Proust, Marcel. “Swann’s Way,” Remembrance of Things Past: In Search of Lost Time. Volume One. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Illustrated by Philippe Jullia. Chatto & Windus, 1964.
Reason read: Proust died in the month of November. Read in his memory.
The theme of remembering: the way a cake tastes when dipped in tea; an involuntary memory when least expected. Like experiencing that first kiss, we spend our lifetimes trying to recreate all of the sensations of that first time of anything. It is impossible to do. Proust has a sensory understanding of the world at large and our place in it. Memories of certain foods or music or places have sentimental value because their taste, sound or sight are evocative of childhood’s sweet innocence. A simpler time is romanticized. Most of Swann’s Way takes place in the country home of Combray where Charles Swann is a guest of the unnamed narrator’s parents. Mr. Swann’s way is one of extreme correctness and high society. Much like the novels of Austen, not much happens in Swann’s Way. Proust’s focus is on society.
Dialogue is interesting and accurate. First talking about Mme. Sazerat’s dog and then jumping to Francoise’s asparagus is how dinner party patter often sounds.
Lines to like, “What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing” (p 59).
Author fact: Proust has been compared to James Joyce. Proust’s full name was Valentin L:ouis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust. No ownder he shortened it to just Marcel Proust! Proust was also a recluse due to health reasons.
Book trivia: my copy was illustrated by Philippe Jullian. Very lovely drawings.
Nancy said: Pearl used Proust as an example of an early roman-flueve.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 207).
Larkin, Philip. “Church Going.” The Less Deceived. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965,
Larkin, Philip. “I Remember, I Remember.” The Less Deceived. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.
The beginning of “Church Going” is the most fascinating. The author visits a church (not his first, nor his last) and describes what he sees and does in this latest church. There is a sense he doesn’t quite believe in the place or his unspoken reason for being there. There is a skepticism in his tone that suggests a deeper disbelief. It begins with the very first line, “Once I’m sure there’s nothing going on” [in the church] (p 28).
“I Remember, I Remember” is a little more straightforward but as equally honest. The speaker is traveling with a friend and discovers a forgotten place from childhood. Immediately, the remembering begins. My favorite line is delivered by the friend, “You look as if you wish the place in hell” (p 38). I can think of a few places in my life where I would have that look!
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
I was silent all day yesterday because the mind was in overdrive. Funny how that is. There are some days that are stickier than others. Why is that? Why do I remember everything, every little detail, like it was yesterday? The details are stuck like flies on the fly strips of my mind. Twisting and turning, but never completely shaking loose. I can remember the color of your shirt. The way your boots were left untied. The stillness of the room when it was all over. The heavy door closing with a quiet click. The leaving.
There are four days in September that replay like a movie in my head. Anniversaries of a different kind. They pull me down, wear me out. Curiously, each year my reaction to them is a little different. Some years they are as insane as a Stanley Kubrick film – images and memories too bizarre to handle calmly. I succumb to fits of crying, fits of rage. Other years I am dispassionate and objective, surveying the scenes with a cool eye and a cold heart. It’s not that I don’t care or that I’ve forgotten what these scenes mean to me. I’m just able to turn my head from them a little easier. They can’t touch me.
This year I surrounded myself with distraction. Little Miss Socializer. The Big E with all of its glutinous overloads. Greasy food. Flashing lights. Throngs of people. Crazy carnival music. IM’ing for the first time in three years. TalkTalkTalking on the phone. Sitting down to do nothing. Still, the scenes played out – like a movie half ignored. Something flickering in the background. Even when my past came to visit me I couldn’t admit to the memories. I played dumb and talked about the breakwater, ever repeating ‘you were the only one.’ Because that was what mattered then. Matters still.
Now it’s the day after. The clouds have all blown away. Someone has removed the fly strip, thrown it away for another year. There are other memories to come, but those will be met with predictable ease. I will look them in the eye, recognition comes with a nod and then, then I move on. Strange how the mind works.