Du côté de chez Swann (À la recherche du temps perdu, #1) By Marcel Proust

    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.

    come to my blog! 524 Proust is immortal. For he discovered a Hidden Way to transform our past, and, by extension, like the mystics of old - our souls - into a thing of enduring beauty. The Past can be Regained and Transmuted, as by St. Teresa of Avila, into an Interior Castle. Or, as Proust says in In a Budding Grove, a Magic Lantern Show.

    Few of us are old enough to remember Magic Lanterns. They were the original still photo projectors, developed at the turn of the twentieth century. My Dad had his own ancient model, which he transported from the childhood home of his mid-1920’s and 30’s to our first Ontario home.

    The trick is to suspend a bedsheet at the far end of a child’s bedside and project these wonderful faerie-like mezzotint images upon it. Proust says we who create (even reviews? You bet!) must become that white suspended bedsheet for our viewer’s reading imagination:

    “One smoky Fall day many, many years ago, as the Canada Geese overhead loudly sermonized us human stragglers about the hefty price we would soon pay for not following them down to the sunny South, I must regretfully have recommenced Swann’s Way once again...

    “For the very act of picking up that beloved, contrarious book always had in those days the same mysteriously autumnal aura of old summertime desires yielding painfully yet wistfully to familiar and mournful wintry regrets - but that act inevitably, in turn, evoking the epitome of the best of the winter to come:

    “Our cozy curling-up with a book in the close confines of our own warm and oh-so comfortable inner space.”

    So, in a rather naïve pastiche of Proust’s style, I dreamily wrote two years ago. Naïve, because in my ingenuous flippancy, I rushed in like the proverbial fool to spray-paint illegible graffiti on the enduring Proustian legacy.

    “Love conquers all” - but love of EVERY kind compromises and convicts so many!

    That insight is at the heart of that legacy, unfolding slowly and delicately throughout the Proustian opus like an ancient Belgian town being de-shrouded by the departing mist, in the Memory of Flemish friends by Stéphane Mallarme.

    Until it stands at last fully unveiled at the conclusion of Time Regained, like the naked Venus.

    Or Gorgon.

    Aye, there’s the rub!

    For when our past is finally transmogrified into suddenly-remembered monstrous forms, that’s the time - says Proust - to bring those bad memories into consciousness, according to how much of them we are able to bear at any given moment.

    And that’s his method.

    For here, as when the rainbow-hued daughter of a noted composer - “Verdurin” - secretly and blackly reviles his reputation to her passionate girlfriend, Proust carefully intersperses such moments with the lighter fluff of his dreams and his daily drudgery.

    This, then, is the reason my mom, the librarian, could endure his complex and endless grammatical periods for four consecutive long rereadings of the entire collection of novels - for she always knew Proust’s bottom line, at the end of her cauchemars, was the redemption of her soul in a state of pure release.

    That final state is the pure epiphanic moment - the Aleph, as Borges says - or the centre from which the universal totality may be viewed. The Timeless Extended Moment, which Henry James exultantly celebrates in his chef d’œuvre - you love it or you hate it - The Ambassadors.

    And that Aleph for the noted Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, as revealed in his Aion, is Christ.

    The heart of the opus itself is slowly and casually thus presented, especially here in Swann’s Way, in which - by biting into a Madeleine - the now fully temporally-redeemed narrator reveals the golden key to the unlocking of our scotomized memories.

    Yes - the magic lantern totality of our childhood memories that seems lost, but is eternally present - on memory rolls, as George Gurdjieff says.

    And they can be fully recovered in rêverie.

    Many readers, including myself, have imitated the Proustian modus operandi to recover our own Time Past.

    The bottom line is: yes, we can unlock our past.

    But in so doing, we will open a veritable Pandora’s Box of complex issues.

    Do we really want to GO there?

    It’s all secreted deep in our subconscious if we dare!

    And with good-hearted Faith we CAN survive the utter turbulence of its revelations:

    By a slow, patient meditation on the Truth -

    Which will then reveal the real, universal epiphany beneath our dreams - clearly - for the first time, and for All Time. 524 Marcel Proust is a weaver – he weaves his narration from memories of the past, dreams and threads of irony…

    A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and 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.

    Memories of childhood: relatives, relationships in the family, hearsay and gossips, life of neighbours, churchgoing, perambulations in the country, books and their correlation with reality…
    A real human being, however profoundly we sympathize with him, is in large part perceived by our senses, that is to say, remains opaque to us, presents a dead weight which our sensibility cannot lift. If a calamity should strike him, it is only in a small part of the total notion we have of him that we will be able to be moved by this; even more, it is only in a part of the total notion he has of himself that he will be able to be moved himself. The novelist’s happy discovery was to have the idea of replacing these parts, impenetrable to the soul, by an equal quantity of immaterial parts, that is to say, parts which our soul can assimilate.

    Kith and kin… And visitors… One of the frequent visitors was Swann – a connoisseur of art, a socialite mixing in high society, a man about town…
    Swann did not try to convince himself that the women with whom he spent his time were pretty, but to spend his time with women he already knew were pretty. And these were often women of a rather vulgar beauty, for the physical qualities that he looked for without realizing it were the direct opposite of those he admired in the women sculpted or painted by his favorite masters. Depth of expression, melancholy, would freeze his senses, which were, however, immediately aroused by flesh that was healthy, plump, and pink.

    Odette, a woman of demimonde, had eyes for Swann and was attempting to win him over… But she only attracted him because of her resemblance to Zipporah on the painting by Botticelli… However their relationships kept evolving and finally Swann fell in love… But very soon Odette turned the tables and became cold while Swann remained hopelessly infatuated…
    And in fact, Swann’s love had reached the stage where the doctor and, in certain affections, even the boldest surgeon, ask themselves if ridding a patient of his vice or relieving him of his disease is still reasonable or even possible.

    When one falls in love with one’s ideal and then finds out that the object of one’s passion is quite different from this ideal one is doomed to suffer beyond reason… 524
    “Así ocurre con nuestro pasado. Es trabajo perdido el querer evocarlo, e inútiles todos los afanes de nuestra inteligencia. Ocúltase fuera de sus dominios y de su alcance, en un objeto material (en la sensación que ese objeto material nos daría) que no sospechamos. Y del azar depende que nos encontremos con ese objeto antes de que nos llegue la muerte, o que no lo encontremos nunca.”
    Son legión quienes afirman que En busca del tiempo perdido es una novela sobre el paso del tiempo, sobre el deleite en su recuperación. Hay quién dice que es el retrato de un novelista, de su formación y crecimiento, una reivindicación de una forma de hacer novela. Para mí, sin querer quitar ni poner razones, la obra de Proust, al menos en este primer volumen, es la representación de una forma de sentir, de experimentar la vida y de sentirse a uno mismo, la descripción literaria de una especial sensibilidad.

    No incidiré aquí más en la complicada delicadeza del estilo del autor, todo lo que soy capaz de decir ya lo recogí en mis comentarios a Un amor de Swann, una novela dentro de esta novela. Sirvan para ello, no obstante, las citas que aquí traigo. También me referí en aquellos comentarios a la importancia que para Proust tenía el poder evocador de los objetos y las sensaciones físicas, siempre ilustrado con el famosísimo momento magdalena pero que tiene en toda la novela incontables ejemplos. Aun así, traigo aquí justo ese momento porque también es una muestra de aquello de lo que me gustaría hablarles.
    “Y muy pronto, abrumado por el triste día que había pasado y, por la perspectiva de otro tan melancólico por venir, me llevé a los labios una cucharada de té en el que había echado un trozo de magdalena. Pero en el mismo instante en que aquel trago, con las migas del bollo, tocó mi paladar, me estremecí, fija mi atención en algo extraordinario que ocurría en mi interior. Un placer delicioso me invadió, me aisló, sin noción de lo que lo causaba. Y él me convirtió las vicisitudes de la vida en indiferentes, sus desastres en inofensivos y su brevedad en ilusoria, todo del mismo modo que opera el amor, llenándose de una esencia preciosa; pero, mejor dicho, esa esencia no es que estuviera en mí, es que era yo mismo. Dejé de sentirme mediocre, contingente y mortal.”
    Parto de la base de que Proust es veraz en las descripciones que hace de sus arrebatos, de sus pasiones, de sus éxtasis ante las cosas más nimias, por mucho que a mí, de sensibilidad infinitamente menos exaltada, me parezca casi inverosímil y ciertamente extravagante gran parte de su relato por grande que sea el poder evocador, maravilloso lo evocado y soberbia la expresión de todo ello.
    “… de pronto un tejado, un reflejo de sol en una piedra, el olor del camino, hacíanme pararme por el placer particular que me causaban y además porque me parecía que ocultaban por detrás de lo visible una cosa que me invitaban a ir a coger, pero que, a pesar de mis esfuerzos, no lograba descubrir… cerrando los ojos, empeñado en acordarme exactamente de la silueta del tejado o del matiz de la piedra, que sin que yo supiera por qué, me parecieron llenas de algo, casi a punto de abrirse y entregarme aquello de que no eran ellas más que vestidura.”
    Ciertamente, esas experiencias espirituales me han producido siempre, superada la estupefacción, una mezcla de envidia y alivio sin poder saber qué es lo que más pesa en mi ánimo. Uno tiene la sensación de que personas así, capaces de sentir con tal intensidad parecen vivir, no una, sino dos o tres vidas al tiempo, con el corolario ineludible, y de ahí mi alivio, de las dos o tres muertes correspondientes. Debe ser tan maravilloso como demoledor la intuición de tanto misterio oculto, la lucha interna y constante de esos estados de ánimo tan ajenos y desacordes entre sí, lidiar con esa sensibilidad tan entremezclada con la enfermedad que esta es capaz de acentuar y despertar aquella mientras que ciertos estímulos vividos o simplemente anhelados o prometidos pueden provocar estados febriles. Indiscutiblemente, los padecimientos por tan extremada sensibilidad serían insoportables, pero también los momentos de éxtasis, numerosos si creemos al autor, serían indescriptibles… excepto para él, naturalmente.

    Por otro lado, es también llamativo, al menos lo es para mí, la profundidad de reflexión y de sentimiento que Proust representa en el niño que fue, la pasión por su madre capaz de provocarle el llanto ante la primera señal temprana de su vejez, la fuerza de su pensamiento y sensibilidad con la que sustituye y sublima sus mediocres incidentes cotidianos con las vívidas aventuras de los libros, con el análisis psicológico de la vida de sus “vulgares” convecinos, con los colores, los olores, los sonidos y las formas de su estrecho mundo.
    “Queremos buscar en las cosas, que por eso nos son preciosas, el reflejo que sobre ellas lanza nuestra alma, y es grande nuestra decepción al ver que en la Naturaleza no tienen aquel encanto que en nuestro pensamiento les prestaba la proximidad de ciertas ideas; y muchas veces convertimos todas las fuerzas del alma en destreza y en esplendor, destinados a accionar, sobre unos seres que sentimos perfectamente que están fuera de nosotros y no alcanzaremos nunca.”
    Me maravilla la exaltación que le provoca la soledad, el poder de su imaginación capaz de procurarle los mayores gozos al evocar lugares y personas desconocidas así como de agravar sus decepciones ante el contacto con esas realidades que tan mal se ajustan a sus evocaciones.

    En fin, como ya me ocurrió con Pessoa, doy gracias a esa fructífera naturaleza capaz de dotar a algunas de sus creaciones con espíritus tan delicados e inmoderados como soberbias son sus capacidades de plasmarlos en textos tan bellos como este de Por el camino de Swann.
    ¡Costumbre, celestina mañosa, sí, pero que trabaja muy despacio y que empieza por dejar padecer a nuestro ánimo durante semanas enteras, en una instalación precaria; pero que, con todo y con eso, nos llena de alegría al verla llegar, porque sin ella, y reducida a sus propias fuerzas, el alma nunca lograría hacer habitable morada alguna!
    Algo cuesta acostumbrarse a Proust, pero también es verdad que merece mucho la pena el empeño, realmente les llenará de alegría habitar su morada y él, insuperable anfitrión, les recibirá obsequioso.

    Continuará... 524 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. 524

    Childhood Expectations

    The 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 (See postscript below; the final instalment is nigh).

    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.

    Postscript 26May19: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019... 524 (Book 685 from 1001 books) - Du Côté de Chez Swann = Swann's Way (À La Recherche du Temps Perdu = In Search of Lost Time #1), Marcel Proust

    Writing about this series of novels should be a separate book in itself. You do not know where to start, as if you want to depict the pyramids of Egypt stone by stone, and you really do not know how to deal with the storm of words, the word magnificent is too small for this series of novels.

    Far superior to the Gothic cathedrals, the Wagner, Beethoven operas, and the works of all Expressionists.

    But what we learn more than anything from this series of novels is that the book is full of a concern, a concern called fear of death, and fear of dying, and not saying all the words that make your mind Chew and eat it.

    This may or may not be understandable to many people. That your brain is full of words, that knock on this door and that wall, to get out, but they can not, they despise life, and devote themselves to an incredible fantasy, with which nothing can equal it.

    It so happens that the best description of one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of literature is limited to the term disease, and I agree, however, that many literary masterpieces are full of revealing the condition of sick people.

    From Dostoevsky and Kafka to Celine, Hedayat, Mishima, Faulkner, Wolf, and Joyce, humans do not create anything to be immortal, and they are always different.

    Which become immortal; In Search of Lost Time is one such difference.

    در جستجوی زمان از دست رفته - مارسل پروست (مرکز) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: در ماه نوامبر سال 1992میلادی

    عنوان: 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 - سده 20م

    کتاب نخست: «طرف خانه سوان»؛ کتاب دوم: «در سایه دوشیزگان شکوفا»؛ کتاب سوم: «طرف گرمانت یک»؛ کتاب چهارم: «طرف گرمانت دو»؛ کتاب پنجم: «سدوم و عموره»؛ کتاب ششم: «اسیر»؛ کتاب هفتم: «آلبرتین گمشده (گریخته)»؛ کتاب هشتم: «زمان بازیافته»؛

    نوشتن در باره ی این سری از رمانها، خود باید کتابی جداگانه باشد؛ نمیدانید از کجا آغاز کنید، تو گویی بخواهید سنگ به سنگ، اهرام «مصر» را تصویر کنید، و واقعا ً نمیدانید با طوفان کلمات و واژه ها، چگونه برخورد نمایید، واژه ی «باشکوه» برای این سری از رمانها، بسیار کوچک است؛ شکوهی به مراتب برتر از ساختمان کلیساهای جامع «گوتیک»، اپراهای «واگنر»، «بتهوون»، و آثار همه ی «اکسپرسیونیستها»؛ اما چیزی که بیش از هر چیز از این سری رمانها درمییابیم، اینست 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 میجوند، و میخورند؛ شاید این برای مردمان بسیاری، قابل درک نباشد و نیست؛ اینکه 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 فاش کردن 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 جستجوی زمان از دست رفته»، یکی از همین متفاوتهاست؛

    تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 06/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی 524 Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust [Edited for typos 6/8/22]

    Proust! Memories! Almost 3,000 reviews so I thought I would simply give examples of his writing if you have not read him before. Beautiful writing, lyrical, complex, maybe even occasionally convoluted.

    First the famous passage about madeleines:

    “And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of a little piece of the madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seems such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had disassociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

    An example of detailed description – Swann’s woman friend:

    “It must be remarked that Odette’s face appeared thinner and sharper than it actually was, because the forehead and the upper part of the cheeks, that smooth and almost plane surface, were covered by the masses of hair which women wore at that period drawn forward in a fringe, raised in crimped waves and falling in stray locks over the ears; while as for her figure – and she was admirably built – it was impossible to make out its continuity (on account of the fashion then prevailing, and in spite of her being one of the best-dressed women in Paris) so much did the corsage, jutting out as though over an imaginary stomach and ending in a sharp point, beneath which bulged out the balloon of her double skirts, give a woman the appearance of being composed of different sections badly fitted together; to such an extent that the frills, the flounces, the inner bodice follow quite independently, according to the whim of their designer or the consistency of their material, the line which led them to the bows, the festoons of lace, the fringes of dangling jet beads, or carried them along the busk, but nowhere attached themselves to the living creature, who, according as the architecture of these fripperies drew them towards or away from her own, found herself either straight-laced to suffocation or else completely buried.”

    A passage I liked: “But the lies which Odette ordinarily told were less innocent, and served to prevent discoveries which might have involved her in the most terrible difficulties with one or another of her friends. And so when she lied, smitten with fear, feeling herself to be but feebly armed for her defense, unconfident of success, she felt like weeping from sheer exhaustion, as children weep sometimes when they have not slept. Moreover she knew that her lie was usually wounding to the man to whom she was telling it, and that she might find herself at his mercy if she told badly. Therefore she felt at once humble and guilty in his presence. And when she had to tell an in significant social lie its hazardous associations, and the memories which it recalled, would leave her weak with a sense of exhaustion and penitent with a consciousness of wrongdoing.”

    An example of what I think of as his occasional complex writing:

    [As a small boy when the main character’s love and another girl are talking near him about meeting again that evening]: “The name Gilberte passed close by me, invoking all the more forcefully the girl whom it labeled in that it did not merely refer to her, as one speaks of someone in his absence, but was directly addressed to her; it passed thus close by me, in action so to speak, with a force that increased with the curve of its trajectory and the proximity of its target; - carrying in its wake, I could feel, the knowledge, the impressions concerning her to whom it was addressed that belonged not to me but to the friend who called it out, everything that, as she uttered the words, she recalled, or at least possessed in her memory, of their daily intimacy, of the visits that they paid to each other, of that unknown existence which was all the more inaccessible, all the more painful to me from being, conversely, so familiar, so tractable to this happy girl who let it brush past me without my being able to penetrate it, who flung in on the air with a light-hearted cry; - wafting through the air the exquisite emanation which it had distilled…”


    Note: Proust’s masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, was originally published in seven volumes. There are more than a hundred editions and volumes have alternate names in English, such as The Prisoner vs. The Captive. Wikipedia gives a good summary of all the pieces and the sequence of volumes under “In Search of Lost Time.”

    Photos: Proust's imagined village in Normandy, strongly inspired by the village of his childhood, Illiers, which has now been renamed Illiers-Combray (shown in photo). From Wikipedia

    Second photo: madeleines from finedininglovers.com

    Painting of the woman who partially inspired Odette from Wikipedia

    The author from irishtimes.com 524 ”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 Zipporah

    He 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. 524 '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.

    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…


    read Du côté de chez Swann (À la recherche du temps perdu, #1)


    L'expression roman fleuve devrait, sans connotation péjorative, désigner une œuvre qui prend le temps de charrier mille petites particules d'impression pour les infuser dans l'esprit d'un lecteur captivé. En somme, elle devrait avoir été créée pour désigner La Recherche proustienne, qui s'ouvre Du côté de chez Swann et s'achève une fois Le Temps retrouvé.

    Dans le premier tome de ce superbe travail sur la mémoire et la métaphore, œuvre à part entière mais aussi amorce dramatique d'un joyau de la langue française, le narrateur s'aperçoit fortuitement, à l'occasion d'un goûter composé d'une tasse de thé et d'une madeleine désormais célèbre, que les sens ont la faculté de faire ressurgir le souvenir. Grâce aux senteurs d'un buisson d'aubépines, il prend confusément conscience de la distinction entre le souvenir et la réminiscence, pour ensuite s'exercer à manier les mots comme de petits papiers japonais qui, touchés par la grâce de l'eau, se déploient en corolle pour faire place à tout un univers. Tout comme se déploie un roman fleuve à partir de cette toute petite phrase légendaire : « Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure ». --Sana Tang-Léopold Wauters Du côté de chez Swann (À la recherche du temps perdu, #1)