's contemporaries could not have known, which explains why some found the novel meandering. Everything has a place in this great study of memory; it's just a case of waiting for when.

    "I love Odette with all my heart, but to construct aesthetic theories for her benefit, you'd really have to be quite an imbecile."

    The country idylls at Combray present comedies of manners, in which the narrator gradually develops his psyche while a part of larger situations, some of which he cannot comprehend, even though he is often frustratingly aware that there is something he cannot comprehend. This contrasts with the middle-class character portraits of the Verdurin couple and their house parties, and the somewhat off-putting, satirised lives of the aristocracy. At this point, as a reader, I'm not yet sure how Proust felt about the class system, or where this great story is heading, but I'm quite excited for the experience. Admittedly, many of the references and social mores are now challenging for someone of my age to understand. As with any book focused on relations between people, there are parts that will always ring true, and parts that fade quickly as eras change. Yet, a little background reading and open-mindedness will cure you of that problem. Proust's lengthy sentences - and I mean lengthy, these babies can go on for a page when he feels like it - are also fascinating to us, and not always in a good way. For me, I adore the untangling of his wit. They are as luxurious as any older person's memories can be. The actor Neville Jason, who recently recorded 153 hours of the unabridged complete "In Search of Lost Time" for Naxos, said that these sentences are like music: one must find the way to phrase them, the way to link up each scattered segment. When one does, joy awaits.

    I asked nothing more from life in such moments than that it should consist always of a series of joyous afternoons.

    All of which is to say, starting "In Search of Lost Time" is a big commitment. Like any great work of art from a previous generation, it requires some willingness on the part of the reader to be patient, to absorb themselves in the world. Yet it will reward in spades, and is often not as hard as one might think. So many of the social jests still ring true, and certainly all of the giddiness and confusion of the young narrator - and the complexities of Odette and Swann's relationship - haunt me so. Perhaps I will find the later novels harder, as I have not yet lived through some of the experiences, but when it comes to young love and development of artistic and social temperament, it's delightful (or, occasionally, sorrowful) to feel one's own past experiences so represented in print. Particularly when the book's entire discussion is on what we have lost, and whether or not we can ever regain it.

    What we suppose to be our love our our jealousy is never a single, continuous and indivisible passion. It is composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, each of which is ephemeral...

    (A note on translations - the new Viking editions, each by a different translator, are apparently quite good in bringing a more modern taste to the works. For me, I'm very happy thus far with the current Modern Library/Vintage edition. The original English translation, by Charles Scott Moncrieff, has been regarded as a classic for more than 90 years. However, it had notable Victorian traces that obscured some of the greatness of Proust, and has now been updated twice, first by Terence Kilmartin in the 1980s, and more recently by DJ Enright. One day, I will certainly read the Vikings, however I am currently enjoying the connection to the past. Scott Moncrieff lived in Proust's era; to have his works complete with expert emendations seems fitting, particularly for someone like myself interested just as much in the academic conversation around the books which, for many years in the Western world, used Scott Moncrieff as the foundation stone.)

    A.E. Housman said, "This is the land of lost content". Over the course of this first volume, the narrator - and, as I'm sure will be confirmed once I read my first Proust biography - the author himself desperately attempts to return to this land, taking us all with him, reminding us all of how much we have lost with each passing year. The question becomes whether we let ourselves drift back, desperately, to that land, or whether we attempt to fashion a life out of what remains. I trust Marcel Proust to take me further on this journey, aided by the skilful English translators, and I have no doubt that the "Search" will prove to be the masterpiece of the Western canon that as so many great minds before me have discovered.

    The memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.
  • (5/5)

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    Second time around, I have no idea why I was so focused on Proust's weird bougieness the first time. He's lovely, and this book is lovely, and I found it the most comforting thing I could imagine.

