Read Swann's Way by Marcel Proust Simon Vance Lydia Davis Online


Swann's Way tells two related stories, the first of which revolves around Marcel, a younger version of the narrator, and his experiences in, and memories of, the French town Combray. Inspired by the "gusts of memory" that rise up within him as he dips a Madeleine into hot tea, the narrator discusses his fear of going to bed at night. He is a creature of habit and dislikesSwann's Way tells two related stories, the first of which revolves around Marcel, a younger version of the narrator, and his experiences in, and memories of, the French town Combray. Inspired by the "gusts of memory" that rise up within him as he dips a Madeleine into hot tea, the narrator discusses his fear of going to bed at night. He is a creature of habit and dislikes waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where he is.He claims that people are defined by the objects that surround them and must piece together their identities bit by bit each time they wake up. The young Marcel is so nervous about sleeping alone that he looks forward to his mother's goodnight kisses, but also dreads them as a sign of an impending sleepless night. One night, when Charles Swann, a friend of his grandparents, is visiting, his mother cannot come kiss him goodnight. He stays up until Swann leaves and looks so sad and pitiful that even his disciplinarian father encourages "Mamma" to spend the night in Marcel's room....

Title : Swann's Way
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ISBN : 9780142437964
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 468 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Swann's Way Reviews

  • s.p
    2019-06-01 12:34

    'reality will take shape in the memory alone...’For 100 years now, Swann’s Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, has engaged and enchanted readers. Within moments of turning back the cover and dropping your eyes into the trenches of text, the reader is sent to soaring heights of rapture while clinging to Proust prose, leaving no room for doubt that this is well-deserving of it’s honor among the timeless classics. In swirling passages of poetic ecstasy, the whole of his life and memories dance upon the page, carefully dissecting the personages that surrounded his childhood and illustrating a vibrant account of the society and social manners. Swann’s Way is a powerful love story capturing the romance between Proust and his existence as he wields sprawling lyricism like tender touch and kisses in order to sensually undress the world, revealing all the poetic beauty that hides within the garments of reality.Open the novel to any page and you are likely to find a long, flowing sentence full of love and longing for the depths of existence. Proust is a virtuoso. His famously complex sentences rise and fall in dramatic fashion, carefully pulling incredible aerobatics of emotion across the page like a violinist does with sound in only the most elite of classical compositions. If it isn’t obvious, I quickly became utterly smitten with Proust. Even Virginia Woolf read Proust in awe. Some of the finest passages that have ever graced my eyes are found in this volume. Take for example this exquisite passage on the power of music:’Even when he was not thinking of the little phrase, it existed, latent, in his mind, in the same way as certain other conceptions without material equivalent, such as our notions of light, of sound, of perspective, of bodily desire, the rich possessions wherewith our inner temple is diversified and adorned. Perhaps we shall lose them, perhaps they will be obliterated, if we return to nothing in the dust. But so long as we are alive, we can no more bring ourselves to a state in which we shall not have known them than we can with regard to any material object, than we can, for example, doubt the luminosity of a lamp that has just been lighted, in view of the changed aspect of everything in the room, from which has vanished even the memory of the darkness. In that way Vinteuil's phrase, like some theme, say, inTristan, which represents to us also a certain acquisition of sentiment, has espoused our mortal state, had endued a vesture of humanity that was affecting enough. Its destiny was linked, for the future, with that of the human soul, of which it was one of the special, the most distinctive ornaments. Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is without existence; but, if so, we feel that it must be that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, are nothing either. We shall perish, but we have for our hostages these divine captives who shall follow and share our fate. And death in their company is something less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less certain.’Beautiful. Throughout Swann’s Way we see this sentiment expressed to cover all of reality in a blanket of art; by reshaping what we perceive into beautiful notions of prose, music, sculpture, architecture, or any other form of aesthetics, Proust seeks to discover the true shape of meaning and cling to an ideal, an ideal that will linger like a sweet perfume long after the actual object of desire and reflection has either faded or reared it’s ugly head and begun to rot. By exploring memory, Proust is able to wrap all his sensory perceptions, all the external stimuli experienced over a lifetime, into a charming bouquet of words in order grant them a linguistic weight in which they can be shared and enjoyed by others. He despairs when contemplating that his experiences were not shared by other people and didn’t have ‘any reality outside of me. They now seemed to me no more than the purely subjective, impotent, illusory creations of my temperament. They no longer had any attachment to nature, to reality, which from then on lost all its charm and significance…’. He finds solace in literature and his greatest hopes are to become a writer because it grants the power to capture the true essence of anything. By contemplating an object he finds it is ‘so ready to open, to yield me the thing for which they themselves were merely a cover’, and language is the snare to capture and immortalize these fleeting impressions and moments of glowing epiphany. For it is the impressions, the inner beauty, that matter to him instead of the objects themselves. He falls in love with Mlle. Swann because she connotes ‘the cathedrals, the charm of the hills of Île-de-France, the plains of Normandy’, as well as her association with his beloved Bergote – he loves the idea of her more than the physical being.The centerpiece of the novel, Swann in Love, is an emotionally jarring ride from sublime romance and intimacy to the obsessive, nerve wracking depression of love being ripped to pieces in its fiery tailspin downward. This story, practically a novella that could work well as a stand-alone piece, gripped me the strongest. Perhaps it was the bruised memories of similar circumstances, but my heart went out to Swann despite all his flaws, self pity and shameful actions. Proust creates near-Greek tragedy in him by creating a man of legendary proportions and casting him down upon the rocks. Story aside, Swann too seeks the ideal, even to the point of self-destructive monomania. A man of the arts, Swann associates his image of ideal with aesthetics, but unlike the narrator, brings it to life through sculpture, paintings and music. Odette becomes most beautiful to him when he can appraise her like a sculpture:’[E]ven though he probably valued the Florentine masterpiece only because he fount it again in her, nevertheless that resemblance conferred a certain beauty on her too, made her more precious…and he felt happy that his pleasure in seeing Odette could be be justified by his own aesthetic culture.’Lovemaking for the couple becomes more personal, more artistic in his eyes through their personal euphemism ‘make cattleya’ as it brings all further acts of intimacy performed under such a title an extension to the first, passionate and idealized union of their bodies. The act ‘lived on in their language’ and offered Swann a sense of possession over the act by creating with the phrase an ‘entirely individual and new’ action. The ‘little phrase’ played by the pianist during their first encounter at the Verdurin’s becomes the anthem of their love, and it’s melody carries the image of his ideal Odette, the Odette that swooned over his every word and loved him deeply, the Odette that he will always hold to his heart and pursue even when the Odette he can physically hold comes up as a pale shell of the ideal (I've been reading to much Derrida lately to not comment that we can never achieve the ideal, which makes his downfall inevitable. The lack of sound logic in his thinking is apparent all through his romantic decline too). Sometimes when you have lost everything, you fight for that ideal that has already dissipated in order to uphold some sort of self-dignity, even though it is just that dignity which will be lost in the process. Proust delivers love and tragedy at it’s finest.Through each marvelous passage, Proust gives a fleshed out portrayal of the people and places n his life. His family and friends are given a second life through his words, which paint such a lifelike portrayal, examining their greatest traits, their habits and not shying away from unveiling even their flaws, that they practically breath on the page. Proust has an acute eye for social manners, and the reader can pick up on even the most subtle of vanities, ill-manners, or kind-heartedness of all those encountered. Of particular interest is Proust’s brutal portrayal of the Verdurins and their group of the ‘faithful’, refraining from casting judgment while letting their actions speak for themselves to betray their ignorance of the ideas they speak so highly of. The Verdurin scenes bring back memories of college parties where less-than-sober members speak so highly of art yet have little of value to discuss when pressed, the same people who label everyone around them and sneer at those without their same ‘high standards’ of art (which, okay, sometimes that person is me). Proust immortalizes these fakes forever in his words, making me think he was getting the last laugh at a group that once condescended him. I urge anyone with even the slightest interest in the novel to find it and read it immediately. The language simply blossoms, even after being run through the presses of translation. First loves, heartbreaks, losses of many kinds, and the exciting phase of childhood when our understanding of the world around us begins to reveal itself, all come to life in a book that will make your emotions dance and sway. 100 years after it was written, Proust still holds weight in the world today and remains high and above many of the authors who have followed him. I cannot stress how incredible his prose is, I have found a new author to hold close to my heart and savor each blessed word. Take the Swann’s Way.5/5‘I looked at her, at first with the sort of gaze that is not merely the messenger of the eyes, but a window at which all the senses lean out, anxious and petrified, a gaze that would like to touch the body it is looking at, capture it, take it away and the soul along with it…’

  • Renato Magalhães Rocha
    2019-06-01 11:37

    Reading a book for the first time is a great, exciting experience that packs a myriad of emotions and sensations: you’re happy because of the joy of starting another journey, anxious because of your expectations, curious because of the reviews you've read or things you’ve heard about the story… it’s something similar to going out on a first date, where everything is novelty and - if the book (the person) proves to be interesting indeed - you want to find out more and more. Once the initial excitement is over and the euphoria settles down, once you know the story and you’re serious about your - and their - intentions, it’s time to find out whether you can see yourself marrying that person, less enchanted by what have come so far than by the valuable promises of what’s yet to come. Do you want to commit (and not commitment in the sense of obligations or compromising, but as an alignment of expectations, convergence of desires and companionship)? Yes? Then you can re-read the book: you know the story, you know the characters, you know what it has given you so far, but you feel there’s more to absorb, to learn. That was my feeling when I decided to re-read Swann's Way: I wanted to extend my experience with it, I needed to go through it all again.Meeting the characters for (a second) first time made it possible for me to observe certain traits in them that, perhaps by not being sure of which of those characters would become important in the narrative - like when you meet someone and you not always can tell if they’re gonna be in your life for more than that brief moment, so you don’t pay them the deserved attention -, I didn’t register in my mind or that I never truly noticed and now, after knowing and caring for them, re-reading their first words and the first time they were described had that same sensation you feel when opening a photo album from long ago and looking at the old pictures, where you see how younger your friends were, how they were thinner and had a different haircut. Du côté de chez Swann was first released in 1913, with publications costs paid by Proust after it had been turned down by leading editors who had been offered the manuscript in longhand.Upon the release of this first volume of the Recherche, Marcel Proust was commanded for his wonderful effort - I should say accomplishment, really - but his work was questioned for having no structure at all. Another positive aspect that reading Swann's Way for a second time provided me - and that brought me great satisfaction - was to note how there are no loose ends in Proust’s narrative and how it all comes together - but only eventually and once you read it completely. Sections that apparently I didn’t make much sense of in the first time, or just imagined were there because of the writer’s recognized taste for digressions and lengthy inner monologues now appear clear to me as being essential to the work, as being active and important parts of his story and giving me a sense of how well planned - even from the conception - and greatly executed everything was. It’s all connected and bound together, but I do agree it’s merely perceptible at first.The general themes of the book are all mentioned in the first part (Combray, pt. 1 or Overture, in some editions), in those glorious opening pages about the confusions one might feel between sleeping, dreaming, and being awake. The section was masterfully inserted in the beginning of the book, as Proust’s calling card, for it works perfectly as a introduction to the marvelous, unknown world, outside of time, that we’re about to enter. Besides the innumerable meanings it has to the continuation of the story, which was only accessible to me on this re-read, what I most appreciated about those first pages (and I can remember the same sensation back when I first read them, although the feeling was then wrapped by another, even a stronger one, that of the complexity it was for me to read, to ‘decipher’ his long sentences and the meanings of his prose), was how that confusion of falling asleep is something simple, that everyone can relate to, that everyone has felt at least a couple of times, and yet it was so skillfully written that he was able to isolate, to perfectly put into words such an ethereal, volatile moment, as if he gave a proper form to something that’s been known and felt, but never seen - like he painted the wind.In addition to being such a beautiful overture and a perfect writing lesson, that passage also stands strongly as a decisive metaphor for everything that’s yet to come: as the drowsy narrator falls asleep and wakes up, getting lost in between and trying to find himself, to locate his whereabouts, completely adrift in time and space, so he will remain that way throughout most of the narrative of his life: trying to find himself, to know who and what he is, resorting to numbing philosophical observations and deep self-reflections on various subjects and his relations. All the confusion of that seemingly regular moment also serves as a parallel to the work itself: what is À la recherche du temps perdu: an autobiography, a romance, a novel? And does it have to be - or become - one or any of those? Is it Proust speaking directly to me - and if not, who is this person saying “I”? With all of this uncertainty taking place at the beginning, one might feel that the writer gathered all possible puzzles and doubts in the palm of his two hands and threw them in the air, as if he was trying to pick them up in whatever order it was in which they landed on the floor; what is not clear just yet is that all of these riddles are interconnected - like a spider web is - and that instead of making a mess, he only enlarged the scope so the connecting lines would become discernible and placed it all precisely as he needed things to be.During one of the nights where the narrator reminisced about his past in bed, trying to remember it voluntarily, one outstanding scene came to him: the goodnight kiss drama that would forever scar his life and alter his identity. What Proust does in that renowned episode - that speaks wonders about character presentation - is to introduce us to the narrator’s personality, to his nervous ways and delicate, susceptible nature. In that moment, we witness an important discovery he makes about himself: he becomes aware that he can’t resist or control his nervous impulses, that he is oversensitive - and the fact that his parents abdicated their authority only came as confirmation to his diagnosis. This originated in him the paralyzing fear that he would never have any will or strength to achieve whatever he needed to or planned in his life. What seems to be nothing more than a simple moment where a spoiled child, a brat, disobeys and challenges his parents is indeed the beginning of a long lasting disorder that will be pivotal to the comprehension of the path the narrator walks in life up to the last moments of Time Regained.For obvious reasons, this piece was one he could easily remember, but the remaining of his past experiences didn’t come to him as naturally. Enter then the celebrated madeleine episode. The sumptuous moment where the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea rekindles inside of him all the details from a lost time, as if he was able to relive, to grasp them, is probably the part for which Proust and the Recherche are most known and recognized because of the involuntary memory incident; but it is, in my opinion, only a detail (a pretty one, that changes everything in the painting, no doubt), but still only a drop in the vast ocean he opens before us, inviting us to sail away - not that the episode isn’t, once again, wonderfully written: it receives life while being read, it comes alive out of the book, just like the flowers, the good folk of the village, the parish church, and the whole of Combray came out of his cup of tea. But there is still so much to be explored, to be appreciated and that equally deserves recognition: this is one in a series of perfect, brilliant moments in the first of seven volumes of a work’s life. It is not the apex, the climax, although it brings the narrator - and to his readers - such a sense of happiness; but to single out this passage, without what’s to come, is to miss the point of Proust’s entire work, as the narrator tells us, quietly between parenthesis, that ”[he] did not know yet and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made [him] so happy”. Just like him, we must also wait to understand what this passage really meant in his life.With all of his remembrances at hand thanks to that singular taste of madeleine dipped in tea, the narrator then unveils the enchanting, alluring times he spent with his family in the small town of Combray. This section (Combray, pt. 2) is so ravishing - and carries such a lovely, warm feeling, perhaps because of the importance that we attribute to those times, because we know the impact it had on us, so it’s completely relatable - that even though, of course, my childhood memories does not correspond to those remembered and told, I could still feel the magical aura and dive into the book as if I was his best friend visiting at Easter-time, listening to aunt Léonie’s talking with Françoise and trying to reassure her of her ultimate recovery; reading with him in the garden; and ultimately glimpsing his ambitions of becoming a writer. My favorite part of my vacation was, however, walking with him both on the Méséglise and the Guermantes ways - these two paths, these two sides, so separated from each other that they even require different doors to be accessed - and beginning to understand the implications they would later have in the narrator’s fate.The next chapter, Un Amour de Swann is an extensive - and intensive -, comprehensive analysis of love and all of the feelings that come with it (or derive from it, or because of it). Proust analyses every aspect of this happy, glowing feeling that can turn into a malady, dissecting everything, putting every action under many different lights and observing them from different perspectives from the very beginning, the reasons love appeared, to how it grew, to how it went sour and faded away. It could easily and rightly be called Une étude de l’amour instead.This narrative takes place years before the narrator was even born, and it shows us the poignant relationship between Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy - a relationship that will be paralleled by the narrator in years to come (mostly everything on Swann's Way is set for important future developments). I appreciate how realistic the approach for this love story was: like it’s happened time and again in many relationships, it begins with both parties involved going besides themselves to please each other, doing things they normally wouldn’t, in order to enchant the other, not realizing that they wouldn’t be able to act that way forever, to keep those promises and live up to that established pattern, to what has come to be the expected. It seems a common behavior to paint oneself in better colors, to be nicer, to be arranged in better lights while in the seduction phase and then, once the work appears to be done, once the goal has been achieved, the lights are dimmed, the cosmetics are off and enters the actor, the true person behind the character; while perhaps this actor without the personage wouldn’t be as charming and therefore not enough for the enchanting act, after love has happened, it seems he's sufficient to keep it going. The effort one made in order to seduce switches sides and becomes the effort the other has to make in order to break-up.], which seems to be equally as challenging, if not more.After Odette landed Swann and he fell for her, she turns cold and distant, leaving him jealous and wary. His suspicions become so uncontrollable and consumes every little detail, like an animal who’s been hungry for days and, once being fed, eats as much as it can - less as a compensation for its starvation than to store food for not knowing when it would be able to eat again. Swann’s ultimate desire is to possess Odette. Possession not only physical but also psychological, of the mind, of the spirit and soul - the obsessed lover wants to be inside of Odette’s body, to know every single person she knew, talked to or simply met, from past and present times. He needs to know her every thought, as if it was possible to detach her scalp and pick up her brain like a woolen ball that, once disentangled, would become a long thread of readable sentences containing all of her opinions and ideas. Swann seems so caught up in Odette’s spell that freeing himself looks more and more as something impossible.After shifting back years to the future (still in the past though, don’t lose yourself!), comes chapter 3, the last one: Place-Names: The Name. In this section, like in the previous ones, the narrator takes us on a journey through time, beginning with his infatuation for Gilberte (Swann’s daughter) and their play dates on Champs-Élysées, passing through another moment that displays his poor health and ending while visiting again the Bois de Bologne many years after he went there daily to cross paths with her mother, only this time he is disappointed and melancholic about the passing of time (not as much as another jump in time will make him feel though - but I’m getting too ahead in the narrative, as that only happens in the last volume) and the transformations he sees in the Bois and in the women’s dresses, their hats and even in the cars. What's interesting about this closing chapter is that it gives us, concomitantly, a taste of the past - as the book title suggests, the narrator seems to be really walking on Swann’s way, or wearing his shoes, for a clearer metaphor, as we can see glimpses of the obsessive, sick love Swann felt for Odette appearing on the young boy’s nervous nature, on his reflections about this feeling that are already borderline crazy - and also of the future, of what’s to become of him and his visions of love, of how he’ll evolve and deal with it all throughout his life.Although it may seem we have nothing in common with a seemingly spoiled, nervous child, who lived and grew up in Paris more than a century ago, who breathed art and was constantly surrounded by paintings and classical music (and that’s the point where my life and his diverges the most, as I was not brought up with a strong art background and didn’t have a Swann to walk on his way), still his maxims and reflections are so universal and relatable - and one of the things that makes this possible is the fact that this almost anonymous narrator, of whom we have no physical descriptions and that expresses his thoughts by saying “I” to the point of when you read them out loud they become your own opinions, acting almost as a mirror to ourselves -, are so relevant and adaptable to our simple, ordinary, every day situations, that reading him is like reading myself. Proust’s writing produces recognition. I thought this would be a much slower read; I planned to let the book dictate its own pace and take as much time as needed to get through this second read, for I had a feeling this was how it would go. However, the fluidity of the text - don’t laugh at me!, that does come once you get used to his style - and the familiarity with the themes, characters and places ended up speeding things up, even though this time around I made a point of re-reading more than once entirely my favorite passages and highlighting all of my favorite quotes. For having already read these 3,000 pages of the Recherche once - and precisely because of this intimidating length - the only promise I made was to re-read Swann's Way, although I did feel the lingering desire to re-read everything. But I imagined that I would be better equipped in making that decision after reading the first volume. And now I know: I can’t stop, I'll proceed with a full re-read.There’s a film adaptation of Un Amour de Swann from 1984, directed by Volker Schlöndorff and starring Jeremy Irons and Alain Delon. Despite its name, it does borrow scenes, characters and episodes from the other volumes, not confiding itself strictly to chapter 2 of this book, so be advised of spoilers. As it frequently happens when books are adapted into films, especially ones we know so well, it wasn’t quite what I expected and had in mind - perhaps I’m too influenced by the narrator in finding out things don’t live up to my expectations and the real never quite compare to the imagined. M. Swann I had in mind suffered, struggled more than he did in the film, I missed the raw sentiment I felt while reading the narrative and, of course, many of his analysis and favorite quotes weren’t included.Rating: I’m beyond ecstatic that even though Proust was immoderate with his money, he still had some funds to pay for the publication of this volume - that was at first overlooked by publishers but that later became the first part, the seed of many wonderful things yet to grow and delight readers all around the world in the subsequent volumes of this classic masterpiece of literature. For a magnificent first volume that I would - let’s be honest, that I will! - read yet one more time: 5 stars.-------For my re-reading experience of the entire À la recherche du temps perdu:Vol 1. Swann's Way: ★★★★★ reviewVol 2. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower: ★★★★★ reviewVol 3. The Guermantes Way: reviewVol 4. Sodom and Gomorrah: reviewVol 5. La Prisonnière (The Captive): reviewVol 6. Albertine disparue (The Fugivite): reviewVol 7. Time Regained: review

  • Jason
    2019-05-20 08:28

    Memory is a slippery little sucker. It constitutes an elusive, transient cache of data, the reliability of which decreases in reverse proportion to the length of time it has been stored. It can even be a blatant liar! How often have we found ourselves convinced of the details a particular memory only to have those details called into question by some testimony or other of which we have been made newly aware? It is almost frightening how quickly and naturally the bytes of our mind can be removed and supplanted by ones more convenient, ones designed to soothe our psyche, thereby allowing us to live at peace with ourselves.Marcel Proust was not a psychologist, but he may as well have been, what with his ridiculous understanding (the kids are using the word “ridiculous” to mean like, way amazing, these days) of the fluidity of memory, and more specifically, of involuntary memory, which may or may not be any more reliable than that which is conjured consciously. Though we believe a person or a place from our past remains stationary in our idea of them while its true-life counterpart adapts and progresses, Proust shows us how memory can have a life of its own, as well. And yet when his narrator bites into that famous piece of sponge cake and transports us back to the days of his French childhood, we go willingly, not hesitating to question the accuracy or the validity of his musings. Because it doesn’t matter. When in Proust’s world, it is the remarks on human nature and memory and social customs and relationships and whatever else comes with that trip that makes it so worthwhile.The best part of Swann’s Way, by far, is the intricate portrayal, from beginning to end ((view spoiler)[but evidently not really the end (hide spoiler)]), of the relationship between Swann and Odette. Their relationship is doomed from the start, being based on superficialities at its onset and becoming increasingly toxic as it progresses, yet by no means does its toxicity ever invalidate the love Swann has for Odette. That part of it is wholeheartedly genuine. For anyone who has ever been in such a relationship, it is kind of wild how realistically it is depicted. For anyone who has ever witnessed objectively a friend in such a relationship, it is kind of wild how recognizable the signs are of its toxicity, and how it seems to tap us on the shoulder, reminding us of the ease with which we must at the time have said, “I wonder why he doesn’t just leave her and move on with his life?”This book really blew me away. For all the difficulties I anticipated reading Marcel Proust, I have to admit how pleased I was by its readability. I think what I enjoyed most, besides its perfectly constructed sentences, was that if I had been able to track the number of times I would encounter a passage that so exquisitely peels away the complicated layers of the human condition, exposing its unadulterated innards, I...well, I suppose I’d have reached a pretty high number. Having embarked on In Search of Lost Time in full ignorance, I have no idea what to expect next, but part of me wonders if “Swann in Love” isn’t meant to foreshadow the budding of a similar relationship between the narrator and Gilberte. I suppose we’ll find out.          Main Review Page for In Search of Lost Time

  • Florencia
    2019-05-24 08:35

    Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence…My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined.– Virginia Woolf, The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume Two, 1912-1922INTRODUCTIONFor a long time, I went to bed early. Thus begins the most challenging novel I have read this year, which I have been deliberately avoiding for a very long time, daunted by its renowned intricacy and sumptuous sophistication. With those simple words – to which I cannot relate since going to bed early and sleeping through the night is not something I am known for – a vast array of themes are brought to life by virtue of the magnificent and oh, lord, intellectually demanding pen of Marcel Proust; and this is hardly a complaint: it is difficult to express my gratitude, for this is the most beautiful and stimulating prose I have read in years, composed of sentences whose length left me awestruck at first but, after a while, became a familiar and endearing quality, since they are replete with charm, profundity, unparalleled versatility and an unflagging will to find the meaning of our existence in a world where time will never call a truce.Being fully aware of this novel's complexity, I thought about getting a great Spanish edition in order to avoid overexertion and provide my brain with a chance at survival; then I reconsidered and decided to indulge my desire for a real literary challenge, ergo, I purchased this English edition brilliantly crafted by Lydia Davis, filled with helpful footnotes that enlightened me about many matters and informed me at once of some clever puns that unfortunately I wasn't in the position to comprehend due to obvious language restrictions. Clearly, I took my time... my mind, on many occasions, was somewhat dizzy with confusion which emanated from a plethora of words of all sizes and colors, trudging to the brink of linguistic fatigue, floral hallucinations and architectonic mirages; thus ended up seeking refuge in sitcoms, two TV series and articles on the Internet that ranged from Kierkegaard to the recipe for strawberry shortcake. I can't deny reading this novel was a bumpy ride, but the benefits it brought me far outweighed any benign bump or educational jolt that ultimately led me to sheer beauty and utter knowledge; for the best things in life – as the best kind of people – are not easy to find.I need to rest for a couple of weeks, but I look forward to the time when I tackle the second volume that is already beckoning me, patiently waiting on my bookshelf (I would like to read them all with my current mind-set), that unexplored and exciting land in my hands, hoping to find again the same delightful and amusing prose that captivated me for so long.EXPOSITION – COMBRAYThis first part of the novel was the one I struggled with the most since it was my first contact with Proust's unusual writing style, a succession of words conveying incredibly evocative visualizations that became tangible objects and landscapes by the end of an everlasting sentence; a songbook bursting with candor, with a lofty, delicious language portraying the most vivid metaphors that elevated any ordinary situation and ringed it with pure sublimity; melodies speaking of sleep, an elusive companion; of habit, a despot whose whip is somehow needed; of art, one of the many realms in which one can find the long-awaited and rather fugitive meaning of life; of country walks and the shimmering beauty of nature; a goodnight kiss that keeps being postponed and left me here, in this pearl-colored room where the perfect blend of an andante spianato and a polonaise ignites the walls, where silence is eloquent and words are essentially needed and successfully eluded, in a state of indefatigable contemplation of my almost corporeal melange of emotions and thoughts, intoxicating the air with the scent of contradiction, extrapolating fears and disappointments as I see my own illogical detachment towards a motherly kiss that hardly ever arrives to a boy's door but I receive every single night; for memories strike the Narrator's mind and inoculate an early regret into mine, as I picture the day I no longer get that kiss once taken for granted and there is only night, a faint gleaming of distant stars and a taciturn memory inside a cup of tea, encapsulated in a madeleine, waiting to be reawaken.But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, upon the ruins of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory. (51)DEVELOPMENT – SWANN IN LOVEThe second part of the novel speaks of a refined gentleman with an artistic disposition pulsating through his veins, a man already mentioned in 'Combray', Charles Swann and his overly complicated relationship with Odette de Crécy, a persistent source of intense yet minimal joy, stifling and omniscient misery; an unbearable, almost inhumane addiction from which vivid, ardent, passionate, irrational gusts of jealousy adulterating love's nature, palpitating with despair, throbbing with terror, spring up in the face of absolute indifference; a cold-hearted state in which once inhabited her unreserved love beaming with pretended grace and a dab of frivolous peculiarity, molded after the voluptuousness of a cattleya, a devoted chrysanthemum, an obscure book, an exquisite painting rationally observed; samples of affection that make him exhale unfaltering sighs desirous of reciprocity; tokens of a torrid love that have germinated in an ethereal-sounding violin accompanied by the gentle touch of a piano, both coexisting in a large salon where the mere fleeting essence of love has been sketched, crafted by a composer who will never be consigned to oblivion, where every pain inflicted by bare existence was mentally absorbed, physically assimilated, awakening inspiration and channeling those existential wounds – whose presence has been cursed with the countenance of eternity – placing them in the midst of a maelstrom of creativity; a whirlwind in front of my weary eyes, as I contemplate the melodious renaissance of the ‘little phrase’, like a phoenix blazing in the darkness, time and time again, triggering memories of passion and loss, obsession and self-pity, the absurdity of possession; wishing for love to recede, reveling in melancholy, harboring a hope for deliverance.He apologized for his fear of new friendships, for what he had called, out of politeness, his fear of being unhappy. ‘You’re afraid of affection?’ (223) RECAPITULATION – PLACE-NAMES: THE NAMEUnravel every mystery, reader....helped me better understand what a contradiction it is to search in reality for memory's pictures, which would never have the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from not being perceived by the senses. The reality I had known no longer existed. (481)CODAAnesthetized beings seem to have lost the ability to see beauty in life, in people, as they continue to watch the days go by, one after another, impassively, resignedly, like a medieval prisoner gazing up at a small window that helps him realize the presence of the sun and the coldness of the moonlight – that perennial, pale glow that is whitening forlorn skyscrapers at this moment – while holding the keys to the dungeon where he has been dwelling for years but, unable to move due to some uncanny force, perhaps a comfortable fear, could never manage to open. Those days will never cease to pass, days teeming with books, music, windows, soothing memories and distant dreams, instilling life in despondent bodies; brimful of ideas, reflections, beauteous words belonging to this novel, the efflorescence of Proust’s brilliance and generosity, that furnished me with a sense of solace which helped me sleep through an entire night, after the last page was turned. Pages. Words. Words involving goodbyes when love becomes agony. Existence attached to impossibility. Childhood made of beloved places and reminiscences of diverse textures and flavors. An everlasting waiting that will remain so when facing unwavering reluctance. A purpose in life. A wretched alchemist grasping love and art, cutting through their shells in the hope of finding a droplet of essence: a hopeful distillation, a futile attempt at turning existence to meaning; a combination of both. Traces of beauty. The beauty around us. The scent of freshly brewed coffee. A pile of books. The contradiction of my emotions on paper. Staccato lines, disjointed thoughts, scribblings without any light. The sun seeping through the cracks in the blinds. Breakfast in bed. A flowering garden. The fragrance of jasmines. A motherly kiss. A nonexistent immutability which involves not only blissful times but, fortunately, ages of sorrow. Memories, madeleines; lazy Sundays in my hometown. A sonata echoing through the years. The art of appreciation in a single dewdrop, before everything withers away.June 2, 16* Also on my blog.** Photo credit: Tea cup and madeleine / Patrick Forget via Madeleine de Scudery, "Le Pays de Tendre" / CCLes Champs-Élysées / via Pinterest Water Droplets / via Nevsepic

  • Jessica
    2019-06-15 08:19

    AFTER:Okay, well, I really screwed up my schedule this weekend, so now it's the latening am and nothing's happening for me in the sleep department. Honestly I can't think of a more appropriate time to review this book, which begins with insomnia.This was great. It really was. Granted, it's not for everyone, but nor is it the rarified hothouse orchid cultured specifically and exclusively for an elite audience of fancy-pants dandies with endless supplies of Ritalin and time. This book is fascinating and accessible, and, as noted below, quite risqué. I adored it, though I'm a little worried about singing its praises too loudly, since my low expectations might've played a role in my love for it.There are two main parts to this book. The first half is the narrator's first-person reminiscences of being a sensitive little rich boy in the French countryside (and, at the end, in Paris). This portion contained probably the most incredible writing on the subject of memory and nostalgia that I have ever read in my life.When I was a kid myself, I, like the boy in this book, read a lot. This had the result that somewhere around first through third grade, I had an unending stream of first-person narrative running through my head at all times, describing all my actions and thoughts in the past tense, just as they happened: e.g., "I stalked out of the classroom and towards the playground's jungle gym, thinking furiously of Lindsay Kagawa and her treachery in turning the Girls Are Great club against me." During that period I often stopped in the middle of what I was doing to contemplate the completely unfeasible logistics of actually writing down the endless novel unfolding in my head in real time. Not only could I never remember all the mundane details of my life and thoughts, but this book, were it somehow to be written, would be impossibly long!What I thought while reading Swann's Way is that Marcel Proust probably had a similar experience of a novel in his head, only he was a far more interesting child than I was and, much more importantly, he actually did the impossible and managed to remember all this stuff, and then, somehow, to write it all down. Proust's descriptions of the way he experienced and thought of the world as a boy are astonishing. He is not writing from a child's perspective, but from that of an adult remembering his childhood in spectacular detail, and the effect is incredible. I don't know much about brain science, really, but the vague rumors I've heard on the street on how they're now saying memory works could not be more clearly or gorgeously illustrated than they are in this book.If you're not fascinated by the processes of memory, sensation, aesthetics, identity, social relationships, and desire, this book will bore you out of your skull, unless you're really interested in fancy Belle Epoque French people, in which case, my friend, you are in for a real treat. The second part of the book recounts a love affair between the little boy's adult neighbor, M. Swann, and the woman of dubious reputation with whom Swann becomes infatuated. Maybe there is nothing especially new here -- it's almost 100 years old, what do you want? -- but I place this novel in an elite class with Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet for its absolutely excruciating depiction of desire and love. If you're not madly in love right now and are feeling any regrets about that, reading this book will clear that right up, and you'll feel the relief of a clean bill of health after testing for a particularly gruesome disease. This "Swann in Love" portion of the book also is very immersive, in the sense I think Natalie meant in her comment below, in that if you've never had any idea what it might be like to wear a monocle and have a bazillion francs and footmen and a carriage with horses that takes you around to fashionable Parisian parties where you hang out with princesses and a bunch of other rich French guys also wearing monocles, this book will get you so much closer to that experience than you are likely ever to get, even if you do happen to be insanely wealthy and live in Paris, because as Proust observes -- I won't quote him here, ya gotta read it yourself -- the time described in this book is lost, and it is impossible now to return to it.This book did strange things to me, actually. It made me crave what I didn't know I had the capacity to want; for example, it made me yearn to be outrageously wealthy, preferably in France. I've realized I have all these latent francophilic tendencies I've never acknowledged to myself, and now all I really want in the world is to go to Paris and stay in an obscenely fancy hotel for a few years and have fabulous clothes and all my every whim catered to immédiatement. And unlimited access to money. And suitors. And it would be good if it could be the nineteenth century, and I were super hot-looking. And helpful also if I could actually speak some French.... Anyway, a visit to the Frick, or the Met, or wherever I can look at some paintings of these ladies who never interested me so much until I heard what they were really up to, is definitely in order. Also, I bizarrely enough happened to find myself briefly at Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain's brasserie on Park Avenue, on Friday night, which is definitely not my usual habitat, and the influence of this book was such that I fell into a swoon there while imagining an alternate life for myself in which I spent all my time in Paris, perambulating along the Champs-Elysées with violets attached to my bosom, with everything about me and around me extraordinarily beautiful and slow and outrageously expensive....But anyway, well, I'd say I'm digressing, but in discussing this particular book I suppose there is no such animal. Were parts of this slow? Parts of this book were reminiscent of the principles of Buddhist mindfulness practice, which is to say, they could be pretty awesome but not necessarily lively, and at times a thoroughly painful bitch to slog through. Yes, I cannot tell a lie: there were times I'd realize I'd been stuck on the same paragraph for twenty minutes while my mind wandered off to something totally unrelated, and sometimes I'd have to set the thing down and come back to it later. This book does require some patience, and it's not a cover-to-cover thrillfest, no, okay, fine, it isn't. HOWEVER, its reputation as a total snooze, or as something just for the heroically literary-minded is, IMO, undeserved. I see plenty of valid reasons why someone would not get into this book, but if you have any interest in this type of stuff, don't be scared off by discouraging things you might've heard. Yeah, you might not like it, but you might also be pleasantly surprised. I sure was! I get bored very easily, and I have a hard time sticking with a lot of books, but this one sucked me right in, and was fascinating and satisfying on so many levels. The salacious sensory-candy-munching Jessica who loves Valley of the Dolls had a lot to savor here, as did the slightly brainier one who enjoys thinking about the mechanics of time and memory, and there was besides those things more more more, enough going on here for many of my multiple warring and confused personalities. I liked that.So yeah, in closing, I guess I should address the inevitable part-versus-whole question: Swann's Way is a satisfying novel by itself, only not really. It did have a very lovely ending and could stand up on its own, except for the fact that I'm hooked now, and want more. I'm not going to begin the next episode anytime soon, because I've got a bunch of other stuff I'd like to read and it can't just be Proust Proust Proust all the time, but I'm definitely planning to return to this famously overlong novel at some point in the not-too-distant future.... though I'm admittedly a bit nervous about this new desire for luxury, especially with the dollar and our economy being what they are. If anyone knows a hopelessly wealthy, balding Parisian gentleman who is easily led by boorish, uncouth, immoral women, please feel free to provide me with an introduction at your next salon!----------------BEFORE:This is one of those books I'd never really heard of and definitely never thought about until I joined Bookface. I mean, I'd heard the name "Proust" and the word "madeleines," but I'd never thought too much about all that, and I think I'd always sort of gotten Proust mixed up with Borges (different, different, yeah, I know) as a guy I'd never read with a name I wasn't sure how to pronounce. More recently, though this novel's acquired a kind of mystique in my mind based on people's reviews on here of it. Last night I noticed that my roommate happened to have a copy on her bookshelf, and out of some idly morbid curiosity picked it up, to see if it could possibly be half as dreadful as I imagined.But actually, so far it's incredible. So far (I'm on page 26), this book is AMAZING. Reading the first few pages was like doing yoga, except some kind of turn-of-the-last-century Frenchish kind of style, which of course is vastly preferable to the normal way. Beginning this book is also like inhabiting somebody else's half-awakened mind. Cool!Maybe the problem with it isn't really this book so much as the idea that it's supposed to be the beginning of a million and a quarter page novel, which is a pretty unappealing thought. On its own, though, so far this particular installment seems surprisingly awesome. Though, let's be honest here, I am not renowned for my patience, especially in affairs of the page, so let's see how long this infatuation lasts.Anyway, though, v promising beginning. Now, of course, I'm just waiting for the ACTION to start.... stay tuned!

  • Riku Sayuj
    2019-06-16 15:35

    “As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies, Stephen said, from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image.”~ James Joyce, Ulysses“The Universe is the externalization of the soul.”~ EmersonTo attempt to review this now would be like trying to review a book after finishing the first couple of chapters. There is no way to do justice to it, or to even be sure of what one is prattling on about. So seasoned readers, please do excuse any over-eager generalizations or over-enthusiastic missteps.Poetry in ProustThere is an atmosphere of grandness that is felt as one reads this initial book, everything is charged with a sense of premonition, as if these are all musical notes that are being played for us now in a subdued key, and exquisite as they are, they are all going to reappear in grander forms later.There is a sense throughout of stage being set, themes being set forth and of being invited to an extremely long composition that could last a lifetime if the reader is engaged enough.On the other hand, every paragraph I read seemed to me self-contained, like understated poetry; like a leaf so brilliantly illuminated that it outshines the whole tree, until you move your gaze to the next, when the same magic is repeated again.Proust as TeacherThere is greatness in this work and it is beyond the obvious literary value or aesthetic pleasure that it provides. Proust also liberates literature in a way, in being so unapologetically, irrepressibly romantic about everything in life!Thus the narrative runs on with undisguised romanticism and wide eyed enthusiasm for every detail of life. There is no attempt to tone anything down. There is none of that tendency for manly acceptance of the drollness life or of a skeptical indifference to its inevitable ugliness.Everything is lived to its fullest and described as it should be lived. It almost feels like a fairyland, so fully heightened are the colors and emotions of Marcel’s life. Until we realize that that is exactly how rich inner lives always are, if we only surrender to the sense of wonder that drives our lives. If only we could recapture the color and the poetry.Proust teaches us how to live.Reading Notes:Some of the notes (as in musical notes) that struck (a chord with) me the most, and which I know will leave a lasting impact no matter how they are modified or reinforced in the later chapters (books) are:Proust As MadeleineThe Proust experience opens a portal to one’s own childhood — to a re-creation of one’s entire life, in fact.This re-creation enables one to embark on the path of one’s own memories as well - to resurrect one’s childhood paths and travel them, think of fears and of flames.Like remembering the pond one used to walk by, rediscovering the beauty and the colors that surrounded our lives…Memories come thick and fast as we savor the Madeleine that is Proust.The Intimate Acts of Creation“Our social personality is a creation of the minds of others”Thus we no longer need to hunt for the memory-objects wherein our pasts are locked away. The reading itself serves that function. And as we recreate thus our internal world, Proust also teaches us how we created the external world around us:Just as the world is constructed after dreaming, the whole structure of society is created anew from birth for each child. We all reinvent it and then propagate it. Unless we choose the other ‘way.’Discovering slowly class and social barriers. Understanding now how we might have been indoctrinated unconsciously…We come with freedom and then the ties slowly bind us — constraining us, showing us already defined paths. This crystallization of our future path is what we later call our life, the path we travelled. By which we define ourselves.How we created and defined and imbibed social relations, including superiors and equals, in an intensely solipsistic fashion. Just as when Marcel meets an aristocrat, first sees her as an ordinary person, had expected to be more, is seen to be not, and is then recreated based on the expectations — invented in short.One example by Proust is enough to call up a hundred more of our own.Aesthetic Oneness with ProustThus, you find yourself drawn into the world Proust is sketching. The involvement deepens to an immersion where the ordinary, everyday world dims and fades from the center of attention, you begin to understand and even share the feelings of the characters on the page — under ideal conditions you might reach a stage where you begin to participate in some strange way in the love being evoked.Now, if at that moment you were to ask yourself: “Whose love is this?” a paradox arises.It cannot be Marcel’s love for Gilberte, nor Gilberte’s love for Marcel, for they are fictional characters. It cannot be your own love, for you cannot love a fictional character. Could it be memories evoked?Could it be that both Marcel and Gilberte exist no longer in what you feel as love as you read about them? Could it be that the emotion exists at another plane of existence now?In any case, it is a peculiar, almost abstract love without immediate referent or context — left to you, the reader, to actualize and bring to life.A Sanskrit aesthete would ease your anxiety by explaining to you, probably with examples from Kathakali, that you are at that moment of paradox “relishing” (asvadana) your own “fundamental emotional state” (sthayi-bhava) called “passion” (rati) which has been “decontextualised” (sadharanikaran) by the operation of “sympathetic resonance” (hrdaya-samvada) and heightened to become transformed into an “aesthetic sentiment” (rasa) called the “erotic sentiment” (srngara).This “aesthetic sentiment” that is so subtly wrought in us is a paradoxical and ephemeral thing that can be evoked by the novel but is not exactly caused by it, for many readers may feel nothing at all during the same instance in the book. You yourself, reading it again next month, under the same circumstances, might experience nothing.It is, moreover, something that cannot be adequately explained on analytic terms, the only proof for its existence is its direct, personal experience.The evocation of this intense personal experience is the highest function of art.But there is one more aim that art can have — to not only evoke it but also make you aware of how it is done. This rarified level of achievement is what Proust reaches. Proust makes you one with his world but also makes your personal experience with a piece of art concrete, through his own narrator’s experiences coming alive in what he is to eventually create out of everything he (and now you) passes through in these pages.Proust allows us to not only experience sublime art but also its very creation.Proust as MeditationThere is a breathlessness for the reader in everything in Proust, as we try to squeeze out meaning from every word and expression, every chance direct address by the narrator. These meanings and themes we might squeeze out are charged with special gravity in Proust — since we know that we have to remember them, we have to take them along with us in the long journey that awaits us. We cannot afford to be careless in this first sojourn. If we miss any key now, we might encounter a beautiful door that will refuse to yield later.This effect does not depend on truth, it does not matter whether what we get out of this early reading will be valuable in reality later or not. The possibility is enough to invest a special sort of magic into the reading. A stillness of expectation, of anticipation is created. That atmosphere can be stifling or it can be as expansive as a zen garden.One might feel lost in it or one might feel oneself in the presence of a literary holy grail. For me, I could not even tolerate the disturbance rendered by my own breathing when I read. I wanted total stillness.It was meditation.

