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In Search of Lost Time

16 Mar

He looks rather cute here. Not so neurotic and hard to live with. I finished reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which is like climbing Everest in some ways. I’m a Also I finished William Carter’s Marcel Proust: A Life. What to say? Obviously, whole books have been written on Search, which has its peaks and valleys to continue the mountain analogy, banal as it is.

Here are some quick comments.

  1. Thank God, I’m not a hyper-observant person. Granted one can make perceptive observations about every aspect of life, but that’s quite a cross to bear.
  2. Wow! Talk about beautiful sentences and masterful descriptions by the dint of perfectionism. (That’s sort of an inside joke since Proust uses “by the dint of” a lot—in some spots three times in two pages.)
  3. I loved Françoise, the servant. She was so funny, probably my favorite character. There were times that I had to take a rest because there would be so much about the Narrator’s ruminations or (mis)perceptions on Albertine, which echoed Swann’s relationship with Odette and the Narrator’s with Gilberte. I guess two obsessions per work is my limit.
  4. Read a biography before or along with the book (or in lieu of). Some would disagree, but I found Proust’s life fascinating. He was quite neurotic, wearing fur coats inside in the summer, eating little and strange combinations of foods at odd hours, needing his mother so much, and never finding love. The biography will tell you about his relationship with money. He never held a regular job, though his parents encouraged him to find a career. He wound up inheriting a fortune, but frequently had money problems due to lavish spending and poor investments. He had a vexing and contentious relationship with his financial advisor after his parents died. Definitely, a father figure. Yet the book neglects the theme of money, while how we view money does reveal so much about our psyche, though it’s not something we remember the way we remember past loves, friendships.By reading the biography, we learn about the incredible task of editing and publishing this opus, who helped him and how they had to literally cut and paste and decipher Proust’s handwritten pages for the resulting 3300 plus page novel, which sadly wasn’t finally edited when Proust died (so we don’t really have what he finally approved). Proust thought he was going to die and his last months were a race to finish checking the manuscript. another bonus the biography provides is insight into what other writers and Proust’s friends thought of the book. Since some of the characters in the book are patterned after real people, it’s interesting to see what those individuals think of the book.

If you’re not up for a seven volume novel or 800 page biography (that does read much faster than the novel), do try Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life. It should amuse, enlighten and maybe pique your interest in Search.

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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in fiction, French Lit

 

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