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  • (3/5)
    Not going to lie, this was a challenge to read and it took me 4 months. "A Love of Swann's" was the biggest chore as it was just energy draining to read about Swann's fanatical jealousy of Odette's imagined (or not) other lovers for two hundred pages. For a few weeks I only managed a page a day. The comparative lightness of the introductory "Combray" and the charm of the childhood crush in the concluding "Place-names: The Name" sections were a relief in comparison.TriviaAn observation from mid-read:I'm very keen on ASMR* these days, so re-reading the madeleine passage now, it seems very ASMRish to me: "I carried to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had let soften a piece of madeleine. But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake-crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening in me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated me, without my having any notion as to its cause. It had immediately made the vicissitudes of life unimportant to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory, acting in the same way that love acts, by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not in me, it was me." - pg. 49 in the Lydia Davis translation.Previously the only literature that has had any ASMR association is a passage from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: ""'K . . . R . . .' said the nursemaid, and Septimus heard her say “Kay Arr” close to his ear, deeply, softly, like a mellow organ, but with a roughness in her voice like a grasshopper’s, which rasped his spine deliciously and sent running up into his brain waves of sound which, concussing, broke. A marvellous discovery indeed—that the human voice in certain atmospheric conditions (for one must be scientific, above all scientific) can quicken trees into life!"*Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response = a pleasurable tingling sensation in the head that radiates down the spine and sometimes further throughout the body. Very few people have this and the apocryphal story is that those who have it will never physically meet any other person that does have it (I can personally vouch for this). With the advent of the internet, experiencers have made connections esp. through cult videos on YouTube where ASMRtists speak softly and perform friction sounds which are the most likely to trigger the response. Painting videos by Bob Ross are also well known to trigger the response due to his gentle, pleasant manner of speaking.
  • (5/5)
    I read Proust's masterpiece back in 1985. What did I know of life then? Nothing!Having recently read a Smithsonian editorial that made fun of the novels, and remembering all too well one particular hilariously snippy Monty Python sketch (the Summarize Proust Competition), I too wanted to be able to rub elbows with the elite intellectuals who mocked Proust, so I picked up the first of three volumes (the weighty Moncrieff editions because I have no french whatsoever) and got started. The first few pages were tough going, but soon I became mesmerized, then I fell in love, and by the end of the summer I was tucking flowers into the plackets of my blouses and wearing bows in my hair.Oh you kids. “Swann's Way” is the swiftest, plottiest volume in the monster, with “Un Amour de Swann” a little novel in itself, with a beginning, middle, end, and all that sort of thing. Originally drafted in a mere three volumes, the Recherche grew as Proust re-Proustified the later volumes while waiting for publication; many readers have wished that that long mini-book could be recovered. The pace picks up again in the last volume, which the author's death prevented him from reworking it, so that a dinner party—one of the greatest scenes in all literature, by the way—takes only a few hundred pages to describe, what with the jolts of consciousness with which Proust bracketed it, while the first half of the volume is impossibly brilliant about the first World War without ever leaving Paris. It's best to have time for such idleness, best to be so besotted with the possibilities of literature that you love rather than loathe the lengthiness; which is to say that you need to encounter Proust at the right time of your life and possibly even the right place, so that Proust's times and places become yours. I hope that luck will be yours; without it, the task may prove impossible. If you find yourself fatally at a loss to know what and why you're reading, check out Samuel Beckett's slim monograph; for all its showy intellectuality—it's a youthful work—it's still the best compass for getting across that ocean.Read it twice in English - took me a year the first time and six years the second. I re-read it once again in English this time around, which is a whole new level of pleasure and I hope will take me many more years to come. After all I'm more mature and also wiser...I really recommend the Proust Screenplay by Harold Pinter, which accomplishes the amazing feat of boiling the whole thing down into a 90-minute screenplay without losing any of the flavour. When I felt lost at the beginning of my first reading, Pinter's work revealed the whole structure to me and enabled me to carry on.So far, I've found reading Proust a strangely claustrophobic experience. I got the overwhelming impression of a man who observes, dissects and minutely describes life, but perhaps forgets to live it?As a reader, I feel the novel takes me over. There is no room for separate interpretation or thought. The author leaves no margin for error. It's a bit like the difference between watching butterflies fluttering in a meadow and having them pinned and labelled, dead, on a board for inspection. Some books just have that effect on me. The great one, that is.
  • (5/5)
    It's probably a rather banal thing to say, but what I really noticed when I picked up the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu again after a long Proust-free period was that I'd completely forgotten how good he is at getting his complicated ideas about art, society, nature and mind across. The story might be frustratingly slow in getting anywhere, but on just about every page there was a phrase that seemed exactly to capture something I could relate to my own experience and give it an extra dimension. One part of you wants to tell the narrator not to fret and reassure him that his mother is going to come up to say good night to him after all in about 500 pages from now, but at the same time you're surfing the ideas as they roll towards you with a reassuringly predictable rhythm that's modulated just enough to keep you alert and focussed as they come at you. The first-person sections are more immediately and obviously appealing than "Un amour de Swann", of course - I even caught myself checking "that most erotic of books, the railway timetable", to see whether I might be able to fit in a trip to Normandy next year to have a look at "Combray" and "Balbec" in real life. It's much easier to identify with the narrator-as-a-small-boy than with Swann the Parisian sophisticate falling for the courtesan Odette, but even so there is a remarkable amount in the development of his affection, need, jealousy and mistrust that strikes a chord. And the Duchess is magnificent!I don't think I could read all seven volumes straight through without a break - I need a bit of laughter and flippancy from time to time, and that's something Proust would dismiss as the unworthy province of the small-minded Verdurins. But now that I've started the re-read, I am in the mood again, and the other volumes are going to have to follow sooner or later. As a pastime, re-reading Proust certainly beats "strangling animals, golf and masturbating"...
  • (5/5)
    I’m on a life raft floating across a sea of words, pulled into swirling tidal pools to observe the rich, vibrant forms spawning like phantasmagoric aliens (forms that once appeared mundane but only because, previously, no one had observed them as closely), pulled deep down by the undertow—note the hilarious mating habits in-situ of the foolish Parrot Fish—pulled out across hyaline waters sparkling like blue diamonds to drift peacefully in the doldrums before being abruptly dashed over great cataclysms of horror and despair; I’m a fool, a madman, an obsessive-compulsive; I’m fragile like a porcelain flower, a mother whose son was taken from her before it could breast-feed; I’m a laser, a microscope, a telescope, a catalog, a representation of the inner life of an artist much deeper than any Portrait of. I am going Swann’s Way.

