[Ebook] ➧ Du côté de chez Swann By Marcel Proust – Wildlives.co
There are only two ways to live your life One is as though nothing is a miracle The other is as though everything is a miracle Albert EinsteinI made acquaintance with Sir Einstein s above observationthan two decades ago It was precisely after the conclusion of my study hour one evening, during which my father shared this quote with me, that I was struck by the uniqueness of such an expansive statement For some fabulous reason, it stayed with me As I grew up and began gaining the privilege of reading world literature, I was bestowed with eyes that scanned not just a patch of land at one time but a universal landscape of mind boggling ramifications across multiple filters of historical, social, cultural, political and emotional tints And slowly, but firmly, I realized how true, how very true, is that quote of Sir Einstein Perhaps now, today, if someone asks me to prove this thought, I would, without blinking, thrust this book into their hands and say, here lies the proof.Everything magnifies under the lens of retrospection And if the lens happens to have the nameMarcel Proustinscribed over it, the magnified images purport to embrace untamed beauty Proust cast the net of his observation across the turbulent sea of nostalgia and patiently collected the shimmering philosophical pearls in small urns of beauteous expressions Embroidering the urns with souvenirs from the French bourgeoisie society and sewing them delicately with the indigenous threads, he set a benchmark for all wannabe explorers to aim for In this momentous work that resembled a sparse theatre bearing a lonely child and a compassionate lover, he provided priority seats to every prop and every emotion The transition of inanimate props into lyrical jewels happens in such natural, noiseless rhythm that as a spectator, one is forced to don a momentary mask of surprise, followed by a considerable bout of awe In the reluctance of a room from shedding its nocturnal skin and in the reticence of a bud from espousing its youth, in the insistence of trees to accompany a running carriage and in the persistence of rain to block a springy day, hordes of artistic voices croon, at once, their hearts out, bequeathing us with a palpable slice of lifeA little tap on the window pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as if grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal it was the rainThe young narrator and the mature M Swann, the two protagonists, reflect two different pictures painted from the same palette Possession of this mesmerizing, identical chord seals their reactions to negligence and rebuttal, indulgence and dismissal Both emerge men who swap bounty and dullness like the two sides of the same coin, who keep distance and proximity as alternate remedies to extend love s term Both love without remorse, offering their heart to be plucked like a harp till it broke both avow to blissful solitude, surrendering their memories to dissolve in its vicious depth Both live to compose panegyric for memories and perhaps both would volunteer to drown into themThe places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the yearsProust leaves me in a sparkling rivulet, promising to direct me to its bigger cousins in due time He also promises me that the ingredients of life can, at the most, be discoloured but not toxic if tended with an eye pouring beauty and forgiveness Like an artist, who imparts contentment to his soul by creating a painting justifying his notion and not by subjecting it to an external validation, we should, too, scrap at the rough edges of life should they turn up, without besieging attendance of an audience, and unleash our net at the first sight of beauty He was a man who discovered beauty in everything, and who delightfully dwindled under the intoxication of drinking this elixir from every tap of lifeYou are afraid of affection How odd that is, when I go about seeking nothing else, and would give my soul to find it Childhood ExpectationsThe 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 aserious 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 laterexperienced andarticulate 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 farsubtle 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 Evenprofoundly, 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 orproperly 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 Swann S Way Tells Two Related Stories, The First Of Which Revolves Around Marcel, A Younger Version Of The Narrator, And His Experiences In, And Memories Of, The French Town Combray Inspired By The Gusts Of Memory That Rise Up Within Him As He Dips A Madeleine Into Hot Tea, The Narrator Discusses His Fear Of Going To Bed At Night He Is A Creature Of Habit And Dislikes Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night Not Knowing Where He IsHe Claims That People Are Defined By The Objects That Surround Them And Must Piece Together Their Identities Bit By Bit Each Time They Wake Up The Young Marcel Is So Nervous About Sleeping Alone That He Looks Forward To His Mother S Goodnight Kisses, But Also Dreads Them As A Sign Of An Impending Sleepless Night One Night, When Charles Swann, A Friend Of His Grandparents, Is Visiting, His Mother Cannot Come Kiss Him Goodnight He Stays Up Until Swann Leaves, And Looks So Sad And Pitiful That Even His Disciplinarian Father Encourages Mamma To Spend The Night In Marcel S Room Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence My great adventure is really Proust Well what remains to be written after that I m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement as if a miracle were being done before my eyes