  • Jibran
    2019-06-01 14:14

    Reality takes shape in the memory alone.I do not claim a decent knowledge of world literature, being as I still am no more than half a decade old in my English-language readings, so my acquaintance with A-class writers remains, at best, sketchy; but I feel no hesitation in claiming that there are two writers - Marcel Proust and Vladimir Nabokov - who make all wannabes look like silly dilettantes, whose artistic range, sheer eloquence and fierce intelligence have such a deleterious effect on so many shining "bestselling" authors that they come across as little more than teaboys and bargirls in Café Littérature.Having seen disappointing reviews of a couple of my friends whose opinions I value, I approached À la recherche du temps perdu prepared to dislike it eventually, to declare my inability to penetrate its thickly woven states of consciousness glimpsed through a multitude of roundabout analogies and metaphorical slants, to take issue with the elasticity of prose stretching, like an intricately designed arithmetic equation, into clauses and sub-clauses, one set within another, and another within yet another, so that when you read the last clause it's connection with the opening one appears precariously tenuous. This might be due to the inability of English to accommodate the original French. Even if it is not, as I read I discovered an easy solution to this mathematical construction of Proust's prose: if I lost the thread by the end of the paragraph-long sentence I could always go back and re-read it! But this happened rarely. Proust for the most remains very accessible despite the sheer intricacies of his calligraphic writing, whose prose at first glance gives an impression of labyrinthine ruins of an excavated settlement from ancient times whose topography you're at great pains to decipher but, without much effort, you find yourself unraveling the hidden secret of the relic that once was a living, breathing place with souls in flesh and bones walking about the business of life, whose soft footfalls you hear in the dead of night as your eyes glide on the text, whose breath you feel on the nape of your neck as you scratch it with the tip of the lead pencil, whose cries of pain and desire spin your heart into an orbital motion around a simple question turned into a tangle of answers, and whose mental universes come alive in quantum-level struggle against the perennial questions of existence on the surface of the skeletal remains of temples and forgotten pleasure-houses that once were.By the time I finished the first installment I understood very well that Marcel Proust is most certainly and most undoubtedly one of the finest artists known to us, a prose stylist like none other. I'd take this opportunity to sing a paean to French writers; the more I read French and their British counterparts of the 19th century the more I'm convinced of the artistic superiority of the former over the latter. Call it my bias, and so be it. Yes, Dickens is great, Mary Ann Evans too, and a few others, but if you only read British classics and nothing else. (view spoiler)[I desperately hope that French originals rendered into English do not suffer from the modernising whitwwash in contemporary translations; I do hope that when we read Flaubert and Proust in English we're are actually reading them and not their translators. It is for this reason I shunned the newer translation of ISoLT and opted for C.K. Scott Moncrieff's (hide spoiler)]. I realise I haven't said anything on "themes" and "content" of the novel. But does it matter? For me, nope, it doesn't. For me, it is the writing that suggests the themes and ideas not the other way round; and the ideas this piece of literature suggests resist any attempt at paraphrasing (All you can do is select moments of brilliance to discuss, and there are plenty of them at hand). If pressed, what would I say? First half is a recounting of the story of a perspicacious and insecure adolescent who tells us about his holidays with his immediate family at his aunt's country place in Combray and the second part involves a man called Swann on whom love has inflicted its violence despite his pretentious aloofness. Unimpressive? So simple? Yes, nothing to be excited about if you're looking for a formulaic story that caters to mass market tastes with its three-stepped start-middle-end sort construction held up by the myth of rounded characters and told with a minimal tweaking of the convention which is no more than a dull rehash of the popular novel. July 2015

  • karen
    2019-06-14 12:38

    so i figured i would finally read me some proust, get in touch with my roots or whatnot. and i have to say, for my introduction, it was kind of a mixed bag. the first part i had real problems with. i am not a fan of precocious or sensitive children, so the whole first part was kind of a wash for me. i know, that's terrible, right?? here is this Monument of Great Literature, and i am annoyed, as though i were watching some children's production of oklahoma, or any musical, really. (shudder) there are some truly beautiful moments in it though - the varnish scene, those madeleines, the little secret room... and the transitions between these memories are so well-executed, you don't even really feel like you are reading them, you are just kind of flowing along with the words. but when he started hugging the flowers goodbye and crying because he was going to miss them, i'm a monster, really, i was so full of eye-rolling, it was almost seizing. seriously - buy the kid a football. but then the second part - ah - here's where i understand it! such minute and perfect details. such insight into love and obsession and betrayal. it was like high school, but only the really painful first-love bits. i'm looking forward to reading the rest of these, but i need a break and some sensitivity training first.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-05-28 08:39

    ”At the hour when I usually went downstairs to find out what there was for dinner...I would stop by the table, where the kitchen-maid had shelled them, to inspect the platoons of peas, drawn up in ranks and numbered, like little green marbles, ready for a game; but what most enraptured me were the asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and pink which shaded their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible gradations to their white feet--still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed--with an iridescence that was not of this world, I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form and who, through the disguise of their firm, comestible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognize again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting like one of Shakespeare’s fairies) at transforming my chamber pot into a vase of aromatic perfume.”The more you look at asparagus the odder and more wonderful they look.Now anyone can see beauty in the Pacific Ocean, in the Rocky Mountains, in the New York Skyline or in a Turkish spice market, but not everyone looks at asparagus and sees beauty. Proust looks at this unusual looking vegetable and sees so much more than just his next meal. He sees rainbows, mythical creatures, and an explosion of radiant colors. He inhales their aroma as they exit his body as well. Their final gift to his senses. When we see an asparagus and see so much more than just an asparagus; life, however small or however large, becomes a kaleidoscope of adventure. It is wise to see beauty in the smallest things. Our narrator although I can not distinguish him from Proust; so therefore, I will continue to think of them as one and the same, is a reader. So much so that his parents have to insist that he do something in the fresh air before he buries himself in his books for the rest of the day. Many of us can identify with that desire, that indulgence if I may, that would allow us to spend a day in bed reading. Even the best jobs can not compete with the worlds to be experienced in books or for that matter with our favorite sheets, our fluffy pillows, and our washed a hundred times comforter. ”I always returned with an unconfessed gluttony to wallow in the central, glutinous, insipid, indigestible and fruity smell of the flowered bedspread.”He loves his momma. In fact bedtime is one of his favorite points in the day where he waits with great anticipation for the moment when his mom slips in to kiss him goodnight. He will even risk the ire of his father to elicit this kiss if he feels his mother is distracted by guests or may believe she can skip this all important, much awaited brush of her lips to close the day. Marcel Proust, he loves his momma, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.He meets a girl, Gilberte, the daughter of Swann, a man who drifts in and out of his family affairs. A man who becomes an obsession of our narrator. As he pursues the daughter he also pursues the story of her father. Swann meets a woman named Odette de Crecy. She, in the beginning, is much more enamored with him than he is with her. ”She had struck Swann not, certainly, as being devoid of beauty, but as endowed with a kind of beauty which left him indifferent, which aroused in him no desire, which gave him, indeed, a sort of physical repulsion, as one of those women of whom all of us can cite examples, different for each of us, who are the converse of the type which our senses demand.”Swann looks at her the way we do when we are first analyzing a potential mate, overcritical in a Seinfeldesque manner. ”Her profile was too sharp, her skin too delicate, her cheekbones were too prominent, her features too tightly drawn to be attractive to him. Her eyes were beautiful, but so large they seemed to droop beneath their own weight, strained the rest of her face and always made her appear unwell or in a bad mood.”As they are thrown together at the same parties and Odette continues to pursue him his opinion of her changes although reluctantly. He keeps a little seamstress as almost a counter weight to his relationship with Odette. ”But Swann told himself that if he could make Odette feel (by consenting to meet her only after dinner) that there were only pleasures which he preferred to that of her company, then the desire that she felt for his would be all the longer in reaching the point of satiety. Besides, as he infinitely preferred to Odette’s style of beauty that of a young seamstress, as fresh and plump as a rose, with whom he was smitten, he preferred to spend the first part of the evening with her, knowing that he was sure to see Odette later on.”Swann begins to see her beauty differently and we, the reader, can start to feel the shift in affections. ”Standing there beside him, her loosened hair flowing down her cheeks, bending one knee in a slightly balletic pose in order to be able to lean without effort over the picture at which she was gazing, her head on one side with those great eyes of hers which seemed so tired and sullen when there was nothing to animate her, she struck Swann by her resemblance to the figure of Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter, which is to be seen in the Sistine frescoes.”,Botticelli's ZipporahHe realizes that despite his best efforts he is falling in love with her or more accurately of an ideal version of her. His resistance has crumbled. ”And it was Swann who, before she allowed it, as though in spite of herself, to fall upon his lips, held it back for a moment longer, at a little distance, between his hands. He had wanted to leave time for his mind to catch up with him, to recognize the dream which it had so long cherished and to assist at it’s realization, like a relative invited as a spectator when a prize is given to a child of whom she has been especially fond. Perhaps, too, he was fixed upon the face of Odette not yet possessed, nor even kissed by him, which he was seeing for the last time, the comprehensive gaze with which, on the day of his departure, a traveller hopes to bear away with him in memory a landscape he is leaving for ever.”*Sigh* Swann is in love. It is really an interesting roller coaster that Proust takes us on with this relationship. At first I felt that Swann was being rather unchivalrous with Odette and unduly harsh, but then as Odette pursues him I start to feel like maybe his first reaction to her was the proper evaluation. As he falls into pit after pit of jealousy both become mired in a relationship that probably never should have started. As his passion increases her ardour for him cools. He has turned a corner in the relationship that blocks his view of the road that would take him away from Odette. ”And this malady which Swann’s love had become had so proliferated, was so closely interwoven with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he hoped for after his death, was so utterly inseparable from him, that it would have been impossible to eradicate it without almost entirely destroying him; as surgeons say, his love was no longer operable.”"In each of their gardens the moonlight, copying the art of Hubert Robert, scattered its broken staircases of white marble, its fountains, its iron gates tempting ajar. All that was left of it was a column, half shattered but preserving the beauty of a ruin which endures for all time."A character, a friend of Swann’s named Princesse des Laumes shows up in the later pages of the book and I wish she’d had a bigger role. I want to share a bit of conversation she has with a General about Mme de Cambremer. ”Oh, but Cambremer is a quite a good name--old, too,” protested the General.“I see no objection to its being old,” the Princess answered dryly, “but whatever else it is it’s not euphonious,” she went on, isolating the word euphonious as though between inverted commas, a little affection to which the Guermantes set were addicted.Do you hear just a bit of the Dowager Countess Lady Grantham in that exchange? Swann finds himself unhappily happily in love. ”he said to himself that people did not know when they were unhappy, that one is never as happy as one thinks.” I will counter that to say that rarely are people aware of how happy they are either. He may have been as happy as he was ever going to be when he was cuddling with his seamstress. Our narrator sees Odette long after all the negotiations, passions, and pain have passed with her relationship with Swann. ”I doffed my hat to her with so lavish, so prolonged a gesture that she could not repress a smile. People laughed. As for her, she had never seen me with Gilberte, she did not know my name, but I was for her--like one of the keepers in the Bois, or the boatman, or the ducks on the lake to which she threw scraps of bread--one of the minor personages, familiar, nameless, as devoid of individual character as a stage-hand in a theatre, of her daily walks in the Bois.”There are those books that once finished inspire the reader to turn back to the first page and start again. This is one of those books for me. It does not feel like a 600+ novel. Once you are sucked into the story which for different readers begins at different points the pages will seem to fly by. I finished this in the midst of the recent snowstorm in Kansas City. The blizzard provided the proper isolation for me to devote my total attention to the final 200 pages. If you are finding Proust difficult I might suggest starting with the section called Swann in Love. I know odd to think of reading a book out of order, but this is one of the few books that you actually can. If you enjoy that section then you can go back and read the rest, after all at that point as they say in poker you are pot committed. I may still be in a Proust glow, but I must say for me this fits the bill of a masterpiece. I’m in awe of the Proustian insights into human behavior and his unique and inspiring way to see the world around us. More Proust please.

  • Seemita
    2019-06-03 14:18

    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert EinsteinI made acquaintance with Sir Einstein’s above observation more than two decades ago. It was precisely after the conclusion of my study-hour one evening, during which my father shared this quote with me, that I was struck by the uniqueness of such an expansive statement. For some fabulous reason, it stayed with me. As I grew up and began gaining the privilege of reading world literature, I was bestowed with eyes that scanned not just a patch of land at one time but a universal landscape of mind-boggling ramifications across multiple filters of historical, social, cultural, political and emotional tints. And slowly, but firmly, I realized how true, how very true, is that quote of Sir Einstein. Perhaps now, today, if someone asks me to prove this thought, I would, without blinking, thrust this book into their hands and say, 'here lies the proof'.Everything magnifies under the lens of retrospection. And if the lens happens to have the name ‘Marcel Proust’ inscribed over it, the magnified images purport to embrace untamed beauty. Proust cast the net of his observation across the turbulent sea of nostalgia and patiently collected the shimmering philosophical pearls in small urns of beauteous expressions. Embroidering the urns with souvenirs from the French bourgeoisie society and sewing them delicately with the indigenous threads, he set a benchmark for all wannabe explorers to aim for. In this momentous work that resembled a sparse theatre bearing a lonely child and a compassionate lover, he provided priority seats to every prop and every emotion. The transition of inanimate props into lyrical jewels happens in such natural, noiseless rhythm that as a spectator, one is forced to don a momentary mask of surprise, followed by a considerable bout of awe. In the reluctance of a room from shedding its nocturnal skin and in the reticence of a bud from espousing its youth, in the insistence of trees to accompany a running carriage and in the persistence of rain to block a springy day, hordes of artistic voices croon, at once, their hearts out, bequeathing us with a palpable slice of life. "A little tap on the window-pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as if grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal: it was the rain." The young narrator and the mature M Swann, the two protagonists, reflect two different pictures painted from the same palette. Possession of this mesmerizing, identical chord seals their reactions to negligence and rebuttal, indulgence and dismissal. Both emerge men who swap bounty and dullness like the two sides of the same coin, who keep distance and proximity as alternate remedies to extend love’s term. Both love without remorse, offering their heart to be plucked like a harp till it broke; both avow to blissful solitude, surrendering their memories to dissolve in its vicious depth. Both live to compose panegyric for memories and perhaps both would volunteer to drown into them. "The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years." Proust leaves me in a sparkling rivulet, promising to direct me to its bigger cousins in due time. He also promises me that the ingredients of life can, at the most, be discoloured but not toxic if tended with an eye pouring beauty and forgiveness. Like an artist, who imparts contentment to his soul by creating a painting justifying his notion and not by subjecting it to an external validation, we should, too, scrap at the rough edges of life should they turn up, without besieging attendance of an audience, and unleash our net at the first sight of beauty. He was a man who discovered beauty in everything, and who delightfully dwindled under the intoxication of drinking this elixir from every tap of life. "You are afraid of affection? How odd that is, when I go about seeking nothing else, and would give my soul to find it!"

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-05-27 14:19

    685. Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel ProustA la Recherche du Temps perdu - Du côté de chez Swann (À la recherche du temps perdu #1), Marcel Proustدر جستجوی زمان از دست رفته - مارسل پروست (مرکز) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 1992 میلادیعنوان: در جستجوی زمان از دست رفته، کتاب اول: طرف خانه سوان؛ نویسنده: مارسل پروست؛ مترجم: مهدی سحابی؛ تهران، نشر مرکز، 1369، شابک: 9643054810؛ چاپ دهم 1389؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسه - قرن 20 مکتاب نخست: طرف خانه سوان؛ کتاب دوم: در سایه دوشیزگان شکوفا؛ کتاب سوم: طرف گرمانت 1؛ کتاب چهارم: طرف گرمانت 2؛ کتاب پنجم: سدوم و عموره؛ کتاب ششم اسیر؛ کتاب هفتم آلبرتین گمشده (گریخته)؛ کتاب هشتم: زمان بازیافته؛ نوشتن در باره این رمان خود باید کتابی جداگانه باشد. نمیدانید از کجا شروع کنید، تو گویی بخواهید سنگ به سنگ اهرام مصر را تصویر کنید و واقعا ً نمیدانید با طوفان کلمات چگونه برخورد نمایید، واژه ی باشکوه برای این رمان بسیار کوچک است. شکوهی به مراتب برتر از ساختمان کلیساهای جامع گوتیک، اپراهای واگنر، بتهوون و همه ی اکسپرسیونیستها. اما چیزی که بیش از هر چیز از این رمان درمییابیم این ست که کتاب از یک دغدغه، سرشار است، دغدغه ای به نام هراس از مرگ، و ترس از مُردن و نگفتن آن همه واژه ای که روان شما را میخورند. شاید این برای مردمان بسیاری قابل درک نباشد و نیست. این که مغزتان پر از واژه هایی باشد که خودشان را به این در و آن دیوار میکوبند، تا خارج شوند ولی نمیتوانند، زندگی را ناچیز میشمارند و خود را وقف خیالی باورنکردنی میکنند، که هیچ چیز را یارای برابری با آن نیست. اینگونه میشود که برترین وصف یکی از بزرگترین شاهکارهای تاریخ ادبیات، به شرح بیماری محدود میشود، و با این هم موافق هستم که بسیاری از شاهکارهای ادبی، پر از حالات انسانهای بیمار است. از داستایوسکی و کافکا گرفته، تا سلین، هدایت، میشیما، فاکنر، وولف و جویس، انسانها چیزی را نمیآفرینند تا جاودانه شود، و همیشه این متفاوتها هستند که جاودانه میشوند. در جست و جوی زمان از دست رفته، یکی از همین متفاوتهاست. ا. شربیانی