    If one were a close observer of both (in)humanity and other (in)organic states with an addiction to the documentation of one’s thoughts, one might spend a lifetime writing a never-ending story in an inevitable (and eternally recurring in its inevitability because words can never capture the entirety of reality) failed attempt to capture all of life in a mad swoop. Much of literature (if not all) is an attempt to capture at least some corner of this life (whether it be outer or inner), but for Proust that corner bursts out tesseract to encompass the very existence of a man from childhood until elderhood through the prism of memory (and not just anyone’s memory, but clearly the memory of an autistic savant who can conjure up the texture of a grain of sand in the crease of the toe of a boot worn on the day a particular slant of light reached through a window that was normally closed but on this particular day was opened due to some certain random but explicable convergence of events). The unfurling of these thoughts is as delicate as the dance of a sea anemone in a gentle undersea breeze, if a breeze that occasionally rips the limbs off the anemone and taunts you with the inner juices dripping from the dismembered tentacle. At times, I could not take this torture, the agony and horror of Swann’s idiotic, naïve love (and, perhaps, even more so, the horror of seeing my own reflection in Swann’s way); and knowing how he ends up if not knowing how he gets to ending up that way (because I have not yet read the subsequent books of In Search of Lost Time), made it all the more painful. Thank Proust for the slapstick hypochondria of Auntie Leonie and the aristocratic wit and folly to brighten the murder of love.

    Softly flowing linguistic slitherings mingle with crisp literary devices, even mundane ones—such as cliffhangers—profoundly philosophical musings that achieve near Zen-states of enlightenment, and an unparalleled grasp of language induces me to declare Swann’s Way to be the work of a schizophrenic witch, and the greatest work of literature ever written…and this is only book one. But nothing I’ve ever read, certainly, compares to it. Which isn’t to say I haven’t received a greater degree of pleasure from other works, but pleasure is not the only measure of success. In fact, as Buddhism would ask you to consider, pleasure is ephemeral and disappointing. One doesn’t read Proust for “fun.” One reads Proust to become lost, amazed, and weakened, to learn, struggle, and grow, and, in the end, to admire what it is possible to create with dedication and passion and skill.

    On a final mundane note, I do highly recommend this edition. Although I have not read the Moncrieff version, based upon the quality of Lydia Davis’ gorgeous translation, and the notes in the preface regarding the errors and personal emendations made by Moncrieff to Proust’s writing, I would hazard that this is a superior version. Welcome to a peculiar world.