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a l'ombre des jeunes filles  côté de Guermantes

These books count for the following Reading Challenge:

     Books on France

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THESE BOOKS

rating system

I rediscovered Proust a couple of years ago, and I shared here a few thoughts on the 1st volume of his work.

This year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of that 1st volume, Swann’s Way. For the occasion, a special Goodreads group was born, for both English and French speaking readers. They set up a smart calendar organizing like a mega read-along: with a certain number of pages per week, you could then read all the 7 volumes of In Search of Lost Time in a year!

That was definitely too tempting to ignore, and having already re-read the 1st volume, I thought I was at an advantage. Well, add to this a long list of other reading challenges, too many, yes, I know, and God knows how many books to review for virtual book tours: conclusion, I just started volume 4, when I should be in vol 7. That’s fine, I will go on next year.

There’s no way I can really write a review on his very long volumes, where really little happens. The point is more his style than any plot.

So let me just share a few thoughts.

A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs / translated either In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower or Within a Budding Grove- both unsatisfactory translations according to me by the way. [568 pages]
There are lots of fabulous descriptions of art, from opera to mostly painting, with the meeting of the fictive painter Elstir.
I wanted to kick the narrator many times for his indecision about Gilberte, about how the feeling of his feelings seemed to take the place of the feelings toward the person herself, and how he seemed to relish more imaginative possible love than the real thing. Proust leads you to summits of introversion!

But the great thing with Proust, and what keeps me going, is that suddenly you turn a page and you have delightful passages on nature, on water, and here on the group of the teen girls he meets.

All the pages on Balbec are awesome, I feel like I want to visit this place.

Le côté de Guermantes / The Guermantes Way. [765 pages]
I admit honestly this volume was very painful. It focuses a lot on social events, and those meals and parties can go on forever, one is over 100 pages, and it was really boring. Plus I never feel at ease with members of the high society.
But again, with Proust, it’s like searching for gold: you get bored for 100 pages, you turn another page, and here is a pure gem of irony or an unforgettable description of a vase, of nature, or an amazing image.
Historically speaking it was interesting to see how the Dreyfus Affair was related. It is very much present in the whole volume, echo of the impact it had in the society of the time.

And now in volume 4… More on that in 2014!

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

Here is the introduction of the presentation by wikipedia:

In Search of Lost Time (French: À la recherche du temps perdu)—translated previously as Remembrance of Things Past—is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust (1871–1922). His most prominent work, it is known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the “episode of the madeleine.” It gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained usage since D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992.

The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages as they existed in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother Robert.

The work was published in France between 1913 and 1927. Proust paid for the publication of the first volume (by the Grasset publishing house) after it had been turned down by leading editors who had been offered the manuscript in longhand. Many of its ideas, motifs, and scenes are foreshadowed in Proust’s unfinished novel, Jean Santeuil (1896–99), though the perspective and treatment there are different, and in his unfinished hybrid of philosophical essay and story, Contre Sainte-Beuve (1908–09). The novel had great influence on twentieth-century literature; some writers have sought to emulate it, others to parody it. In the centenary year of Du côté de chez Swann, Edmund White pronounced A la recherche du temps perdu “the most respected novel of the twentieth century.

You can access the synopsis of each volume here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marcel ProustFrench novelist, best known for his 3000 page masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time), a pseudo-autobiographical novel told mostly in a stream-of-consciousness style. Born in the first year of the Third Republic, the young Marcel, like his narrator, was a delicate child from a bourgeois family. He was active in Parisian high society during the 80s and 90s, welcomed in the most fashionable and exclusive salons of his day. However, his position there was also one of an outsider, due to his Jewishness and homosexuality. Towards the end of 1890s Proust began to withdraw more and more from society, and although he was never entirely reclusive, as is sometimes made out, he lapsed more completely into his lifelong tendency to sleep during the day and work at night. He was also plagued with severe asthma, which had troubled him intermittently since childhood, and a terror of his own death, especially in case it should come before his novel had been completed. The first volume, after some difficulty finding a publisher, came out in 1913, and Proust continued to work with an almost inhuman dedication on his masterpiece right up until his death in 1922, at the age of 51.
Today Marcel Proust is widely recognised as one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century, and À la recherche du temps perdu as one of the most dazzling and significant works of literature to be written in modern times [Goodreads]

 

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