  • Ian
    2019-05-24 14:17

    PART ISpoilersFor reasons that will become apparent, my review focuses not on the plot of the novel, but on its style and themes.If you want to develop your own relationship with these aspects of the novel, then it might be better to turn away now.This is partly why I paid little attention to the excellent discussion group at Proust 2013, before writing my review.“Swann’s Way” is one of the most personal books ever written, and I want to define my personal relationship with it, without viewing it through the prism of other people’s insights, words and interpretation, no matter how right they might be and how wrong I might be.I wanted my reading experience to be intimate and personal, not shared and social. Until now.To the extent that I might reveal any plot points, I think it’s like telling you that Christ died in the New Testament. (Sorry that I had to spoil the surprise.)Anyway, this is my warning to the spoiler-sensitive.Apprehended by the SuspectI have to confess that, before I actually bought the book and opened it, I regarded Proust with greater apprehension than any other novelist.18 months before, I overcame the perceived intimidation of “Ulysses” and discovered the joys that had awaited me there.I felt that my apprehension had cheated me of pleasure. It was like starting a relationship with someone, and discovering that it could have happened six months earlier, if you’d only had the courage.This time, I was determined not to be put off, so I just dived in when the reading schedule was announced. In retrospect, I think this is the only way to do it.Jump in, the water’s not as cold as you anticipate. In fact, it’s like a warm bath. You won’t want to get out.Sentenced to LifeThe source of my apprehension was the length of sentences and paragraphs.People who know me know that I write one sentence paragraphs. No matter what you think of my sentences or paragraphs, nobody has ever had to turn over a few pages to see when they ended.I haven’t always written this way. When I was in secondary school, I acquired a large vocabulary and a love of etymology (which helps). We were taught that good writing involved a display of our vocabulary, hopefully correctly used.I turned my back on this practice, as soon as I was exposed to lecturers with different views at university. Later, newspaper editors drummed single sentence paragraphs into me. Voilà.In the meantime, I read a lot of Dickens and Hardy, and towards the end of school I became obsessed with Henry James, which resulted in my (unfulfilled) ambition to become a diplomat and work in nineteenth century Europe.This background is just to show that I am not averse to a long sentence, as long as it’s put to good use.Ex Cathedra SentencesRight now, I regard Proust as the greatest ever architect of sentences.His sentences encapsulate a single, complete thought, like mine attempt, only my thoughts are parish churches and his are cathedrals.I just want you to nod (or shake, disagree and argue) when you read one of my sentences. Proust forces your eyes and your mind to follow a sentence as it aspires upwards to, yes, the spire of his vision.His sentences are not just vehicles of communication, they are architectural constructs that inspire awe and wonder.They take life and love and build a monument to them that will last through the ages, like architects before him built monuments to the belief in God.His sentences don’t just perpetrate meaning, they perpetuate meaning and beauty into perpetuity.Proust mounted the most concerted campaign to take the ephemeral and make it perpetual.Previously, this task was attempted by painters. Only now, when you inspect the damage done to some of the artworks housed in the Louvre, do you you realise the foresight of his choice of creative vehicle.People will read Proust until, at least, the temperature reaches Fahrenheit 451.”From Marvel to Marvel”If every sentence is a cathedral, and every cathedral is a marvel, then the novel as a whole is a gallery, a galaxy of marvels.So much so that Genet could witness it and remark:"Now, I'm tranquil, I know I'm going to go from marvel to marvel."I cite Genet, not just to mention the marvel, but to highlight the tranquil.Proust’s sentences calmed me, as in a warm bath or a gentle sea. He immersed me in a sea of tranquility, a “Mare Tranquillitatis”.Proust lulled me. First, he rocked me, then he lulled me. Ultimately, he sang me a lullaby.Proust engendered tranquility in me.Observations of a Ladies’ ManI was worried that I would react aggressively to Proust.How would I, a male, of sorts, react to a novel that apparently lacked a hero, that lacked action, that lacked a battle and a victory, that lacked a seduction and a conquest?How would I react to Proust’s effeminacy? His apparent insight into the feminine and oversight of the masculine?Moreover, was Proust just a gossip, to quote another anecdote of Edmund White, a “Yenta” (the Yiddish word for a female gossip) ?Proust was in a unique position to document the affairs of a bourgeoisie that didn’t have to work, that had inherited wealth and could survive by the management of its securities and investments.In the words of Veblen, it was a leisure class, and Proust’s mission was to document its leisure activities.In “Swann’s Way”, the chief leisure activity is love and sex.Would it be fair to say that most men wouldn’t be able to write a 440 page novel about love and/or sex?Or that the sex life of many men might not even have added up to 440 minutes during their entire lifetime?To that extent, Proust understands love and sex like only a woman can.Observations of a Man's LadyIf I am correct in this interpretation, then Proust deserves a large audience of women.Yet, what puzzles me is that Proust, at least in this volume, only presents the male’s perspective, never the female’s.I read the novel as a male, and during “Swann in Love” I inevitably identified with Charles Swann.All the way through, I reacted, “That is so me! (I hope none of my friends guess.)”However, how is a woman to react to “Swann in Love”?Do they, like me, identify with Swann? Or do they identify with Odette?Is there an antagonism between the genders? Does Proust call upon us to take sides? Or does he take the side of love?Is the gender of each lover irrelevant, as long as there is love on the agenda?Must our perspective on love have a gender? Isn’t it enough to engender love?Anyway, I wanted to know what was going on in Odette’s mind.As a first person narrator, “Marcel” knew far too much about Swann’s inner life and too little about Odette’s.I wanted (want) to know what women think.Is that so unreasonable? Or is it too reasonable?PART IIHelmet Cam-brayThe first chapter, Part I of "Combray", is 49 pages long and deals with the narrator's childhood in a home that also houses his grandmother and two aunts.Over the last couple of years, there have been a few books, the most obvious being Murakami's "1Q84", where I started to use the term "helmet cam" to describe the narrative.Although it was presumably constructed and edited by an author, it still gave the impression that a helmet cam was seeing everything in front of it, without any editorial cutting or rearrangement.It saw everything, it recorded everything, it passed on everything to us.Normally, a helmet cam cannot see the face of the person wearing it. Thus, it sees everything that the person sees from their own perspective.In "Swann's Way", the verbal description is so vivid and precise that we see the narrator himself.The Subject is also the Object.The Subject is its own Object. At least until he discovers M. Swann.Up until then, the narrator is like a juvenile crustacean, slowly constructing a shell, but not quite there yet.He is sensitive, even over-sensitive, soft, fleshy, pink, much to the masculine disgust of his father and the embarrassment of his mother.Yet the helmet cam hones in on every element of sensitivity and emerging sensibility.He is almost too sensitive for this world, yet he is imminently sensitive to its charms.He does nothing but observe, imagine, remember, write.Like a helmet cam, however, he gives the impression that neither he nor anybody else has edited him.This is the narrator's mind recording time and place with nobody pressing the pause button.Sentences and paragraphs are irrelevant to this narrative.Each paragraph is as long as an attention span needs to be.Only when his attention falters does the narrator need to pause and restart.Each paragraph is almost like a can of film.It captures life until there is no film left. Then you remove the film and put in a new reel. And we're off again on another flight of the mind.The Awakening of the Author as a Young ManThe first section of the novel starts in bed and finishes in bed, a cocoon, a comfort zone.The narrator is a child, still very much attached to his mother and the comfort of her love, and so is prone to separation anxiety.His experience of life depends solely on her, and is therefore restricted by her, a woman.Only if he overcomes his anxiety can he venture out into the world, in order to discover the love of others.This is a period of intense sensations and associations.It’s here that Proust develops his concept of involuntary memory, an association of memories with physical sensations common to the past and the present.The act of soaking a petite madeleine in a cup of lime-blossom tea evokes powerful memories:"I feel something quiver in me, shift, try to rise, something that seems to have been unanchored at a great depth...and suddenly the memory appeared...the immense edifice of memory."The narrator describes the sensation as a "delicious pleasure". It renders "the vicissitudes of life unimportant", the brevity of time illusory:"...acting in the same way that love acts, by filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not merely inside me, it was me..."Much of the analysis of Proust focuses on the mechanism of involuntary memory.However, it’s equally important, if not more so, to recognise the analogy with the workings of love.Love is an intensity of sensation. We detect everything so much more sensitively. We preserve it and we recall it. We remember all of the detail of our relationship: where we met our lover, our first words, our first kiss, our first correspondence.So when Proust describes madeleines and tea, he also adverts to the precious essence of love.He is not just writing about the psychology of perception and memory, he is investigating, in a way nobody had done before him, the essence of the gaze, desire, lust and love.Each moment that is recalled by involuntary memory is a moment in love.The Semiotics of DesireOver the course of the novel, both Proust and the narrator assemble a list of qualities that recognise or recall or "magnetise" desire.The narrator refers not just to madeleines and tea, but to light, perfume (or fragrance) and colour.To this list, Swann adds music. He is captivated by a piece of music by the (fictitious) composer, Vinteuil.Every time he hears it, he is reminded of his love for Odette.In the last section, the narrator summarises:"From then on, only sunlight, perfumes, colours seemed to me of any value; for this alternation of images had brought about a change in direction in my desire, and – as abrupt as those that occur now and then in music – a complete change of tone in my sensibility..."For often, in one season, we find a day that has strayed from another and that immediately evokes its particular pleasures, lets us experience them, makes us desire them, and interrupts the dreams we were having by placing, earlier or later than was its turn, this leaf detached from another chapter, in the interpolated chapter of Happiness."Later, the narrator refers to "the highest sort of immediate happiness, the happiness of love".To be in love is to be happy. To love is human, to be loved is divine.These ideas are collected together in the discussion of place names:"I needed only, to make them reappear, to pronounce those names – Balbec, Venice, Florence – in the interior of which had finally accumulated the desire inspired in me by the places they designated."Words present us with little pictures of things, clear and familiar, like those that are hung on the walls of schools to give children an example of what a workbench is, a bird, an anthill, things conceived of as similar to all others of the same sort."But names present a confused image of people – and of towns, which they accustom us to believe are individual, unique like people – an image which derives from them, from the brightness or darkness of their tone, the colour with which it is painted uniformly, like one of those posters, entirely blue or entirely red, in which, because of the limitations of the process used or by the whim of the designer, not only the sky and the sea are blue or red, but the boats, the church, the people in the streets."PART IIISwann’s WayIn the first section of the novel, Proust offers the narrator two alternative methods of traversing the countryside: the Meseglise way and the Guermantes way.These "ways" come to symbolize the alternative ways of approaching life and love:" the Meseglise way and the Guermantes way remain for me linked to many of the little events of that life which, of all the various lives we lead concurrently, is the most abundant in vicissitudes, the richest in episodes, I mean our intellectual life."Much has been said about the alternative translations of the novel and its title.However, for me, “Swann’s Way” doesn’t just represent a viable linguistic option, it hints at the way that the tale of Swann’s love in the heart of the novel represents a way or method of loving that becomes an option or choice available to the narrator.In short, the novel is concerned with Swann’s way of loving and what can be learned from it.I don’t think this is communicated by a translation of the title as "The Way by Swann’s", which seems to focus on the geographical path, rather than the metaphysical one. Swann in LoveThe centerpiece of the novel is the second section, “Swann in Love”.While narrated by the same character (Marcel?), it betrays a wealth of personal detail about Swann’s mental processes that only a third person omniscient narrator could be familiar with.This quibble aside, the section is probably my favourite literary analysis of any particular character trait, in this case, the capacity for love and jealousy, which in Proust’s hands are flipsides of the same two-sided coin.We witness the relationship between Swann and Odette transition between first meeting, flirtation, lust, consummation, self-doubt, suspension, reconciliation, suspicion, jealousy, oscillation, irritation, agitation, indifference, torment, unhappiness, despair, estrangement and cessation.She has a reputation as a courtesan or kept woman, yet Swann, just as much a philanderer, falls madly in love with her. In the words of the narrator in a different context (that of Gilberte) , they are “sister souls”.Witness what the equally flirtatious Odette says in her letters:"My dearest, my hand is trembling so badly I can hardly write."(This letter, Swann keeps in a drawer with a dried chrysanthemum flower.)"If you had forgotten your heart here too, I would not have let you take it back.""At whatever hour of the day or night you need me, send word and my life will be yours to command."”Making Cattleyas”Proust is relatively coy about the physical consummation of the relationship.It becomes sexual, although we are not told how soon or for how long.Nor are we told why the two lovers fall out, only that Swann starts to feel jealous of other real or imagined companions.Just as words and sensations have significance for the characters, Swann and Odette develop a code for their assignations.They describe sex as “making cattleyas”, an expression which refers to the orchids that were present at the time of their first mutual seduction.So, ultimately, it is clear that we are dealing with not just love, but love and sex intertwined.Love and JealousyProust displays a remarkable insight into the flip sides of love and jealousy:"...what we believe to be our love, or our jealousy, is not one single passion, continuous and indivisible. They are composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, which are ephemeral but by their uninterrupted multitude give the impression of continuity, the illusion of unity."The life of Swann’s love, the faithfulness of his jealousy, were formed of the death, the faithlessness, of numberless desires, numberless doubts, all of which had Odette as their object…"The presence of Odette continued to sow Swann’s heart with affection and suspicion by turns."Love is Space and Time Measured by the HeartProust persists with the language of involuntary memory throughout the novel, only, he extends it to both time and space.Time passes, and the reality we once had no longer exists.Similarly, "the places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience."It is the task of memory to revive time and space (and therefore love) that might otherwise be lost.Our minds work like a filing cabinet of memories. Each memory is:"...a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years."Conversely, time and space are lost, to the extent that they are not preserved by memory.Just as “Ulysses” is Joyce’s attempt to record and preserve an Odyssey through 20th century Dublin, “Swann’s Way” is Proust’s attempt to perpetuate moments in love, so that we who follow him may better understand love and, in turn, experience better love, as well as perpetuate and remember our love.SOUNDTRACK:Art of Noise – "(Moments in) Love" Satie - "Trois Gymnopédies" Poulenc - "Melancholie" Debussy - "Golliwogg's Cakewalk" Fauré - "Pavane Op.50" (Du coté chez Proust) Franck - "The Little Phrase" Arriagada - "Sonate de Vinteuil" AND VERSE:On Reading Proust, Alone, Rising IFancy strays alone, In ecstasy, inhalingThe scent of lilac.On Reading Proust, Alone, Rising III read not alone, But thrilled by a creature of A different kingdom.On Reading Proust, Alone, Rising IIIReading, reverie:Occupations that demandConstant solitude.For more verse inspired by Proust, see here:

  • Darwin8u
    2019-05-26 10:28

    “One cannot change, that is to say become a different person, while continuing to acquiesce to the feelings of the person one has ceased to be.” ― Marcel Proust, Swann's WayFor years, I have put off reading Proust mainly because the size of In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past seemed intimidating. Now, having finished Swann's Way: Vol 1. (440 pages of the 3365 total pages), I feel a compelling need to keep going. This novel is preoccupied with all the details that surround time, desire, love, memory, happiness, life, truth, names and relationships. It is vivid, detailed and reminds the reader to look, feel, grab, smell, think, confess, and take big risks to grow that one perfect blossom of love. Proust's prose is beautiful, his imagery is brilliant and he seems to swing for the fence on every page. This is not a book one reads, but one inhabits and floats through. But first one must find and dip your own Madeleine.Having read Proust now, I can see his gentle fingerprints everywhere. It is hard to pin down what it is exactly about his prose that is so transfixing, but like a dance or tune that just seems to float, Proust words and style aren't easy to contain in just his books. The edges bleed, the scent lingers.

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-06-18 08:37

    "Longtemps je me suis couché de bonne heure."This phrase and the title of La Recherche has - in my opinion - been butchered many times as people have tried to translate Proust into English. I read it all in French - most French people do not even get past this first volume - and so I cannot really tell you whether the Moncrieff's translation is better than the Kilmartin's. I am not trying to be a snob, I am just saying that, like Ulysses, this work is so subtle and uses such a wide range of idioms and obscure grammatical forms in French that do not exist in English that, my few glances at English translations have been as disappointing to me as when I tried to read Stuart Gilbert's French translation of Ulysses. Now, all that put aside, I am sure that it is still an amazing voyage in English (I know several people and close friends that have made it through all 2500+ pages), but if you can read in French, you must read this in French. That first line is usually translated "For a long time I went to bed early" but the original French in my estimation is more limpid, the word "longtemps" invokes almost a fairy tale atmosphere, "once upon a time", but not quite because immediately we are hit with the "je" so we know it is the narrator speaking. The form "me suis couché" is the passé composé which, unlike the imperfect which would have been "je couchais", refers to a specific moment in time. "De bonne heure" means early but is quite unspecific as well. So, this one phrase contains much of the complexity of La Recherche, the ambiguity between the narrator Marcel and the real Marcel Proust, the vagueness of time, and of course the eternal limpidity of his prose that is almost untranslatable. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful phrase that evokes the past, the present, and childhood all at the same time.De Coté de Chez Swann contains several chapters which introduce the protagonist, Marcel the sleepyhead mentioned above, his friend Gilberte, and many images which have become inseparable from Proust's legend - in particular the madeleine. This is a French pastry with the bottom shaped like a clamshell and the top rather round. You could imagine the moud almost like the shell in Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" in which Venus is standing in her full beauty with her long hair blown by Zephyr's breath was she hides her breasts with her hands. This image reminds us of the how Mary Madeleine is portrayed in ancient portraiture and thus the name of the sweet pastry. Well, that is my interpretation, officially no one knows where the name came from to be honest. In any case, the them of eating a madeleine and sending Marcel into a 2500-page reverie about his entire life is one of sensuality and how the senses are intimately connected to our unconscious memory. Proust had read Freud and was quite influenced by Schopenhauer whose ideas fed Freud and thus it is one of the first literary representations of Freud's theories about the subconscious. Another image that I found unforgettable was the spire of the church of Chartres as Marcel on the back of a carriage sees moving across the horizon back and forth as the wagon bounces along the curvy country roads. This idea that solidity is relative pervades Proust's work: looks are nearly always deceiving. Admittedly, it took me probably three or four attempts to finish this first book of La Recherche. I had just learned French two years before, diving through endless newspapers (including all 32 pages of the depressing, but erudite Le Monde Diplomatique faithfully every month) and I had read some Balzac, Flaubert, Dumas, and Hugo before attempting Proust. Several false starts occurred because I was probably not ready for the complex grammar and the scale of time which seems to stretch infinitely from one minute to the next took a lot of getting used to. I kept returning to it and finally around 1999, I got past the first 75 pages and did not stop until I had consumed the entire work including the thousands of footnotes. The notes of the Folio edition are identical to those of the most expensive and precious Pleiades edition and are by Proust biographer and expert Jean-Yves Tadié. They provide essential insight into the latest research into Proust and the thousands of cultural references scattered across La Recherche. One thing to note as you undertake this voyage is that Proust wrote this book in "cahiers" or notebooks frequently while he was in bed (another nuance of that first sentence) and that there is still debate on various parts where the manuscript is unclear. It is also astounding to think that Proust could hold together a story and narrative over 2500 pages using just these 50-100 page notebooks without Google or Ctrl+F - that is one of the magic elements of this work is how well woven together it is, how real and authentic the characters are as they evolve from book to book, and how Proust pulled this off despite his bad health and his extensive socialising. My apologies to those who expected a review of just the first volume, but I felt it was important to place it in the context of the entire Recherche because pity the reader who limits him/herself to just this first book which is merely the gates through which one must necessarily pass to enter the vast garden of Proust's mind and the infinite richness of detail with which he renders the scenes. It is like if you only saw the outside doors of Bosch's tryptic The Garden of Pleasure and never bothered to open the doors to discover the wonders that lie beyond.

  • Emily May
    2019-06-02 09:36

    I have removed my initial three star rating for this and settled with a blank rating. This is because I cannot in any way say what I want to say about this book with goodreads stars. I had given it three stars because of my indecision, it seemed like a good idea to just stick my rating somewhere in the middle when I couldn't make my mind up. The problem is that on goodreads three stars means "I liked it", which, unfortunately, I didn't. Two stars means "it was ok", but that's not an accurate description of the genius taken to write this either. Frankly, Proust is a genius. It doesn't matter whether you enjoy this book, or think it adds up to what makes a novel "good" or "enjoyable", I challenge anyone to argue with the idea that Proust's work takes the mind of someone with a deep-set gift for writing. I personally think that football (or soccer) is one of the most boring things on the planet, but I also appreciate the skill and hard work of the players. Here I read the Montcrieff translation and translations are often a somewhat simplified version of the original work - but if that is true here, I pity and admire anyone who has braved the original. Montcrieff, himself, deserves a medal for so perfectly taking Proust's deep complexity across languages.And I want to point out that my dislike for this book isn't just because it's a challenge - I've read many challenging books and come through at the other side with satisfaction and the desire to recommend it to others. I would hesitate before recommending this. As I said in a comment below, Tolstoy wrote a lengthy book because he had a long and epic story to tell and it is one that kept me hooked throughout... Proust has written a seven volume novel with over 4000 pages and the reason it's so long is because he feels the need to describe every little speck of dust in intricate detail. That may be an exaggeration, but only slightly. In Swann's Way we are told how the furniture smells, things and objects that are completely irrelevant to the story get a page of description. Why? I can't see a good reason. He also has that habit of waxing poetic about every simple little everyday action, and I understand why some readers will love this beautiful exploration of the simplest things... but I don't. I care so little about these things he is talking about that I suddenly realise I've read a few pages without really taking in a single word of it. Which means you have to go back and start again, reigniting your headache.These volumes are a challenge that people who prefer writing over story should make their way towards. Readers who appreciate the quality of writing, the literary technique, they are the ones who will devour Proust. I like a story, and I don't like stories that drown in a sea of prose and over-descriptiveness, if you're like me then you will probably feel the same weird mixture of admiration at Proust's ability, and disappointment that one of the often stated "greatest novels of all time" didn't do it for you.

  • Foad
    2019-05-22 15:19

    پديدار شناسىپديدار شناسى را مى توان توصيف دقيق تجربه هاى زندگى دانست. بسيارى از تجربه ها كه ما به سادگى از كنارشان رد مى شويم، در حقيقت تجربه هايى پيچيده هستند. از تجربه هاى عام مثل ديدن يك صندلى يا خواندن زمان ساعت عقربه دار، تا تجربه هاى خاص مثل لحظات فراموشى و گيجى پس از بيدار شدن يا دژاوو. از تجربيات شناختى، تا تجربيات احساسى. پديدارشناس مى خواهد بداند وقتى ما يك صندلى را مى بينيم، دقيقاً چه تجربه اى را از سر مى گذرانيم؟ وقتى دچار دلتنگى مى شويم دقيقاً چه احساساتى را تجربه مى كنيم؟پديدارشناس كارى به علل فيزيكى و زيستى و فلسفى ديدن ندارد. نمی خواهد ساز و کار نور و شکست آن در عدسیۀ چشم را بررسی کند، نمی خواهد طرز انتقال پیام در سلول های عصبی به مغز و طرز کار مغز را بررسی کند، نمی خواهد ارتباط مغز با آگاهی را تحلیل کند، او اصولاً به هيچ علتى كار ندارد. وقتى كسى به عقربه هاى ساعت نگاه مى كند، بدون اين كه متوجه علل فيزيكى و زيستى و فلسفى شود، ساعت را مى خواند. پديدارشناس هم فقط مى خواهد همین تجربۀ خواندن ساعت را از نگاه خود فرد مطالعه كند، نه از نگاه يك محقق علت ياب.به بيانى ديگر، علوم به دنبال توصيف پديده ها از ديدگاه "سوم شخص" هستند، به اين ترتيب كه خود را در خارج از جهان قرار مى دهند و به مطالعۀ ساز و كار جهان مى پردازند. اما پديدارشناسى به دنبال توصيف پديده ها از ديدگاه "اول شخص" است، يعنى نمى خواهد خود را خارج از جهان قرار دهد، بلكه مى خواهد خود را درون ذهن فرد قرار دهد و ببيند خود فرد در يك تجربه دقيقاً چه حسى دارد.در جستجوى زمان از دست رفتهدر جستجوى زمان از دست رفته به عبارتی، پديدارشناسى تجربه هاى خاص زندگى است. تجربه هايى كه در خط مستقيم وقايع زندگى نوسانى ايجاد مى كنند: عشق، نوستالژى، دژاوو، الهام و... تجربه هايى كه هويت فرد را شكل مى دهند: فراموشى و يادآورى (لحظه اى كه با خوردن شيرينى مادلن تمام كودكى راوى در برابر چشمش حاضر مى شود)، بيم و اميد (ماجراى بوسه هاى شب به خير مادر راوى، كه آن اندازه به آن ها محتاج است تا بتواند شب را بگذراند)، عشق و نفرت (سوان و اودت، و تمام لحظات آن ها) و... تجربه هایی گاه آشنا و گاه بی اندازه نامأنوس و همان قدر واقعی.هر چند در اين ميان لحظاتى هم هستند كه گرچه با ريزبينى استادانه توصيف شده اند، اما چندان خاص نيستند، مانند توصيف گل هاى مراسم عيد كليسا و برگ های پاییزی جنگل و... اما آن چه "در جستجوى" را تبدیل به شاهکار مى كند، اين بخش ها نيست. بلكه آن تجربه هاى خاصى است كه آدم از سر گذرانده اما هيچ گاه راجع به آن ها فكر نكرده و در هيچ كتابى هم راجع به آن ها نخوانده، و وقتى توصيف دقيق شان را از زبان پروست مى خواند شگفتزده مى شود و با ذوقزدگی فکر می کند: من هم این حالت را داشته ام!رمان (حداقل تا اينجا) كليت واحدى ندارد. پى در پى از اين موضوع به آن موضوع سرک مى كشد و شخصيت ها و مكان هاى مختلف را داخل صحنه مى كند و بیرون می برد (هر چند شاید بعدها دوباره سراغ شان بیاید). اما نبايد در اين رمان به دنبال كليت بود. بايد كليت را فراموش كرد. اين رمان رمان جزئى نگرى است. زندگى با تمام آشفتگى هايى كه در لحظۀ حاضر وجود دارد. آثار هنرىيكى از بخش هاى مهم رمان نقدها و تحليل هايى است كه گه گاه از آثار هنرى مى كند. بعضى از اين آثار هنرى (مانند نقاشى فضائل و رذائل، و سونات ونتوى) گاه مرتب در رمان حضور پيدا مى كنند و نقشى مهم در توصيف ذهنيت هاى اشخاص دارند. اما به غير از اين ها رمان پر است از ارجاعات هنرى، مثلاً براى توصيف حالت يكى از شخصيت ها او را به فلان مجسمه تشبيه مى كند، يا گفتگوى راوى و دوستانش راجع به نثر فلان نويسنده. بعضى از اين آثار را با جستجوی اينترنتى مى توان يافت، و تماشايشان به هر چه لذت بخش تر شدن و غنى تر شدن تجربۀ خوانش اين رمان كمك مى كند.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-06-01 15:25

    Easter 2013. When I reached the final pages of Du Côté de chez Swann, I knew that I hadn’t finished a book but that I’d simply begun one, that what I’d read were only the first chapters of a much longer work and that reading through the entire seven volumes of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu would be, to borrow one of Proust’s favourite images, like travelling on a very long and very beautiful train. I realised that what I had done so far was simply to wander through the first few carriages of this train where I met with some intriguing passengers and overheard some curious conversations. I admired the different decor in each carriage while recognising the common elements that recurred from one to the next. I encountered some of the passengers more than once as they moved about from one section of the train to another, backwards and forwards as they pleased. I gazed from the windows of each carriage and spotted familiar landmarks, now on the left, now on the right. I noticed that the landscape seemed unchanging at times and yet the passengers sometimes wore different clothing. At other times, it was the scenery that was different while the preoccupations and conversations remained the same. I found myself wondering if the train were not on some hugely complex orbit around a central point, passing over and back, revolving in both space and time, because, although Proust loved the precision of railway timetables, the chronology of this narrative is very, very mobile. At the beginning, I found this distracting but now I’ve accepted the fact that alongside clock time and calendar time, there is Proust time and that there may be many more meanings to Temps Perdu than the obvious one of ‘lost time’. I find it significant that many episodes in the early sections of this work occur around Pâques or Easter. When we remember that Easter is not a fixed date in the calendar, that it is a mobile feast, falling on the Sunday following the full moon which itself follows the Spring equinox and which in turn depends on the earth’s orbit around the sun, then the series of Easter times in the narrative become as difficult to pin down on a calendar as the resurrection of memories from a wafer of tea-soaked cake. But Proust has such a keen sense of how nature responds in each season that while we rarely know the exact date of any particular episode, we do know exactly where the episode is situated in nature’s calendar. During the many Easters of the narrative, the weather is remarkably consistent even though it may be March in one and April in another. Proust returns frequently to the types of flowers which bloom around Easter, and refers often to the miracle of the renewal of nature. Aubépine or hawthorn is a favourite plant, the thorns of the new growth tinged with pink in a subtle Good Friday analogy. Boules de neige or viburnum are mentioned too for their parallel with Easter weather when snow showers can occur as easily as sunshine. In this way, we are reminded that Easter has more than religious significance, that plants too are influenced by the equinox, that the earth has its own renewal calendar, and that Proust time is cosmic time.

  • Manny
    2019-06-14 16:17

    I think my original impetus for reading this was Thomas Disch's excellent short story "Getting into Death". Finding out that she probably only has a few weeks to live, the heroine immediately goes out, buys an edition of Proust, and starts reading. She's only able to relax once she's finished. Well, clearly, it had to be pretty good, and maybe I shouldn't wait until the last month of my life.OK... it IS pretty good! Like all truly great novels, it's also very strange. Proust is just interested in doing his own thing, and if you don't like it, that's your problem. Everyone knows about the incredibly long sentences, which actually do have a certain charm once you've learned how to read them. This takes a while, to be honest, but you get there after a couple of hundred pages of acclimatisation. What's less well known is his extreme interest in what we would nowadays call the semantics of reference, in particular with regard to love. When you fall in love with someone you hardly know, what is actually going on? Who is it you love? What is the ontological status of the relationship? Proust manages to turn these musings into a fairly interesting story. But it's psychology just as much as ontology. What makes people fall in love? How exactly does it happen? In the second part ("Un amour de Swann"), he puts Swann's relationship with Odette under the microscope and shows you, step by tiny step, how he falls for her, or she traps him, however you want to look at it. It's really fascinating. Needless to say, also rather depressing... probably not a good idea to read him when you're feeling too down. I find I can only read Proust at certain times of my life, but when I'm in that phase, there is nothing better.

  • BlackOxford
    2019-05-23 15:17

    Childhood ExpectationsThe Delphic maxim Nosce te ipsum, Know thyself, is the motivating force not only of Western philosophy and Christian theology but of much of Western literature. All of the volumes of In Search of Lost Time are an experiment in self-understanding, an experiment which incorporates something that is left out of much of modern science, particularly psychological science, namely the concept of purposefulness. Purposefulness is the capacity to consider purpose rather than the adoption of any specific purpose. It is a concept which is difficult to grasp, and to live with, since it easily deteriorates into some specific purpose through the sheer frustration with the unsettlement it provokes. The most startling characteristic of Swann’s Way is Proust’s dogged refusal to subvert purposefulness to purpose.About 20 years ago I was asked to give a speech at a meeting of the Italian Bankers Association. At the dinner afterwards I was seated next to the chairman of the Banco Agricultura, a charming man of approximately seventy, who, as many Italian businessmen, had a very different social manner than most Northern Europeans. Instead of spending ten minutes on pleasantries leading to a more serious business conversation, the chairman reversed conventional priorities: after ten minutes of business-oriented chit-chat, he signalled an end to that portion of our conversation with the line “You know I think Freud had it entirely wrong.” A bit taken aback but intrigued by his change of tack I asked how so. “According to Freud, we all go through traumas when we are young that we have to live through for the rest of our lives.” He replied, and continued “My experience is completely different. I believe that we all make fundamental decisions about ourselves that we try to live up to for the rest of our lives.” He then went on to explain how he, a scientist by training, had ended up in banking as the correct expression of his childhood decision.Clearly only the very rare, and probably incipiently psychotic, child would be able to take a such a decision about himself - to become a banker! So I was somewhat sceptical about the chairman’s rationale until I watched an instalment of the British ITV programme originally entitled 7-Plus. This programme followed the lives of a dozen or so Britons beginning at age seven at subsequent intervals of seven years (to my uncertain knowledge the next instalment should capture them at age 63). In the early years the children are clearly both inexperienced and inarticulate, as would be expected. Yet they make statements which are also clearly reflective of their later more experienced and more articulate selves. Some are uncanny: a seven-year-old Yorkshire lad herding cattle in his remote family farm, asked by the interviewer what he wants to do when he grows up replies “I want to know everything about het moon.” By his mid-thirties he had become a prominent astrophysicist. The association between most childhood statements and life-outcomes are far more subtle than this, but almost all correlate to such a degree that one can match young to old merely on the basis of what the children and adults say and do rather than their physical states.The ITV programme is obviously anecdotal rather than scientific but I nevertheless I find it compelling. Alfred Whitehead observed that we are all born either Platonists or Aristotelians. As with religious faith, we cannot verify either position except by adopting it. Confirming evidence flows from the choice not vice versa. Proust knows this:The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; they did not engender those beliefs, and they are powerless to destroy them; they can inflict on them continual blows of contradictions and disproof without weakening them; and an avalanche of miseries and maladies succeeding one another without interruption in the bosom of a family will not make it lose its faith in either the clemency of its God or the capacity of its physician.So where do these beliefs, not just Platonic and Aristotelian but all important beliefs, particularly about purpose, come from? Do we actually decide these beliefs in some sort of analysis and process of verification as rationalists suggest is ‘rational’? Or do they emerge incrementally from our actual experience in the world, shaping us through an appreciation of ‘the facts’ as empiricists insist? Is anyone really driving the bus at all?For Proust, the impetus to action is vague and ambiguous intention not specific causal stimulus, not even the ‘future cause’ of a defined purpose; his cosmos is Platonic and idealistic rather than Aristotelian and material; his theology is that of a Bonaventure who finds infinite significance in small things, not of a Thomas Aquinas who looks to the cosmos for confirmation of the divine; for him the mind is better described by Jungian archetypes than Freudian phobias. There is also a profound twist in Proust’s apparent modernism. His intense romantic self-consciousness, the drive to understand oneself through feelings, leads to something unexpected and very post-modern: the recognition that the unconscious is indistinguishable from reality, a reality which is created. The realm of the particular and individual, those parts of the world with proper names like cities and people, can't be pinned down. We can't be sure where things begin and end, including ourselves. Our inability to distinguish the particular Kantian thing in itself from what we think of it can even make us ill as Marcel discovers in the book's final part. Even more profoundly, the Self, our consciousness combined with this reality, is indistinguishable from God. As God is infinite, and infinitely ‘beyond’ our ability to understand, so too the Self. That the Self is inherently unknowable except as a direction of search is a conclusion he reaches again and again in Swann’s Way. Every feeling is traced through memory until memory merely points further without a material reference. When memory stops at objects without recognising the transcendent reality, Marcel finds himself in error:No doubt, by virtue of having permanently and indissolubly united so many different impressions in my mind, simply because they made me experience them at the same time, the Meseglise and Guermantes ways left me exposed, in later life, to much disillusionment and even to many mistakes. For often I have wished to see a person again without realising that it was simply because that person recalled to me a hedge of hawthorne in blossom.This is also the eponymous Swann's fate. In attaching the 'signs' of an emotionally moving, indeed transformative, musical phrase (authored, significantly, by a resident not of Swann's Way but the other path, the Guermantes Way, in Combray) and a female figure in a Botticelli painting (Botticelli shared with Swann an ambivalence about commitment in relationship) to the person of Odette, Swann creates a false reality. The music indicates a distant ideal. Swann regards:...musical motifs as actual ideas, of another world, of another order, ideas veiled in shadow, unknown, impenetrable to the human mind, but none the less perfectly distinct from one another, unequal among themselves in value and significance.His compulsion to fill the void between these aesthetic ideals, which he recognises as divine, and his concrete situation with whatever is at hand is overpowering. The result is an apparently disastrous confusion and self-imposed delusion. Swann emerges in Proust's text as an avatar of Saint Augustine, knowing that he is over-valuing the object of his desire, yet unwilling to cease digging the spiritual pit in which he finds himself. The second half of the book, which is entirely third-party narrative, uses this tale of destruction as a sort of case study of the theory developed in the first, which is entirely introspective and associative. There are constant reminders throughout that the map which indicates the direction toward the ideal is not its territory. On a short coach trip during childhood with the local doctor, for example, Marcel recalls the comforting sight of three village church steeples. Why are they comforting? The scene is pastoral, at sunset, but minutely crafted analysis gives no clear reason for either the importance of the memory or the intensity of the feeling. Nevertheless there is something there, just out of sight, obscurely attractive just beyond the steeples. It is what lies beyond, behind this image that is the source of its power. His imagery of women is similarly and explicitly archetypal: Sometimes in the afternoon sky the moon would creep up, white as a cloud, furtive, lustreless, suggesting an ancient actress who does not have to come on for a while, and watches the rest of the company for a moment from the auditorium in her ordinary clothes, keeping in the background, not wishing to attract attention to herself.Often he presents the naked image, leaving it without comment except that he considers it significant enough to write about. The evocation simply echoes in this example:Here and there in the distance, in a landscape which in the failing light and saturated atmosphere resembled a seascape rather, a few solitary houses clinging to the lower slopes of a hill plunged in watery darkness shone out like little boats which have folded their sails and ride at anchor all night upon the sea.Proust often uses grammar to make his point about the obscure reality of these ‘strange attractors’ as they are called in the modern theory of chaos. In describing a meadow by the River Vivonne in Combray:For the buttercups grew past numbering in this spot where they had chosen for their games among the grass, standing singly, in couples, in whole companies, yellow as the yolk of eggs, and glowing with an added lustre, I felt, because being powerless to consummate with my palate the pleasures which the sight of them never failed to give me, I would let it accumulate as my eyes ranged over their golden expanse, until it became potent enough to produce an effect of absolute, purposeless beauty; and so it had been from my earliest childhood, when from the towpath I had stretched out my arms towards them before I could even properly spell their charming name - a name fit for the Prince in some fairy tale - immigrants, perhaps, from Asia centuries ago, but naturalised now for ever in the village, satisfied with their modest horizon, rejoicing in the sunshine and the water's edge, faithful to their little glimpse of the railway station, yet keeping none the less like some of our old paintings, in their plebeian simplicity, a poetic scintillation from the golden East.The sheer length and complexity of the sentence, combined with the ambiguity of the referents of many of the pronouns, and the allusions to a mysterious Asian past, are components of his monumental experiment to express that which is just beyond the reach of expression. Its density is poetic, but it is not poetry. It is a new genre. In it Proust makes the search for the Platonic ideal visible by subverting literary habits but no so much as to make the text incomprehensible.Life then for Marcel is a search in which habits may provide comfort, security, and facile communication, peace even, but inhibit discovery of what one is. By simply accepting our habitual responses to events as obvious or inevitable, we short-circuit the investigation of why and how they should be as they are. In particular this applies to habits of thought, methods, if you will, our ways of dealing with the emotional world. There is no essential method, not just for psychology but for thought in general. Both the Meseglise Way and the Guermantes Way are essential to one’s formation (to use a term from religious development). Proust’s implicit proposal is that there is an emotional epistemology which is the heart of human purposefulness, but that this epistemology excludes nothing. It ‘sweeps in’ everything it can using every approach it can imagine.Proust’s implicit contention is that what is important in adult life is decided in early conscious life, which adult life then induces us to make unconscious - thus confirming the chairman of the Banco Agricultural and Freud (of whom Proust was ignorant) as well as the producers of ITV. But like the chairman and unlike Freud, Proust appreciated this as a positive necessity. For him human beings are creative idealists who become oriented to a certain configuration of not just how the world is but how it ought to be. Appreciating the source of this phenomenon is what he is about. Proust's ‘therapy’ is not Freudian since he seeks neither to neutralise the motivational effect of childhood ideals nor to subject these ideals to some sort of choice. His intention is to further articulate and explore what the ideals might be, indeed what we might be behind the veil of appearances. The ideals created in childhood are, after all, as the chairman said, what we actually are. But the ITV children suggest, contrary to the chairman's opinion, that these ideals are not deterministic. There are any number, perhaps an infinite number, of ways through which ideals may be interpreted and approached. Only afterwards can the creativity of the individual be discerned. This is the domain of choice and learning.Nosce te ipsum does not imply, therefore, an analytic understanding of one's desires. But without some sort of reflective assessment, these desires, feelings, aversions remain unappreciated, as does consequently the Self in which they occur and which they constitute. These desires are created in youth not as specific neurotic fixations but as memories and responses to a vague, inarticulate presence, essence perhaps, which is just behind, just beyond what we perceive and what we can express. This knowledge is essential because without it we are liable to pursue ineffective paths; but it is also useless because it will bring us no closer to the real content of the ideal. Neither the past nor the Self can ever be found or recovered - "...houses, roads avenues, are as fugitive, alas, as the years." But they can be appreciated: 'Worldly' desires, those conventions of society, are forceful but sterile once achieved - love, social position, power, wealth - and do not really create that which ought to be because that which ought to be is irretrievable. For Proust, as for Augustine, each of us, is a Citizen Kane, pursuing an ideal we can know only faintly, often through inappropriate means. The Rosebud is our unique possession – or more properly a sign to its hidden meaning - and it is the only possession we need.In his 1651 publication of The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes makes an intentional mistranslation of Nosce te ipsum. ‘Read thyself’ is how he prefers the classic maxim in English. When we read, we are forced to interpret, to bring ourselves into the text. When our interpretation becomes a text, which it must if it is articulated, that too is subject to interpretation. And so on ad infinitum. As the philosopher Richard Rorty famously quipped: it’s interpretation all the way down. There is no terminal point of truth in a text, nor is there a true Self, just as there is no foundation in terms of first principles for thought. The post-modern position reckons our job as one of permanent interpretation, an un-ending search for the truth – about the world as well as ourselves. Hobbes had the insight that we are texts to be read and interpreted. Proust demonstrates how this is done. The fact that the horizon recedes at the same pace as it is approached doesn't invalidate the task. Goal-orientation, according to psychologists, therapists, and management consultants, is a desirable human trait. This is demonstrably false. Goal-orientation is a neurosis involving the fixation of purpose regardless of consequences. It implies a wilful rejection of the possibility of learning through experience.The most vital experience is not about learning how to do something, technique; but learning about what is important to do, value. Loyalty to purpose is a betrayal of purposefulness, of what constitutes being human. This is a prevailing poison in modern society. Proust understood this toxin, and, without even giving it a name, formulated the cure. This, for me, is the real value of Swann's Way.

