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Category Archives: French Lit

What Are You Reading? Monday

 Book Journey‘s author ” love[s] being a part of this and I hope you do too!  As part of this weekly meme I love to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme.  I offer a weekly contest for those who visit 10 or more of the Monday Meme participants and leave a comment telling me how many you visited.”

I’m almost finished with Madame Bovary, which I’m reading for my book club for the third time. Expect a review soon. I started We, the Russian novel that inspired George Orwell to write 1984. It’s very cool.

In nonfiction I’m reading a biography of a real life Cora Crawley from Downton Abbey. It’s American Jenny: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, the American who married Lord Churchill and whose son Winston became Prime Minister.

Finally, I’m reading Beyond the Mushroom Cloud by my friend Yuki Miyamoto. It’s an excellent book that makes you rethink forgiveness, remembrance and the atomic bomb.

 

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If You’re More of a Movie Person

I just finished book 2 of In Search of Lost Time , and learned that Harold Pinter wrote a screenplay of it in 1972. A producer got the rights to film the novel, and commissioned a screenplay with the idea of first publishing it as a book. I read that if a lot of readers clamoured for the film, the producer hoped to get the money to finance it.

Pinter did try to cover the 3000 or so page book in 120-some pages. It’s sort of a poetic visual rendition. I’m happy to say Pinter avoided voice overs. Most writers would have indulged in them for this. Bravo!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in French Lit, Nobel Prize

 

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In Search of Lost Time

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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Proust, My Dictionary and Me

More words from In Search of Lost Time

vade-mecum, p. 250: ‘come with me’; n. guide-book; manual

florilegium, p. 292: n. (pl. -gia) collection of flowers; description of flora

beadle, p. 294: n. officer of parish, church, court, etc., for keeping order; mace-bearer. beadledom, n. petty officialdom

sursum corda, p. 295: n. ‘lift up your hearts’; versicle in church service

to take French leave, p. 313: To take without asking leave or giving any equivalent. The allusion is to the French soldiers, who in their invasions take what they require, and never wait to ask permission of the owners or pay any price for what they take.

The French retort this courtesy by calling a creditor an Englishman (un Anglais), a term in vogue in the sixteenth century, and used by Clement Marot. Even to the present hour, when a man excuses himself from entering a café or theatre, because he is in debt, he says: “Non, non! je suis Anglé ‘ (“I am cleared out”).

“Et aujourd’huy je faictz soliciter
Tous me angloys.”
Guillaume Creton (1520).

French leave. Leaving a party, house, or neighbourhood without bidding goodbye to anyone; to slip away unnoticed.

ephebe, p. 334: A youth between 18 and 20 years of age in ancient Greece

Aspasia, p. 335: Greek courtesan and lover of Pericles who was noted for her wisdom, wit, and beauty

ukase, p. ?: Russian edict

proleptic, p. 387: The anachronistic representation of something as existing before its proper or historical time

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in French Lit, words

 

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Misanthrope

My April selection for my bookclub is Moliere’s misanthrope. I had imagined the classic play in my head based on theatrical posters. It actually was quite a bit different from what I expected.

The main character wasn’t as misanthropic as I expected. Rather he was just rigid in his expectations of honest thought and deed. He abhorred anyone who was at all two faced. I can’t say I blamed him. Yet it was such a fake society that the result was he didn’t like anyone. There’s a romantic triangle and it’s all very comic. Also the whole play is done in rhyme, which got to me after awhile. It’s a quick read though and easily ups one’s list of classics read.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in classic, French Lit, humor

 

Desert of Love

I want to read as many Nobel Laureate writers as possible. A few weeks ago I got an email from “The Writer’s Almanac” mentioning François Mauriac’s birthday. Intrigued, I looked for some of his books at our library and chose Desert of Love (1925) at random.

I expected a French Graham Greene, but I don’t think he fits that description. I did keep thinking of The End of the Affair, which I read last fall. There’s a lot less explicit Catholic content in Mauriac.

The story involves a middle aged doctor and his teenage (later 34 year old) son, who’re both attracted or obsessed maybe more accurate with Maria Cross, a kept woman who lives in their town. All the neighborhood ostracizes her. Neither father nor son know the extent of the other’s involvement with Maria. This synopsis may lead one to expect a cheesy, Harlequin romance, but Mauriac probes the the motivations and inner thinking of each character shedding light on how Maria’s response or games with Raymond, the son, lead to his future womanizing or dissipation. The style is spare, which I love. I marvel at concise writing where there’s nothing that isn’t required.

It’s a trim 131 pages so that’s quite a difference and break as a reader from Proust, whom I’ll write about after my grades are done.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in French Lit, Nobel Prize

 

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