Marcel Proust : thoughts – I love France #78

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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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I love France #8: #72 review: Du côté de chez Swann

I LOVE FRANCE!

This meme will be published every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky
please if possible
include the title of the book or topic in your link.

*******

Du côté de chez Swann

(Swann’s Way)

by Marcel PROUST

400 pages

Published in 1913

read in daily installments with Dailylit.com

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I read some Proust decades ago, though I’m not even sure I finished a whole volume. Looking around for some free ebooks, I discovered that dailylit.com offered some French authors, and almost all the volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu.

I wanted to give it a try, and that was quite a revelation. I had totally forgotten how I could be totally entranced by Proust. If you look for action, Proust is probably not for you. But I love so much the power of his descriptions, be it in the realm of music, the famous petite phrase was haunting in Proust’s words itself, or on nature: especially flowers and water.

I wanted to share the beauty with a non-French reader, and discovered a free English translation online that was actually quite good at creating the same atmosphere.

We always quote the episode of the madeleine, to refer to his example of how our senses recall some special event to our memory, but this is much more common in the whole first volume of his masterwork. It is a kind of perpetual ode to time and memory, that takes you in and makes you live in an enchanting world.

Needless to say that I’m now reading the next volume: A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs. (Within a Budding GroveIn the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower)

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The Narrator begins by noting, “For a long time, I went to bed early.” He comments on the way sleep seems to alter one’s surroundings, and the way Habit makes one indifferent to them. He remembers being in his room in the family’s country home in Combray, while downstairs his parents entertain their friend Charles Swann, an elegant man of Jewish origin with strong ties to society (the character is modelled on Proust’s friend Charles Ephrussi). Due to Swann’s visit, the Narrator is deprived of his mother’s goodnight kiss, but he gets her to spend the night reading to him. This memory is the only one he has of Combray, until years later the taste of a madeleine cake dipped in tea inspires a nostalgic incident of involuntary memory. He remembers having a similar snack as a child with his invalid aunt Leonie, and it leads to more memories of Combray. He describes their servant Françoise, who is uneducated but possesses an earthy wisdom and a strong sense of both duty and tradition. He meets an elegant “lady in pink” while visiting his uncle Adolphe. He develops a love of the theater, especially the actress Berma, and his awkward Jewish friend Bloch introduces him to the works of the writer Bergotte. He learns Swann made an unsuitable marriage but has social ambitions for his beautiful daughter Gilberte. Legrandin, a snobbish friend of the family, tries to avoid introducing the boy to his well-to-do sister. The Narrator describes two walking paths: the way past Swann’s home (the Méséglise way), and the Guermantes way, both containing scenes of natural beauty. Taking the Méséglise way, he sees Gilberte Swann standing in her yard with a lady in white, Mme Swann, and her supposed lover: Baron de Charlus, a friend of Swann’s. Gilberte makes a gesture that the Narrator interprets as a rude dismissal. During another walk, he spies a lesbian scene involving Mlle Vinteuil, daughter of a composer, and her friend. The Guermantes way is symbolic of the Guermantes family, the noblemen of the area. The Narrator is awed by the magic of their name, and is captivated when he first sees Mme de Guermantes. He discovers how appearances conceal the true nature of things, and tries writing a description of some nearby steeples. Lying in bed, he seems transported back to these places until he awakens.

Mme Verdurin is an autocratic hostess who, aided by her husband, demands total obedience from the guests in her “little clan.” One guest is Odette de Crecy, a former courtesan, who has met Swann and invites him to the group. Swann is too refined for such company, but Odette gradually intrigues him with her unusual style. A sonata by Vinteuil, which features a “little phrase,” becomes the motif for their deepening relationship. The Verdurins host M. de Forcheville; their guests include Cottard, a doctor; Brichot, an academic; Saniette, the object of scorn; and a painter, M. Biche. Swann grows jealous of Odette, who now keeps him at arm’s length, and suspects an affair between her and Forcheville, aided by the Verdurins. Swann seeks respite by attending a society concert that includes Legrandin’s sister and a young Mme de Guermantes; the “little phrase” is played and Swann realizes Odette’s love for him is gone. He tortures himself wondering about her true relationships with others, but his love for her, despite renewals, gradually diminishes. He moves on and marvels that he ever loved a woman who was not his type.

At home in Paris, the Narrator dreams of visiting Venice or the church in Balbec, a resort, but he is too unwell and instead takes walks in the Champs-Élysées, where he meets and befriends Gilberte. He holds her father, now married to Odette, in the highest esteem, and is awed by the beautiful sight of Mme Swann strolling in public. Years later, the old sights of the area are long gone, and he laments the fugitive nature of places. [wikipedia]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

French 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 he 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]

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
DO YOU FEEL LIKE READING THIS BOOK?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE