Swann’s Way: a remembrance, Proust, etc

February 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last week I finished reading Swann’s Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust’s long novel: In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past as translated by Scot-Moncrieff). As with anyone who makes this claim you must squint your eyes and counter with, “Really?” Yes; really. But now for the qualifiers. I liked the opening section where the narrator sketches in portraits of family and friends; I enjoyed the description of the small town and the cathedral and the moments of recall as he ate his ‘madeleine’ biscut (they sell these at Starbucks now). Then we come to the long description or disquisition or exploration of Swann and his frustrating pursiut of love object, Odette. There were large stretches, say 50 pages at a time that barely held my attention. My eyes skeetered across the page; they saw words; I can’t say for sure if they read the words but the two–words and eyes–did meet. I held fast though; the narrator goes on and on, no gunshots, no kidnappings. Just parties and more parties and party commentary and comments about people who go to parties or people who don’t go to parties. This is all a bit hard on the modern American raised on a plain menu of guns n’ ammo. Things pick up when Swann realizes that Odette is messing around with other guys. One evening he creeps back around to her house after having taken his leave earlier; he becomes a Peeping Tom. His obssession with Odette bounces him from polite society which he comes to realize is really stupid society. Of course there is more, much more and in the end strict plot lines are not what it’s about. I think it’s about getting caught in the net of Proust’s prose style which becomes a way of looking at life…
(more later)

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