  • Kalliope
    2019-06-08 10:17

    Reposting this review since it had been erroneously deleted.-------It feels peculiar to write a review on Du côté de chez Swann given how many comments I have posted during the two months of our reading in the GoodReads Group “2013 The Year of Reading Proust”. As I have read it in the original French my quotes come from the Gallimard edition.Many of my posts have shown how fascinated I have been by the very visual writing of Marcel Proust. Colors, light and its effects, bounties of flowers, all combine together into a very pictorial style. I think this is fundamental in Proust’s aesthetics.COLORColors are notoriously difficult to render in language; there is simply no vocabulary for conveying their aspect or qualia. We have to resort to things to identify any given tone or hue. Homer’s wine dark sea is a famous example. We should not be surprised that Proust, the stylist, would pay meticulous attention to his palette. For any one who has read this novel, rose will have stood out as one of the Narrator’s favorite tones. Who will not remember la femme en rose? Or the beautiful passage on the hawthorns in which their pink shade is eulogized over their alternative white? There is however another color which I think is more prominent than pink, but which stands out less singly. The suggestive azur or the mellow céleste or the precious zaphir or the mysterious outre-mer, all form part of that one category of bleu which in its homogenized state does not imprint itself so prominently in our internal retinas as the lovely sounding rose. Mauve or violet, the nineteenth century color par excellence, and often in combination with white, also figures prominently in Proust. The Narrator comments twice on his fascination with the mauve ribbons, sealed with white wax, with which Gilberte presents him Bergotte’s Racine notes (467).When colors need the support of a thing for their own definition, the thing will also color the described object. What if a green is a vert-chou or cabbage green, rather than a treasured émeraude? Or if instead of just yellow it is doré or as yellowish as a coquille d’oeuf? Do you picture them differently? The object so described then is not just given a chromatic trait and acquires a common or a precious extra quality. Proust is also aware of the most difficult colors to render artificially, those with an iridescent quality found in the rainbow and the tail of the peacock. They both fascinated the theoreticians in the middle Ages. The latter appropriately appears in the beautiful passage on the Combray gothic church and its stained glass windows. While the full rainbow colors Vinteuil’s violin sonata when it emerges again in full score and sound, and far from the Verdurins home, where the piece was played in a reduced format.Like a painter, when Proust picks his colors he is very aware on the way they affect each other. He has his Narrator observing une image..... s’embellit et bénéficie du reflet des couleurs étrangères qui par hasard l’entourent dans notre rêverie. And again it is the color projected in the mind that stays in one’s memory, as the Narrator acknowledges that for him the black eyes of the blonde Gilberte are azur (p. 167). Furthermore, if color lives in one’s imagination, it can easily connect with other sensations such as sound. The last syllable of the name Guermantes acquires a distinct orange in the Narrator’s consciousness. We are treading right into the World of Synesthesia.LIGHTBut of course, there is no color without light. Some of the most beautiful passages deal with the sensation de la splendeur de la lumière. The description of the Combray church alluded above is one of the most brilliant episodes in which light shines. As he favors the Gothic sections of the church versus the Romanesque, the narrator adroitly selects light as it filters through the stained glass. As an informal pupil of Emile Mâle and longstanding admirer of mediaeval architecture, Proust knew well that the high vaults and elevated arches were built in their aspiration to receive divine illumination. Both theologians and masons devised together a new kind of temple that would make possible for godly wisdom to enlighten the earthly followers. The divine source of illumination for Proust is, however, Art. And the Narrator’s first trial at writing takes place as he observes the effect of sunset on the three belfries in Martinville and as, in his enchantment, they appear to him as three flowers in a painting (p. 214).Proust pays attention to all kinds of lights. Even artificial light, and in particular electricity in its modernity is contrasted to the gas lighting of earlier times. But unsurprisingly it is natural light, both from the sun and from the moon, which irradiates most resplendent from his text. I have collected many of these passages. Here is one of the nicest:Le soleil ne se couchait pas encore… sa lumière qui s’abaissait et touchait la fenêtre, était arrêtée entre les grands rideaux et les embrasses, divisée, ramifiée, filtrée, et, incrustant de petits morceaux d’or le bois de citronnier de la commode, illuminait obliquement la chambre avec la délicatesse qu’elle prend dans les sous-bois (p 158-9).The moon, less bright, invites for somewhat more veiled meanings. His clairs de lune clothe scenes with lyricism, as in:Le clair de lune, qui doublant et reculant chaque chose par l’extension devant elle de son reflet, plus dense et concret qu’elle-même, avait à la fois aminci et agrandi le paysage comme un plan replié jusque-là, qu’on développe”( p. 44)But moonlight can get dangerously close to kitsch as the aesthete Swann begins his descent into hellish vulgarity and he associates it to his visits at the rue de la Pérousse. And as the clair de lune illuminates love scenes, it also seems to ignite homosexual sparks, as in the foreboding dinner of the young Narrator at Legrandin’s, or later as Odette admits to some lesbian toying: “Elle m’a assuré qu’il n’y avait jamais eu un clair de lune pareil. Je lui ai dit “Cette blague!”.. je savais bien où elle voulait en venir”.LE REGARDAnd when there is light, looking or regarder is possible. And Proust liked to look. He makes his Narrator a voyeur several times, in some instances as part of effective theatrical devices, but also in scenes that acquire the quality of a spectacle that goes beyond the strictly dramatic needs. Out of the two occasions in which the Narrator is spying at Vinteuil’s home, the second provides the impressionable youth with his first knowledge of sadisme, an inclination that we suspect will haunt him later in life and in the novel. For looking is a way of possessing. And le regard or the gaze (as Lacan later examined) objectifies that which it captivates. The eyes of Mme de Guermantes enjoy freedom and independence as disengaged beings as they set out to explore what is there to be observed and, may be, appropriated.“…ô merveilleuse indépendance des regards humains retenus au visage par une corde si lâche, si longue, si extensible, qu’ils peuvent se promener seuls loin de regards....comme un rayon de soleil sembla conscient. (p.207).Eyes are often exalted for they are precious as their close name to jewels (yeux-joyeux) suggests. It is thanks to its last syllable that the name of the town Bayeux acquires brilliancy sa noble dentelle rougeâtre et dont le faîte était illuminé par le vieil or de sa dernière syllabe (p. 451)FLOWERSThe pictorial can also be attained without mentioning either colors or light. Flowers are bright chromatic alternatives. And as the literary Proust mentions the exemplary flora in Balzac’s writing he must have set himself to plant more buds in his literary garden. I reckon that Proust’s botany is the most varied collection in French literature. But the beauty does not emerge from the simple numbers (I have counted over forty different flowers) and their charming names. He is very picky for his cultivated bouquet and why he has chosen each specimen, “boutons d’or gardent un poétique éclat d’orient”.In this first volume his very many flowers form different beds in different sections (les deux côtés ont des différentes fleurs). The most florid is found in the Méséglise area, where the capucines, bluets, primevères, pensées. giroflées, and of course, the legendary aubépines, blossom. On the Guermantes path the fluvial landscape conjures up the water-lilies and other aquatic plants. Later, Odette’s boudoir and clothes call for the oriental, exotic and seductive chrysanthèmes and the teasing catleyas, even if they also emit whiffs of vulgarity, which irritate Swann. And finally, some cities such as Parma are embodied in its Stendhalian violets or Florence in its Fleur de Lys (the latter is also a literary echo of Anatole France’s Le Lys Rouge).Flowers form part of Proust’s vibrant palette. But thanks to their fragrance they acquire an additional depth. They symbolize. The hawthorns become the Narrator’s escaping childhood, the cattleyas promise heaven to Swann, and the trapped water lilies are a perfect demonstration of captivity. They can, however, also have a perverse side. Images of dissipate women conjure up venomous flowers intermingled with precious jewelry à la Gustave Moreau.THE PAINTERLYReading Du côté gives the impression that Proust paints his novel with his pen on a panel. And I am not just referring to the very rich catalog of paintings that has led Erik Karpeles to produce his beautiful book Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time. I am referring to Proust’s way of looking and of writing. Already his young Narrator is presented as a painter when he is observing his mother’s face as he tries to find the precise location where he wants to daub his kiss as if her face were a canvas. Some descriptions read like a transcribed text from an extant but unidentified painting. The depiction of the asparagus seems a conscious choice to paint Manet’s version but with text. Similarly, the passages describing the Guermantes pond and the aquatic plants unavoidably conjure up Monet’s water-lily series. Or the effects of light on the Parisian streets and balconies reflect Pissarro’s city views. I do no think that it is the reader’s doing to abstract these images from the text, but that it is the author who is craftily and specifically imaging his text for his viewers.Pictorial conceptions abound, as when the Narrator examines the glass cabinets in the Hotel room in Balbec, on which une telle partie du tableau changeant de la mer, se reflétait, déroulant une frise de claires marines. (P. 445). Or, when the Narrator conceives the town of Florence as if it were an early medieval fresco in which there are two panels: in one, under an architectural canopy, there is a curtain of sunlight, while in the other he sees himself in the near future as he visits the town and crosses Ponte Vecchio, which inevitably is covered with“jonquilles, de narcisses et d’anémones”.Light can be so powerful in this work, that it can even surpass the two-dimensions of the strictly pictorial and reach full plasticity as it becomes a sculptor:Je traversais des futaies où la lumière du matin, qui leur imposait des divisions nouvelles, émondait les arbres, mariait ensemble les tiges diverses et composait des bouquets. Elle attirait adroitement à elle deux arbres; s'aidant du ciseau puissant du rayon et de l'ombre, elle retranchait à chacun une moitié de son tronc et de ses branches et, tressant ensemble les deux moitiés qui restaient, en faisait soit un seul pilier d'ombre que délimitait l'ensoleillement d'alentour, soit un seul fantôme de clarté dont un réseau d'ombre noire cernait le factice et tremblant contour (p. 491).We see that in this novel the Narrator understands his world through representation. Art dresses and transforms reality. And this provides an aspect of Proust’s aesthetics. We see this poignantly in Swann’s ability to find parallels between paintings and people to the extent that not until he has wrapped the slightly vulgar Odette in Botticelli’s refined attire, does he fall in love with her.Du côté de chez Swann comes across as a meditation of the representational powers of the mind. Whether we read about passionate and obsessive feelings, or memories of time foregone, or sensitivities to the natural world or observations on society circles, these are all phenomena that live necessarily inside someone’s mind, “…mais tous les sentiments que nous font éprouver la joie ou l’infortune d’un personnage réel ne se produisent en nous que par l’intermédiaire d’une image de cette joie ou de cette infortune”But for this mental representation images are needed. And these have to be rich images, with resplendent colors, with sun- and moon-light, with evocative and fragrant flowers, and with a pictorial vivacity, if they are to be precious, effective and… memorable. Language, however, is not the best medium to render the visual. And yet Proust astoundingly succeeds in creating a literary palette which displays chromatisms in full blossom and projects all shades of luminosity. Art is the guiding illumination that has made Proust the Abbé Suger of Literature.

  • Nickolas the Kid
    2019-05-28 09:27

    Ένα βιβλίο μπορεί να είναι αριστούργημα για κάποιον είτε γιατί μέσα σε αυτό βρήκε κομμάτια του εαυτού του, είτε διότι ο συγγραφέας μπόρεσε να γράψει ένα πολυεπίπεδο έργο με διαχρονική αξία , διακλαδωμένες έννοιες και συμβολισμούς. Λοιπόν, ο Προυστ στο συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο τα πέτυχε και τα 2… Έγραψε ένα ατόφιο αριστούργημα στο οποί εγώ (αλλά κι ο καθένας πιστεύω) βρήκα κομμάτια του εαυτού του μου...Το βιβλίο (το πρώτο από τα 7 που έγραψε ο Προυστ) χωρίζεται σε 3 μέρη. Στο πρώτο μέρος, ο αφηγητής και επίδοξος συγγραφέας, μας περιγράφει τις αναμνήσεις των παιδικών του χρόνων από το Κομπραί, στο δεύτερο την θυελλώδη ερωτική σχέση ενός οικογενειακού τους φίλου, του αριστοκράτη Σουάν με μια γυναίκα χαλαρών ηθών και στο τρίτο τον εξιδανικευμένο παιδικό του έρωτα με την κόρη του Σουάν την, την Ζιλμπέρτ. Όλα ξεκινάν όταν ο αφηγητής δοκιμάζει ένα μαντλέν. Ένα παραδοσιακό γαλλικό γλύκισμα με λίγο τσάι, που τον γυρίζει πίσω στον χρόνο, στο μικρό χωριό Κομπραί που περνούσε τα καλοκαίρια του και ξεκλειδώνει τις μνήμες ενώ ο αφηγητής προσπαθεί να ξανακερδίσει την εικόνα της ζωής του και την φύση της ίδιας της αγάπης. Μια ανάσταση του παρελθόντος που φέρνει μαζί του μια μυστηριώδη και αόριστη έκσταση.Ο Προυστ προσπαθεί να διεισδύσει στην αθέλητη μνήμη, μέσα από όλα εκείνα ασήμαντα γεγονότα που ανακαλεί με την γλυκιά και ιδιαίτερη γεύση του μαντλέν. Ειδικά στο πρώτο μέρος γίνεται ο διαχωρισμός συνείδησης, μνήμης και συνήθειας.«Η συνήθεια τα ρυθμίζει όλα επιδέξια σιγά σιγά όμως – κι αφήνει την αρχική μας σκέψη να υποφέρει για εβδομάδες σε μια κατάσταση προσωρινότητας» Η σκέψη και η συνήθεια κάνουν ένα σπίτι κατοικήσιμο λοιπόν, όπως έλεγε και ο Τσαρλς Ντίκενς . Ο Προυστ βάζει μαζί με την σκέψη και το συναίσθημα. Τα συναισθήματα που πάνω τους χτίζουμε την ζωή μας και τα θέλω μας. Και είναι τόσο ισχυρά που πολλές φορές, σαν τον αφηγητή, προσπαθούμε να παρατείνουμε την αναμονή για ένα μεγάλο συναίσθημα ώστε η προσμονή να γίνει πιο γλυκιά και από την ίδια την στιγμή. Το φιλί της μητέρας του αφηγητή και η ανάλυση του, μας προετοιμάζει για την εξερεύνηση των συναισθημάτων και του υποσυνείδητου. Με την αναλυτική λεπτότητα του ο Προυστ αλλά και με χειρουργική ακρίβεια μας οδηγεί στο να κατανοήσουμε τον ίδιο μας τον εαυτό. Ο αναγνώστης και ο συγγραφέας ψυχαναλύουν τον εαυτό τους. Έτσι καταλαβαίνουμε πως η κοινωνική μας προσωπικότητα είναι αποτέλεσμα της σκέψης των άλλων. Κι όχι μόνο αυτό! Καταλαβαίνουμε πως η ζωή μας είναι συνδεδεμένη με τις ζωές των άλλων, τους τόπους που ζήσαμε, τις εμπειρίες μας. Δεν υπάρχουμε απλά, αλλά συνυπάρχουμε… Χαρακτηριστική είναι η ανάμνηση του λεσβιακού έρωτα της κόρης του Βεντουιγ και η αδιαφορία προς τον θάνατο του πατέρα της. Σαν παιδί και σαν ενήλικας ο αφηγητής βλέπει τα γεγονότα μέσα από ένα τελείως διαφορετικό πρίσμα. Ο Προυστ διεισδύει σε θέματα ταμπού για την εποχή του και σκιαγραφεί κάθε πραγματικότητα μπροστά στην οποία οι άλλες πραγματικότητες εξαϋλώνονται.«Τα ωραία πράγματα μας διδάσκουν να αναζητούμε τις απολαύσεις μας έξω από τις ικανοποιήσεις του πλούτου και της ματαιότητας».΄ Οι γονείς του αφηγητή (κυρίως η μητέρα του), η γιαγιά του, ο παππούς του, η οικονόμος του σπιτιού είναι τα πρόσωπα τα οποία παίρνουν μέρος στις αναμνήσεις από το Κομπραί. Και κάπου εκεί μέσα κι ο κύριος Σουάν. Ένας αριστοκράτης οικογενειακός φίλος ο οποίος επισκεπτόταν την οικογένεια του αφηγητή τα καλοκαίρια.«Ο Σουάν, ο οποίος ήταν ταυτόχρονα γνωστός σε τόσους πολλούς συλλόγους, ήταν αρκετά διαφορετικός από αυτόν που δημιούργησε η μεγάλη μου θεία». Ο Προυστ συνεχίζει με τον διαχωρισμό τον κοινωνικών τάξεων. Για την ακρίβεια της μπουρζουαζίας και της υψηλής κοινωνίας. Βρίσκει την μέση τάξη ενοχλητική και προσποιητή και δεν μπορεί να δικαιολογήσει την άνοδο και την είσοδο της στα «μεγάλα σαλόνια». Αντίθετα με τον Μπουνιουέλανακαλύπτει την κρυφή γοητεία της Αριστοκρατίας! (Σε αυτή την γοητεία πίστευαν και άλλοι κορυφαίοι όπως ο Τσβάιχ κι ο Καμυ). Ο συγγραφέας ψυχαναλύει τον Σουάν σε μια προσπάθεια να κατανοήσει τον δικό του ψυχισμό. Ο έρωτας του με μια «κοκότα» είναι κάτι το ανεξήγητο. Τι είναι πραγματικά αυτό που έλκει τον Σουάν και κάνει τον έρωτά του μη χειρουργήσιμο;Ο Σουάν μπαίνει μέσα στην μπουρζουαζία, την οποία βρίσκει βαρετή και εντελώς ψεύτική και, βγαίνει με μια χαραγματιά στην καρδιά του. Όπως συμβαίνει αρκετές φορές στην ζωή μας κανείς δεν μπορεί να καταλάβει τις επιλογές μας. Καμια κοινωνική τάξη δεν καταλαβαίνει τον Σουάν και τον έρωτα του για μια τέτοια γυναίκα. Κι ενώ οι μεσοαστοί αρχικά βρίσκουν τον Σουάν «κόσμημα» για τον κύκλο τους, σταδιακά τον αποκαθηλώνουν. Η Οντετ είναι για αυτούς η πέτρα του σκανδάλου. Όμως ο Σουάν αγαπάει κάθε τι που περιβάλλει την Οντέτ. Υπάρχουν δυο κατηγορίες ανθρώπων: Οι μεγαλόψυχοι και οι άλλοι.. Και ο Σουάν προσπαθεί να περιοριστεί σε αυτήν που αγαπά και να κερδίσει τον χρόνο που έχασε με του αφόρητους αστούς…Ο Προυστ μας δείχνει για μια ακόμη φορά την πολυπλοκότητα της φύσης μας. Η αφήγηση των γεγονότων σχετικά με τον έρωτα του Σουάν γίνεται από τις μνήμες του αφηγητή από διάφορες διηγήσεις, χρησιμοποιώντας ωστόσο πολλές φορές και την πρωτοπροσωπη αφήγηση για να δηλώνει την δική του παρουσία στον χαμένο χρόνο.«Δεν γνωρίζουμε την ευτυχία μας. Ποτέ δεν είμαστε όσο δυστυχισμένοι νομίζουμε» Τελικά ο αφηγητή επανέρχεται στις δικές του αναμνήσεις και στον παιδικό του έρωτα με την κόρη του Σουάν, την Ζιλμπέρτ. Η αναζήτηση του χαμένου χρόνου μεταφέρεται από τα ανήλιαγα και ανηφορικά σοκάκια του Κομπραί στο κοσμοπολίτικο Παρίσι και στα Ηλύσια πεδία. Εκεί είναι ο τόπος συνάντησης των 2 παιδιών και η αρχή του έρωτα για τον μικρό αφηγητή… Όλες οι μνήμες είναι συνδεδεμένες με την Ζιλμπέρτ και κάθε τι όμορφο ωχριά και θυσιάζεται μπρος σε αυτή την ανάμνηση. Σαν του Ιάπωνες κηπουρούς, που θυσιάζουν πολλά όμορφα λουλούδια για να πετύχουν το ένα και μοναδικό ωραιότερο λουλούδι. Ο Προυστ προσπαθεί να περιγράψει τον έρωτα σε όλες τις μορφές του. Και εμβαθύνει σε σημείο που τρομάζει τον αναγνώστη. Ο μικρός Προυστ είναι έτοιμος να ριχτεί μέσα στην άγνωστη για αυτόν ζωή της Ζιλμπέρτ ακόμα και να μετατρέψει τα ελαττώματα της σε λόγους για να την αγαπήσει περισσότερο. Τι πιο ωραίο για έναν ερωτευμένο άνθρωπο να ακούει από τους άλλους το όνομα της αγαπημένης του. Οι ήχοι είναι μελωδικοί… Έτσι και ο μικρός αφηγητής προσπαθεί σχεδόν να επιβάλλει στους γονείς του να αναφέρουν το όνομα Ζιλμπέρτ Σουάν. Εν κατακλείδι, η γραφή του Προυστ είναι συμπαγής και δαιδαλώδης, κάτι που δίνει στο βιβλίο μια άγρια ομορφιά. Κάθε σελίδα δείχνει απροσπέλαστη αλλά κρύβει μέσα της πολύτιμους πνευματικούς θησαυρούς. Ο λυρισμός είναι διάχυτος στις περιγραφές των τόπων και των προσώπων, ενώ δεν λείπει το χιούμορ και μια σαρκαστική διάθεση του Προυστ προς όλα και όλους αλλά κυρίως στις κοινωνικές αποστάσεις. Ο συγγραφέας οδηγεί την κάθε φράση που τελειώνει σε εκείνη που πρόκειται να αρχίσει, πότε ταχύνοντας και πότε αργοπορώντας των βηματισμό των συλλαβών, για να τις κάνει να ενταχθούν σε έναν ομοιόμορφο ρυθμό κάτι το οποίο μπορεί να εμφυσήσει σε αυτό το βιβλίο ένα είδος συναισθηματικής και αδιάκοπης ζωής.Ατόφιο αριστούργημα και μοναδικό επίτευγμα η μετάφρασή του!5/5 ασυζητητί!Και έπεται συνέχεια...EDIT 1Στο βιβλίο υπάρχουν πάρα πολλές καλλιτεχνικές αναφορές σε θέατρο, λογοτεχνία, μουσική, ζωγραφική, οι οποίες άλλοτε έχουν σχέση με το έργο άλλοτε όχι. Όμως οι εικόνες που δημιουργούν στον αναγνώστη είναι μαγικές. Ο μεταφραστής έχει παραπομπές για όλες τις παραπάνω αναφορές, κάτι το οποίο εγώ δεν το θεωρώ απαραίτητο.... Μάλλον κουραστικό είναι...

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-05-22 15:17

    Note to all relevant parties : This book made me laugh and cry. I absolutely fell in love with the characters!****************PROBABLY HOW NOT TO READ MARCEL PROUSTIn series three of The Sopranos, Tony tells his therapist about his latest fainting spell which happened when he was cooking meat. Then he remembers his very first fainting spell, which happened a short time after he witnessed his father chop a guy's finger off with a meat cleaver. She says his very first attack happened when he short circuited after witnessing his parents’ sexuality, the violence and blood associated with the food he was about to eat, and the thought that some day he would have to, in the words of his father, bring home the bacon like his father. Classic dialogue then follows :Tony: “All this from a slice of gabagool?”Dr. Melfi: “Kind of like Proust’s madeleines.”Tony: “What? Who?”Dr. Melfi (getting excited) : “Marcel Proust. Wrote a seven-volume classic, Remembrance of Things Past. He took a bite of madeleine — a kind of tea cookie he used to have when he was a child — and that one bite unleashed a tide of memories of his childhood and, ultimately, his entire life.”Tony : (building up to another dyspeptic outburst): "This sounds very gay."Dr Melfi wisely drops the subject of Proust.

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-05-24 11:19

    Swann's Way does not, say, have a lot of plot. At all. Let's get that out of the way upfront. If you're looking for a plot-driven story, look elsewhere. What it does is loop in and around certain topics, in the narrator's life and the life of Swann, and examine them in such minute detail, in such flowing prose from one moment to the next, looping around the events in question. And it is beautifully written.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Sinem
    2019-05-30 14:32

    Proust notlamak ya da yorumlamak haddime değil ben yaşadığım tecrübeyi paylaşmak istiyorum.Proust okumak oldukça yüksek bir dikkat istiyor, öyle her fırsatta okuyabileceğiniz bir kitap değil. Kendisine alan yaratılmasını ve bir efor harcanmasını istiyor. ne kadar okumak istesem de ben boş bir günümde maksimum 60-70 sayfa okuyabildim sonrasında algım inanılmaz düştü. Proust'un çapraz tasvirleri, analojileri o kadar güzel ki kitabın en başından itibaren beni en etkileyen şeylerden biri bu oldu. anlattığı şeye değil nasıl anlattığına hayran oldum. tüm kitabı da bu hayranlıkla okudum, okudukça da hayranlığım pekişti.Proust anlattığı şeye başka bir boyut katıyor. bilinç düzeyinde bir farklılık olmamasına rağmen okuduğunuz şeyin farklı olduğunu algıyalabiliyorsunuz. algılayabildiğiniz noktada da sizin algı düzeyiniz değişiyor. gözle duymak, kulakla görmek gibi.Proust okumak çok ciddi bir okuma tecrübesi isteyen bir iş bence. türkçede Yaşar Kemal, Oğuz Atay, Orhan Pamuk gibi okuma sabrı isteyen ve edebi olarak yüksek tatmin sağlayan yazarları okuyabilen herkesin okuyabileceğini düşünüyorum. Proust bence bu yazarlardan daha yüksek bir kademede yer alıyor ama bu yazarları okuyanlar, Proust okumayı deneyebilirler o kadar korkulacak bir şey yok. sadece sabırlı olmak lazım.çeviriden ayrıca bahsetmek gerek. Roza Hakmen inanılmaz bir iş çıkarmış. karmaşık her cümleyi türkçeye çok iyi geçirmiş. türkçe bir kitap okur gibi okuyorsunuz. kitabın kendisi kadar iyi bir çevirisi var, o da bizim şansımız diyelim.Proust okumaya başlamadan önce çevresinden dolanmak gerekir, biraz okuma yapmak gerekir gibi bir algı var ama ben buna pek katılmıyorum. tamamen önyargısız başkalarının fikirlerinden bağımsız okumaya başlamak daha kişisel bir tecrübe ve daha yüksek bir tatmin sağlar. kaldı ki bu kitap ve bu seri bir kere okuyup kenara koyulacak bir kitap değil. bir kere okuduktan sonra başka kitaplar, makaleler okuyup geri dönüp tekrar tekrar okunabilir.Ben yazara da kitaba da vuruldum ama aynı zamanda refere ettiği çoğu şeyi muhtemelen anlamadım. anladığım kısmı bile beni tatmin etti tabii ama dönüp refere ettiği şeyleri araştırarak tekrar okuyacağım. kitabı defalarca okumayı sağlayan en önemli şeylerden biri bu referanslar bir de girift tasvirler. çünkü ne kadar dikkatli okursanız okuyun mutlaka gözden bir şeyler kaçıyor. çok mikro bir şey anlatmasına rağmen insan ve hayata dair her duygu ve düşünceyi barındırması bunların tamamını tane tane açıklaması kitaba ayrı bir harikalık katıyor. 100 yıl önce yazılmış bir kitap ama sanki yarın yazılmış gibi bir etkisi var.okumayı, edebiyatı seven herkesin bir noktada denemesi gereken bir yazar Proust. okuyup sevdikten sonra kendinizde ve kitap okuma alışkanlığınızdaki değişimi ve ilerlemeyi fark edeceksiniz.

  • Garima
    2019-06-20 11:23

    OVERTUREFor a long time I used to read really bad books. I have mentioned this before but it’s more like a reminder for me about how much 'bad' bad can get and how much 'good' reading good books feels like. DAMN GOOD! I owe my knowledge of all those good books entirely to goodreads. So as far as I was concerned, the last quarter of 2012 was all about reading Infinite Jest, about David Foster Wallace and about reading and loving him. But there was another name that was doing the rounds of this happening corner of our beloved Goodreads. Proust. Proust what? Yes! The level of my ignorance was so baffling that I started my questions with what instead of who. A quick look at the reviews gave me a fair idea that Proust is someone I should have read a long time ago but right place, right time and all that jazz made me join the Proust Group (Great Group) and reading it is what I did.SLEEPVILLESo, this is what it feels like. When almost all your friends highly praise a book but when you get around reading it you can’t understand what the fuss is all about and the emotion one experience is something close to envy, envying the fact that you can’t appreciate something as much as others do. Proust basically made me sleep. The brilliance of his prose is so evident that one can’t ignore it even deliberately but I had a hard time getting myself interested in what he was saying. Each turn of the page was usually marked by this long, eye watering yawn and left me embarrassed at my own insensitivity. I was bored, I was restless and I freaked out at the idea of reading more than 600 pages of something I was not exactly beginning to 'love'. I started reading all the negative reviews (Paul Bryant never disappoints) to find some solace in them. I laughed at the 'cookie' jokes too and the biggest problem: I wasn’t looking for any motivation to read it. I found the group too intimidating with sooo much information around that I gave up the idea of even going through any of the ongoing discussions but then I’m a lousy group reader anyway. However, there was no question of abandoning this book because like I mentioned, the writing is to die for. I briefly considered stalling it for future read but I was waiting for somebody to fall in love.GARIMA IN LOVE (?)But sometimes the motivation is found in the most unlikely circumstances and when you’re least prepared for it. A lazy weekend, a movie and a quote:Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap-high school and everything-just skip it.Frank: You know Marcel Proust?Dwayne: He’s the guy you teach.Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.A change in perspective is what followed next and this was at a time I was about to begin with 'Swann in Love' part. Among all the adjectives at my disposal, I went with Serendipity because what else could it be? These small sentimental things does happen because they does matter and soon I found that Proust was finally talking to me. He was speaking my language about which I greatly cared for. I felt for him because he gave voice to the emotions I have experienced myself. It was so easy to say that this man couldn't be anything else but a writer. And I was finally in love, too. I marked quotes after beautiful quotes but not including any of them here because this is more like a whining article for most part than a proper review. Proper and awesome reviews are written by Kalliope, Aubrey, Fionnuala, Sven, Ian and many others. So here’s the deal I have done with myself: To carefully read this volume again before moving to other volumes and appreciate the beauty of not only the words but what they signify and have a nice French vacation in Proust Land. I won’t give sleep much of a chance and will rather spend my time in literary sightseeing. And then, I’ll post a review this book truly deserves.

  • Deniz Balcı
    2019-06-04 13:23

    'Swann'ların Tarafı'nı ilk lise yıllarımda elime almıştım ve ilk sayfalardan itibaren korkunç bir merakla, elimde tuttuğum kitabın o güne dek okuduğum her şeyden çok farklı ve kalibresi çok daha yukarıda bir şey olduğunu anlamış, devam etmeye çalışmıştım. Zamanla zihnim de benimle birlikte geliştikçe, 'Swann'ların Tarafı'; çok kez okuduğum ilk kitaplardan biri haline geldi. Bu sabah uyandığımda, yıllardır yanımdan ayırmadığım kitaplarımın olduğu köşeye gittim ve 'Swann'ların Tarafı'nı alıp okuma ihtiyacı hissettim biraz. (Dün uzun süre 'Usta ile Margarita' okudum, sanırım onun tesiri. Rus Edebiyatı çok beğensem de bende ara ara nefes alma ihtiyacı doğuruyor.) Sonra da burada yorum yapmadığımı görüp birkaç söz söylemek istedim.'Kayıp Zamanın İzinde'yi okumak başlı başına bir serüvendir. Bir kere okurunda tamamen konsantre olma zorunluluğu gerektirir ve bu hayli zordur. Ben bir kere bitirdim şimdi ikinci kez seriyi okuyorum. Bu kez yavaş yavaş, özümseyerek. 'Mahpus'un ortalarındayım ve hep fark ettiğim bir şey var: Okurken sonsuz bir haz duyuyorum. Aklımdan geçtiğini bildiğim ama bir şekilde tanımlayamadığım duyguların, Proust tarafından bilim adamı detaycılığıyla yazıya dökülmüş olduğunu görüyorum. Sanki Proust karakterlerinin ruhuna, geçmişine, geleceğine, hislerine gözleriyle bakabiliyor. Bütün soyut şeyleri somutlaşmış bir şekilde görebiliyor. İnsana dair her türlü zaaf, arzu, his, düşünce, fikir; en ince ayrıntılarıyla ve bence hayatta gerçekten yaşandığı hacmiyle yer alıyor.An'lar mevzusu da ayrı ilginç. Müzik, koku, travma gibi güçlü anımsatıcılar bizi geçmişimizde bir nevi yolculuğa çıkartabilirler. Bu psikolojik bir şey zaten. Ve klasik anlamda melankolinin temelinde de bunun olduğunu düşünüyorum. Özellikle 20.yy'dan itibaren, modern insanın yaşadığı bu tür zihinsel süreçlerin, kaybolana olan özlemden kaynaklandığını düşünüyorum. Ölüm, aşk, özlem, kıskançlık gibi bir yığın şey, birbirleriyle olan ilişkileri, ortaya sanrısal bir durum çıkartıyor. Bir nevi insani ve doğal bir simülasyon. Bu işleyen simülasyonu çoğunlukla izleyebildiğimizi, bunun farkında olduğumuzu sanmıyorum. 'Kayıp Zamanın İzinde'yi de, Proust'un farkındalığının bizden daha güçlü olduğunun ve bunu yazıya dökebilecek bizim sahip olmadığımız bir yeteneğe sahip olduğunun kanıtı olarak görüyorum.Çoğu okur, 'Swann'ların Tarafı'nın cümlelerini bezdirici derecede uzun ve karışık bulur, hep duyarım. Sabretmelerini tavsiye ederim. Çünkü 'Kayıp Zamanın İzinde'nin başka hiçbir cildi, süreklilik arz edecek şekilde o tarz cümlelere sahip değil. Ayrıca bu birazda Roza Hakmen'in eseridir. Çevirmen burada sadece bir aracı değil, yazar kadar güçlü bir sanatçı olarak yer alır. Onu da gözden kaçırmamak lazım. Zira Roza Hakmen'in diğer çevirilerine baktığımızda da, 'Kayıp Zamanın İzinde'yi anımsatır vurgular görebiliriz. Özellikle Javiar Marias'ın 'Yarınki Yüzün' serisinde. Benim en sevdiğim bölümler, 'Swann'ların Tarafı'nın ikinci bölümü olan Swann'ın Aşkı, dördüncü cilt 'Sodom ve Gomorra', altıncı cilt 'Albertine Kayıp' ve son cilt 'Yakalanan Zaman'dır. En zor kısımın da Guermantas Tarafı olduğunu düşünüyorum. Gerçekten Proust'tan uzaklaştığımı hissettiğim yegane zamanlar, Guermantas Tarafı'nın özellikle ikinci yarısında olmuştur. Proust'tan keyif alamıyorsanız bunun birçok sebebi olabilir. Ama bunların içerisinde Proust'un kötü yazması gibi bir şeyin söz konusu olduğunu sanmıyorum. Herkese iyi okumalar!10/10

  • Sidharth Vardhan
    2019-06-08 16:22

    As a habitual reader, you probably have had at least one friend who will tell you that he/she sees no point in reading all those books. You might have struggled trying to explain to this friend the delights of reading – may be you had lectured him/her on how a particular book is incredible, enlightened him/ her about all the things that make it marvelous – only to discover that you can’t get the person excited. At the time we may judge such person for lack of imagination, but with time we realize that our explanations were not perfect. That is problem with beauty – no matter how analytical and detailed we get, something remains behind - we can’t describe what makes it beautiful to us; can’t capture it into words.And so, how will one describe the beauty of Proust’s prose, especially when there is not much of the story? One might say that his descriptions – of flowers, places roads, clothes, music, paintings, emotions, trees, servants etc. are beautiful; he captures emotions or experiences – even momentary, fleeing ones – like none other; that his long sentences punctuated with perfection gives the experience of rising and falling notes of a symphony. And yet, those who have already read Proust know that this is no doing him justice. Anyway whatever I might say, Virginia Woolf will say it better:“Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation and intensification that he procures – there is something sexual in it - that I feel I can write like that, and seize my pen and then I can’t write like that. Scarcely anyone so stimulates the nerves of language in me: it becomes an obsession. But I must return to Swann.My great adventure is really Proust. Well - what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped - and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical - like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined.Jacques Raverat...sent me a letter about Mrs Dalloway which gave me one of the happiest moments days of my life. I wonder if this time I have achieved something? Well, nothing anyhow compared with Proust, in whom I am embedded now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut & as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me & make out of temper with every sentence of my own.” There you have it from the expert. What Proust says in praise of a particular phrase of music can also be said about his prose:“In that way Vinteuil's phrase, like some theme, say, in Tristan, which represents to us also a certain acquisition of sentiment, has espoused our mortal state, had endued a vesture of humanity that was affecting enough. Its destiny was linked, for the future, with that of the human soul, of which it was one of the special, the most distinctive ornaments. Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is without existence; but, if so, we feel that it must be that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, are nothing either. We shall perish, but we have for our hostages these divine captives who shall follow and share our fate. And death in their company is something less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less certain.”I know whatever I’ve left to say will be like a not-so-sweet after-meal dish. One thing that turns one’s head is lack of plot and action in over 400 pages of the novel – Proust is rather interested in aesthetics and emotions. This is probably why Nobel laureate ‘Andre Gide’ who was asked for his advice by publishers turned the work down – those were the days of Tolstoy and Hugo. Proust had to self-publish it – and continued to do so with later works (not unlike Woolf). Gide later wrote to Proust apologizing for his dismissing latter’s work and congratulating him on success of his work calling his responsibility in whole affair as ‘one of most stringing and remorseful regrets of my life’.And to be honest, I do not much care about plot. After reading Ulysses, I have an alien test – ‘How much will this novel help an alien, who never saw humanity, understand what human life is like?’ And this one gets full marks on the subject. Proust observes how novelist will use certain tricks (love-at-first-sight, big sacrifices, duels etc) to quiuckly create in his characters, emotions that develop at a far slower pace in real life. If you ask me, those tricks may make novels unrealistic – you probably will never get a chance to die for your love, it is with a pitying smile we read Bloom’s analysis of his option of calling his wife’s lover to duel, something we far easily accepted with a far less realistic Ulysses. Proust defends novelists by arguing that, by using those tricks, writer can make you feel things you may never feel all your life. Still the development of those very emotions is far slower in Swann’ way than it is in other novels – and hence, the slow pace. Proust brings out our relationship with memory in an incredible way – he can go on for pages describing the effects a single moment, a careless word or a minor gesture can have on a character - how some little incidence of everyday life can attack our mind with some intrusive evocative memory; how we edit, recreate, perfect or filter our memories in such a way that, when faced with the object whose memory it was – we either see nothing but our own version of it or are left dumb with the difference; and since it is that self-created version we have invested all our emotions in, the actual object might remain a total stranger to us – to which it is easier to be emotionally indifferent.“Remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment”In first chapter ‘Combray I’ – so beautifully translated as ‘Overture’, there is that beautiful episode of Madeleine – first of many examples of involuntary memory, a now psychological term which was coined by Proust. An involuntary memory is that portion of memory, a flashback, that is raised to consciousness involuntarily by cues (like sights, tastes, sounds, smells etc) encountered from everyday life without conscious effort.The small chapter deserves five stars all by itself. Proust begins by telling us about separation anxiety suffered by him – another of those zillion things he describes so beautifully. He hated being separated from his mother in nights being asked to go to bed especially when guests were not round, since he knew he could no longer count on that last kiss that his mother gave him on other days, believing him to be asleep. Very similar separation anxiety is suffered by Swann for his lover Odette – often taking form of jealousy, make-beliefs, anticipation that forms the part of waiting and so on. Separation anxiety, oedipal love, homosexuality, involuntary memory – one wonders how come Proust and Feud despite being contemporary never red each-other. There would have been much they could have like about each other.Those beautiful descriptions of emotions are so perfect, so sensuous that one can’t, but wonder how sensitive Proust must have been of them. A higher consciousness is caused by higher sensitivity - in one scene, the narrator still a boy starts weeping when he has to be separated from flowers of Combray. Whenever I have come across this kind of emotional or sensual sensitivity, it has always been a result of (psychological) suffering of the artist – Dostoevsky, Woolf, Kafka, Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Van Gogh etc. I searched (thus getting all this information), and Proust was no exception. Separation anxiety, something like ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ and the secret of socially-unaccepted homosexuality – sometimes, everything beautiful seem to have been created by touch of a suffering heart.

  • Rowena
    2019-06-12 14:27

    “Will it reach the surface of my limpid consciousness- this memory, this old moment which the attraction of an identical moment has come so far to summon, to move, to raise up from my very depths? I don’t know. Now I no longer feel anything, it has stopped, gone back down perhaps; who knows if it will ever rise up from its darkness again?”Swann’s Way is an elegantly-written book that consists of past memories and reminiscences. The two main stories in the book follow the narrator’s childhood memories, and the love affair between Swann and Odette. I really enjoyed the childhood narration ; the narrator was so sensitive, very observant, and a lover of nature, books and architecture. His memories were beautifully described. Swann and Odette, on the other hand, were truly a messed-up pair. Swann was quite intriguing; I was especially interested by how he compared women to art pieces and never really saw them for who they truly were. To me, this book is proof that a novel doesn’t need to have some sort of exceptional storyline in order to be a masterpiece. Nothing that remarkable happens in this book yet this is probably one of the best books I have ever read. This is the sort of book whose language needs to be savoured. I found myself reading a lot slower than I usually read, and re-reading passages. Proust did things with the language I have never seen done before. I’m not sure I’ll ever see a more lyrical description of asparagus: “... asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamberpot into a bower of aromatic perfume.” Proust paints an interesting, sometimes scandalous, and at times amusing, picture of French society. For example, we are introduced to Monsieur Bloch, who comes up with this gem: “ I never allow myself to be influenced either by atmospheric perturbations or by the conventional divisions of time. I would happily instate the use of the opium pipe and the Malay Kris, but I know nothing about the use of these infinitely more pernicious and also insipidly bourgeois implements, the watch and the umbrella.” If the remaining six volumes of this series are anything like this one, I’m in for a treat. Highly recommended.

  • Meredith Holley (Sparrow)
    2019-06-12 09:40

    (Painting of Swann, by David Richardson)In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoid them. I tend to think that is not the case, but I am often wrong, and I am too willing to make grand pronouncements about life to be unwilling to be called wrong. Or, as my friend says of herself, I am never wrong because if I hear an idea that is better than mine, I change my mind to that idea, and then I am right again. Anyway, in Swann’s Way, Proust writes a museum of love and, the other side of love’s coin, abandonment, of comfort and loneliness. Every human relationship in this story is linked to some form of art, and I think the narrator gestures at this when he says, If only Bergotte had described the place in one of his books, I should, no doubt, have longed to see and to know it, like so many things else of which a simulacrum had first found its way into my imagination. That kept things warm, made them live, gave them personality, and I sought then to find their counterpart in reality, but in this public garden there was nothing that attached itself to my dreams. (p. 565)There is an inevitability to all of these art/human interactions, as though what is pre-written cannot be resisted.I am going to talk in spoilers in this review, I think, but my own personal read of this story held most of it to be largely predictable, and purposely so. The beginning of the story is the end, and the end of the story is the very, very end, and all of the telling is wrapped up together. I don’t think I’m going to hide the spoilers, then, because the narrator tells you early on what becomes of M. Swann, and then he develops it carefully and delicately so that you know just how it should be told and how he has seen it unfold. It doesn’t seem to me that what I have to say will ruin any of it, but I like to come to books fresh, so I respect that, and if you feel the same, now is the time to exit.Proust’s characters see life translated through books and paintings and music. In that way there is a sort of self-reflexivity in the story, but also something that feels resonant today. If we have seen it done before, if someone has recognized it before, we can do it ourselves. For example, the narrator’s Oedipal relationship with his parents comes to a peak (sorry) just before his mother’s censored bedtime read-a-loud of Francois le Champi. The narrator then develops a passion for the invented author Bergotte, and when the narrator learns that M. Swann is personal friends with Bergotte, he thereafter sees the Swann family through a Bergotte-colored monocle. He falls in adolescent love with them, the way he is in adolescent love with Bergotte.Swann, likewise, uses art as a touchstone for life. Like men, or really both men and women, now, often justify a woman’s beauty, not by their own preferences, but instead through some expectation that Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba are the framework of beauty, Swann acknowledges a women’s beauty by association to painting. Swann’s kitchen-maid can be beautiful because she is Giotto’s Charity:He finally reconciles himself to Odette’s beauty when he realizes she looks like Botticelli’s Zipporah from The Trials of Moses:M. Swann’s very relationship with Odette becomes embodied in the little phrase from M. Vinteuil’s sonata. We ironically know from the story of Combray that M. Vinteuil died of heartbreak at least in part, presumably, because of his own “intense prudishness” and in reaction to his daughter’s lesbian tendencies – ironic, obviously, because M. Swann’s deepest disappointment with Odette is that she has ever been with a woman. Towards the end of Swann in Love, I kept picturing M. Swann's relationship with Odette as Love the Way You Lie. I wonder if the sonata sounded like that.Swann handed over his preferences regarding beauty to painters like we hand over our preferences to movie producers and modeling agencies. M. Swann reconciled himself to owning Odette as a mistress while they both slept with other people, but if Odette slept with a woman, that was betrayal. Today, we can handle adultery, abuse, marital rape, and bride purchasing, but if gay people get married, that will undermine the institution. People never change.Or maybe we change, but we change as individuals. This book made me love Proust. I think he captures all of this with the awe of adolescence and the cynicism of adulthood. I also love him because he reminds me so incredibly of one of my best friends from school. My friend, whom I am calling Marcel below because, you know, privacy, matches his polo shirts to his argyle socks every day. He is always on gchat, and some of us were planning to start a blog where we posted our gchats with him because we think they are so hilarious. Anyway, I am posting some of them below because I think they are how a modern day Proust would be. In our first year of law school, a lot of people thought that Marcel was a snob. But, I don’t think he is. Or, technically, he is, and his snobbishness might stand out more because of his money, but aren’t we all snobs about something? He is a snob about BMWs, and I am a snob about coffee and middlebrow literature. So, when people say Proust is a snob, I’ve started to feel a little defensive because, sure, but aren’t you? He is also sweet and witty and shy. And has more weird allergies than anyone you’ve ever met – or at least my friend does. Seriously, who is allergic to lettuce? But, now I am mixing up my Marcels. And, oh Marcels, why do you get so taken in by other people’s rules about beauty? If you think a girl is ugly, think she's ugly. And if you like her anyway, like her anyway! But, don't get so taken in by other people's ideas and expect them to be universal. But, ah, you do, and I love you anyway.Some cattleyas for the bitches:_________________________________________And the Marcel gchats (keep in mind that this person is like twelve years old):Day 1: I'm including this one because it is probably Marcel's favorite, but I also really love it.12:49 PM Marcel: our sea of whirly twirly lamps is a little tooorganized right now12:50 PM me: i was thinking that too12:51 PM Marcel: much better1:17 PM Marcel: Rosamond wants me to be facebook friends with Octave and hisgirlfriend so she can creep on them that makes me uncomfortable me: yeah, don't do it she will regret it later too1:18 PM Marcel: i don't think i'm much of an enabler anyway i mean i wouldn't want that on my resume or anything1:19 PM me: yeah, i hear firms look for "passive aggressive" before"enabler"1:20 PM Marcel: i'll have to work on that then i'm not sure i'm good at being passive aggressive unlike some people...Day 2: This is really more expressive of him as a person.9:40 AM Marcel: this dude in front of me in admin law spends his time in class looking at assault weapons on his computer all class9:42 AM me: whoa that is not good who is the dude? Marcel: disturbing Albert something 2L9:43 AM me: ohh, Albert Bloch? Marcel: that sounds right9:44 AM me: yeah, that guy is pretty weird. he dated mlle Lea all last year he's a big republican or, like, maybe just last spring9:45 AM Marcel: crazies attract9:46 AM me: so true Marcel: i mean you should see the people i've attracted over the years i sadly mean that jokingly and seriously9:47 AM me: same9:48 AM literally, one guy who liked me went running through thestreets of seattle naked because he made a deal with god thatif he gave up everything, including his clothes, god would getthese friends of his back together as a couple. He was a niceguy, though.9:49 AM and, you know, that was a really good deal for god.9:50 AM Marcel: you can't call someone crazy for believing in god joke i'm intentionally missing the point9:51 AM me: bah dum tss10:10 AM Marcel: i don't think i'm very comfortable with the expression that's how the sausage gets made me: it's like "flesh it out" bad visual10:23 AM Marcel: if norpois or cottard were in admin law i would actually skip this class but we still get bontemps so it's tempting to skip10:25 AM me: who teaches that class?10:26 AM Marcel: Mme. Verdurin i think i don't like her10:27 AM but i'm not positive me: huh, interesting i have never had a class with her, but she has always beennice to me10:29 AM Marcel: i think she just annoys me in class and so far it has been unrelated to her red hair at least consciously me: yeah, it is tough to separate that Marcel: but maybe i've been seeing her red hair and just notliking her bc of that me: definitely possible and not unreasonable10:30 AM Marcel: i'm not sure where i picked up my default of stronglydisliking redheads until i get to know them like gilberte and saint loup are great me: true, but they might just be an exception to the rule Marcel: fact10:31 AM one of my business partners has red hair and i appreciate greatly when he wears a hat me: "one of my business partners." please say more words aboutthat. Marcel: well one of six others10:32 AM they're certainly not all redheads10:33 AM me: "business partners." please say more words about that.10:34 AM Marcel: Beta Cascade Ventures, LLC we're an investment company with focuses on philanthropy, education, and networking10:38 AM me: huh10:39 AM that is very 1% of you10:40 AM Marcel: our logo is a sailboat me: o m g10:41 AM Marcel: i'll have to show you sometime

  • Kelly
    2019-06-04 09:18

    What follows is a collection of thoughts and notes that I have finally transcribed from post-its, napkin doodlings, margin scribbles and ideas floating around in my brain for weeks. Please forgive its faults and incompleteness. I hope there is something in it of sense to be retrieved:I. Seeing“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”-ChekovA couple of years ago I started to lose my sight. Oh, it’s nothing drastic. Just one of those things that my mother was right about (“stop reading under the covers you’ll ruin your eyes!” …. “.. I can still see that light!”). Unfortunately. Though I prefer to think of it as my eyes have adjusted to my bookworm nature. Anything you hold in front of me at the typical distance of a book or a computer looks crystal clear. … road signs and, you know… billboards, occasionally less so.There are some side effects to this, though, that I’m finding are sometimes not so bad. Instead of a boring metal post with some green paint on it and a rock next to it, one time I saw an old man in a green hat bent over his little dog. Instead of a colorful shopping bag flying quickly across the highway, I saw a fluttering peacock. I frequently find that long grass across a meadow momentarily becomes full of shiny creatures due to some trick of the light.So, this actually sounds bad, doesn’t it? But I think this is also what de Lint and all those other urban fantasists of that ilk are talking about. That is, how they make a great deal out of the fairies you see out of the corner of your eye and how they build whole cities within cities upon it. It does allow me some fun new perspectives on things sometimes. Of course, the only thing is that these random things at the corner of my eye don’t exist. But it doesn't make it any less charming to daydream about these phantoms for a few moments until they disappear.Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to see this way all the time and have the fantasies and bright colors I see for a fleeting second at the center of my vision. Now I know. It is like Proust. This novel is many things. It is a man, a child remembering. It is a person telling us about his greatest loves and fears and his most petty experiences. But mostly it is the record of a pair of eyes that sees the world in the most extraordinary, detailed, exquisite ways. We walk through the home and the paths of his childhood, the Guermantes Way and the Way by Swann’s and experience the trees in the sort of high-definition pictures that televisions can only dream of: hyper-real, warm-and-feel-the-sun sort of detail, with the additional color added by fanciful allegories, comparisons and sharp feelings that make it all feel so particular to the reader. Indeed, there are passages that almost feel Shakespearean in their magic, taking us to a bank where the wild thyme grows and where Titania sleeps sometime of the night: “The air was saturated with the finest flower of a silence so nourishing, so succulent, that I could move through it only with a sort of greed… before I went in to say good morning to my aunt, they made me wait for a moment, in the first room where the sun, still wintry, had come to warm itself before the fire, already lit between the two bricks and coating the whole room with an odor of soot, having the same effect as one of those great rustic open hearths, or one of those mantles in country houses, beneath which one sits hoping that outdoors there will be an onset of rain, snow, even some diluvian catastrophe so as to add to the comfort of reclusion the poetry of hibernation… and as the fire baked like a dough the appetizing smells with which the air of the room was all curdled and which had already been kneaded and made to “rise” by the damp and sunny coolness of the morning, it flaked them, gilded them, puckered them, puffed them, transforming them into an invisible, a palpable country pastry…”Proust looks around him with all of his senses so that they become confused with each other, as we can see as sight becomes smell, and becomes touch in the example above. Proust is constantly looking somewhere, whether that is out into his immediate surroundings, or deep within himself and then outward again to a remembered world that never quite existed. He is so precise about making sure that every last little nook and cranny and knickknack is pointed out to us so that it ends up being so dizzying that it all adds up to something that dances on that line between total fantasy and lived reality.This puts us in limbo, formally speaking. We are always and ever in the twilight world of Between, Nowheresvillle, and therefore just as open to the smack of the laws of the reality of the earth we know as the unreality of inner dreams and feelings that are just as apt to take control. For Proust, his trust in his senses, his many different ways of “seeing” must therefore be trusted above and beyond what a conventionally “realistic” author might need. Seeing is believing, to be sure. It’s just, in Proust, that “seeing” is apt to mean many different things in the literal sense. But in the figurative, it means that you won’t miss a thing. Not a thing. Not even if you maybe wanted to.II. ThinkingProust’s ability to see the world from such a beautifully exquisite perspective comes from his powerful intellect. For, don’t let him fool you, this fine French dandy who took cures and apparently never took off his fur overcoat because he found it so lovely... for all his airs and graces, there is an amazingly subtle, supple, nimble and gorgeous mind eternally at work here. Stream of consciousness it may be, but I would put my emphasis on the consciousness part of that equation.Proust is a highly sensitive observer of the world (in the sense that you would call pressure gauge needles sensitive, not ladies who cry at Hallmark commercials). The slightest motion, re-calibration, the merest turn of his head sets his sensors rolling into overdrive, taking in and processing his experiences on multiple levels, all at once.Even while he is giving us beautiful descriptions of the world around him, he is also simultaneously weaving these things into thoughts, into a larger picture that begins to weave together into larger statements and ideas. This begins to occur on the first page, as Proust begins by applying a remarkably analytical and observant tone to a state that is usually taken to be ruled by excessive sensibility, or the unconscious brain: the sleep process. After two pages of examining the odd, somewhat surreal “symptoms” of his sleeping habits he comes to the conclusion that: “A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and the worlds. He consults them instinctively as he wakes and reads in a second the point on the earth he occupies, the time that has elapsed before his waking; but their ranks can be mixed up, broken. If toward morning, after a bout of insomnia, sleep overcomes him as he is reading, in a position quite different from the one in which he usually sleps, his raised arm alone is enough to stop the sun and make it retreat, and in the first minute of his waking, he will no longer know what time it is, he will think he has just gone to bed. If he dozes off in a position still more displaced and divergent, after dinner sitting in an armchair for instance, then the confusion among the disordered worlds will be complete, the magic armchair will send him traveling at top speed through time and space, and, at the moment of opening his eyelids, he will believe that he went to bed several months earlier in another country.”The setup and structure is almost dry and scientific… were it not, of course, for the fact that it just so happens to be beautifully written and processed through a mind with a literary predisposition (and excellent powers of a certain kind of observation, as we saw earlier.)This sort of time out from a spongelike intake of items into his mind shows that despite the front, there is a powerful filter at work that makes this, perhaps, much less of a “stream” than it appears at first glance. For all the appearance that Proust can give of spending his days with his head firmly in the clouds, there are many points that show that that ain’t necessarily so- indeed it could not be. On several occasions, Proust demonstrates a keen connectedness with the world through his scenes of social commentary. These have a sharpness, wryness and insight to rival Jane Austen in insight: “If you were determined to assign Swann a social coefficient that was his alone, among the other sons of stockbrokers in a position equal to that of his parents, this coefficient would have been a little lower for him because, very simple in his manner and with a long standing craze for “antiques” and painting, he now lived and amassed his collections in an old town house which my grandmother dreamed of visiting, but which was situated on the quai d’Orleans, a part of town where my great-aunt felt it was ignominious to live. “But are you a connoisseur? I ask you for your own ask, because you’re likely to let the dealers unload some awful daubs on you,” my great-aunt would say to him; in fact she did not assume that he had any competence and even from an intellectual point of view had no great opinion of a man who in conversation avoided serious subjects and showed a most prosaic preciseness only when he gave us cooking recipes, entering into the smallest details.”There’s a long, welcome sequence towards the end, inserted in the middle of Swann’s descent into jealousy and the dark side of his “love” for Odette, where Swann dissects the inner workings of a party. Another section lovingly but rather viciously takes apart his agoraphobic old aunt observation by observation, piercing eyes always watching. He sees so much that sometimes his brain, which is apt to just keep following a stream as long as it can, has to put on the breaks for a full stop and surface for some Real Talk. Even Proust likes to loosen his tie and giggle over the Real Housewives sometimes: “When she found herself next to someone she did not know, at this moment Mme. Franquetot, it would pain her that her own awareness of her kinship with the great Guermantes family could not be manifested outwardly in visible characters like those which, in the mosaics of the Byzantine churches, placed one below another, inscribe in a vertical column, next to a holy personage, the words he is supposed to be uttering.”and“The Marquis de Forestelle’s monocle was miniscule, had no border, and requiring a constant painful clenching of the eye, where it was encrusted like a superfluous cartilage whose presence was inexplicable and whose material was exquisite, gave the Marquis’ face a melancholy delicacy, and made women think he was capable of great sorrows in love.”I liked this element of Proust. Not only did I find it challenging, exciting and inspiring in turns to see what his long analyses had come to, it also made him more human. It made him less of an alien deep sea diver with a lungs of infinite capacity, and more of a guy that I could hang out with at happy hour that once in a blue moon he makes himself show up. Not even Proust can see, process and understand, understand, understand forever. Sometimes, girls just wanna have fun, you know?All in all, I looked forward to these sections and started looking ahead to see when the next one would appear. Proust could be a surprisingly down-to-earth, straight talking, funny guy to spend some time with. But I didn’t see this guy as often, or for as long as I would have liked to, even if he was there underneath most of the time.III. Feeling “But I cannot express the uneasiness caused in me by this intrusion of mystery and beauty into a room I had at last filled with myself to the point of paying no more attention to the room than to that self. The anesthetizing influence of habit having ceased, I would begin to have thoughts, and feelings, and they are such sad things.”This is the key to the story here, all of it, all his beautiful eyes can encompass, all his piercingly sharp mind can process: It’s all held prisoner to, held tight to, inferior to, his incredible capacity to feel the world around him. His eyes may be brilliant, his mind may be ready, but it’s nothing to this deep chasm of feeling that he trips and falls into on a moment’s notice, one second after the other. I think that this is why I looked forward to the breaks (and they were only breaks) that Proust took to think through his ideas. Once he starts feeling something, there is no possibility of stopping until each ounce of it is worked through and over repeatedly, until it is either flattened out into a shape acceptable to him, or at least become so familiar that can no longer hold in his intellect any longer.But this “intrusion” of feeling should not be taken to mean that Proust substitutes histrionics for thought, or melodramatic adverbs for well considered word choice. No, all of Proust’s tools stay, all of his mind is still visibly at work.. it’s just more that there is no choice of subject. This feeling is going to be what his mind focuses on, words on, imagines on and tortures himself with for however many weeks, months or years it takes to work it out. God, was that distressingly familiar. That one thought repeating again and again, with variations on a horrible or rapturous theme, as appropriate, echoing off the sides of your brain until you want to scream, going to bed with it, waking up with it. It is as if until it is resolved, it’s reserved the use of every one of your faculties.The most famous example of a feeling taking over thought and pushing it off in an entirely different direction, is, of course, the taste of the madeleine. But the sun bathed vision of the stage of his aunt’s absurdist comedies is, it turns out, a mere childish rehearsal for the real, far more tragic version coming later in the book: Swann’s obsession with Odette. Proust swung for the fences on this section and hit it, hard. Again and again. Proust is just exquisite on the stages of love and grief, leading his narrator through the various altered perceptions of reality that one can experience through choosing to love deeply. Proust gets it right, from the way that love can start totally from an outside source, to the transition into real feeling, to the whirlwind period of mutual rushing towards each other, to the slow, painful dissolution hat goes on… and on… and on. He gets the all-consuming nature of the thing, from the first to the last, and illustrates both its most euphoric and its silliest iterations, it’s pettiest hates and its most pathetic deceptions. I was really struck by his elucidation of something that others can sometimes forget: the step-by-step nature of the build up and dissolution of the idea of being in love. Proust really gets the rhythm of it, the ebb and flow, and makes us experience every last inch of it, the cynical and the overwrought: “Other people usually leave us so indifferent that when we have invested in one of them the possibilities of causing us pain and joy, that person seems to belong to another universe, is surrounded with poetry, turns out life into a sort of expanse of emotion in which that person will be more or less close to us… Now and then, as he saw, from his victoria, on these lovely cold nights, the shining smooth spreading its brightness between his eyes and the deserted streets, he would think of that other face, bright and tinged with pink like the moon’s, which, one day, had appeared in the forefront of his mind and, since then, had cast on the world the mysterious light in which he saw it.”His engagement with the little phrase, from the first time he hears it and makes it into something, to, and especially, the end of its enchantment over him, was an especially powerful example of Proust living inside his feelings. I’ve got enough quotes in this review already, but if I could I would quote ten straight pages of its gorgeousness.It was sad, in a way, to see such a mind with apparently few choices as to what it was going to pursue. But on the other hand, I suspect that, in the end, it is this element of Proust that is the wellspring of all the rest. I wonder, as someone put it in a documentary a few years ago, if Proust could have pushed a little red button to make these intense, all-consuming feelings go away... if he would have. Would he choose to lose tapestries that came to life in cathedrals? Would he choose to never again be rendered breathless by a melody so intensely calibrated to his mind and love that he could not move? Would you want the sunlight to be the sunlight and not a finely puffed pastry baking on a windowpane?If you could escape, would you? It's such a fine line distinguishing between experiences that enrich our lives and those that truly deprive us of life in some unfair way. Which is which and who is to say? I wasn't sure before reading Proust and now I am even less so. I don't think (within some reasonable limits) that anyone really has the right to say. Epilogue:“For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.”-WoolfFinally, Marcel Proust, it seems to me, is writing his way out of a fast-moving river, of the undertow that Woolf and others have described so well, because it is the only thing that works. It is the only thing that frees him to take another step forward. In so doing, he descends down into the loneliest, ugliest, brightest, highest, darkest, Dickensian contrasting parts of himself and finds…the world.And what is that world? After all the heartache, all the agony and ecstasy, all the obsession, exhaustion, cursing and crying, after all of it… Why, it turns out it’s a poem. Didn’t you somehow know that to start with? It feels like I should have, that it was going to be the only answer all along, but somehow, it was one of things that crept on so gradually I hardly knew it was there until it seemed inevitable.Poetry is even not a full enough word, though, I don't think. It is a poem, that's the case, recited, by turns, desperately and carefully but more than that… it’s just… breathing. It’s being able to breathe, what you take in, what you need to expel out again. The scents that float inside you when inhale, the breeze that whispers past and almost dies and then has one more thing to say before it’s truly gone. These words are like breathing, air drawn from the depths. It’s one long deep breath, one after the other, just trying to get to the next.“I write and that way rid myself of me and then at last I can rest”, says Clarice Lispector. I have to believe that Proust was attempting something similar here. I don’t know much about him personally, but I do hope that that is what he found. He deserved it.