How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance One has to put the book down and gasp The pleasure becomes physical like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Virginia Woolf, The Letters of Virginia Woolf Volume Two, 1912 1922 INTRODUCTION For a long time, I went to bed early. Thus begins the most challenging novel I have read this year, which I have been deliberately avoiding for a very long time, daunted by its renowned intricacy and sumptuous sophistication With those simple words to which I cannot relate since going to bed early and sleeping through the night is not something I am known for a vast array of themes are brought to life by virtue of the magnificent and oh, lord, intellectually demanding pen of Marcel Proust and this is hardly a complaint it is difficult to express my gratitude, for this is the most beautiful and stimulating prose I have read in years, composed of sentences whose length left me awestruck at first but, after a while, became a familiar and endearing quality, since they are replete with charm, profundity, unparalleled versatility and an unflagging will to find the meaning of our existence in a world where time will never call a truce.Being fully aware of this novel s complexity, I thought about getting a great Spanish edition in order to avoid overexertion and provide my brain with a chance at survival then I reconsidered and decided to indulge my desire for a real literary challenge, ergo, I purchased this English edition brilliantly crafted by Lydia Davis, filled with helpful footnotes that enlightened me about many matters and informed me at once of some clever puns that unfortunately I wasn t in the position to comprehend due to obvious language restrictions Clearly, I took my time my mind, on many occasions, was somewhat dizzy with confusion which emanated from a plethora of words of all sizes and colors, trudging to the brink of linguistic fatigue, floral hallucinations and architectonic mirages thus ended up seeking refuge in sitcoms, two TV series and articles on the Internet that ranged from Kierkegaard to the recipe for strawberry shortcake I can t deny reading this novel was a bumpy ride, but the benefits it brought me far outweighed any benign bump or educational jolt that ultimately led me to sheer beauty and utter knowledge for the best things in life as the best kind of people are not easy to find.I need to rest for a couple of weeks, but I look forward to the time when I tackle the second volume that is already beckoning me, patiently waiting on my bookshelf I would like to read them all with my current mind set , that unexplored and exciting land in my hands, hoping to find again the same delightful and amusing prose that captivated me for so long.EXPOSITION COMBRAYThis first part of the novel was the one I struggled with the most since it was my first contact with Proust s unusual writing style, a succession of words conveying incredibly evocative visualizations that became tangible objects and landscapes by the end of an everlasting sentence a songbook bursting with candor, with a lofty, delicious language portraying the most vivid metaphors that elevated any ordinary situation and ringed it with pure sublimity melodies speaking of sleep, an elusive companion of habit, a despot whose whip is somehow needed of art, one of the many realms in which one can find the long awaited and rather fugitive meaning of life of country walks and the shimmering beauty of nature a goodnight kiss that keeps being postponed and left me here, in this pearl colored room where the perfect blend of an andante spianato and a polonaise ignites the walls, where silence is eloquent and words are essentially needed and successfully eluded, in a state of indefatigable contemplation of my almost corporeal melange of emotions and thoughts, intoxicating the air with the scent of contradiction, extrapolating fears and disappointments as I see my own illogical detachment towards a motherly kiss that hardly ever arrives to a boy s door but I receive every single night for memories strike the Narrator s mind and inoculate an early regret into mine, as I picture the day I no longer get that kiss once taken for granted and there is only night, a faint gleaming of distant stars and a taciturn memory inside a cup of tea, encapsulated in a madeleine, waiting to be reawaken.But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer butenduring,immaterial,persistent,faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, upon the ruins of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory 51 DEVELOPMENT SWANN IN LOVEThe second part of the novel speaks of a refined gentleman with an artistic disposition pulsating through his veins, a man already mentioned in Combray , Charles Swann and his overly complicated relationship with Odette de Cr cy, a persistent source of intense yet minimal joy, stifling and omniscient misery an unbearable, almost inhumane addiction from which vivid, ardent, passionate, irrational gusts of jealousy adulterating love s nature, palpitating with despair, throbbing with terror, spring up in the face of absolute indifference a cold hearted state in which once inhabited her unreserved love beaming with pretended grace and a dab of frivolous peculiarity, molded after the voluptuousness of a cattleya, a devoted chrysanthemum, an obscure book, an exquisite painting rationally observed samples of affection that make him exhale unfaltering sighs desirous of reciprocity tokens of a torrid love that have germinated in an ethereal sounding violin accompanied by the gentle touch of a piano, both coexisting in a large salon where the mere fleeting essence of love has been sketched, crafted by a composer who will never be consigned to oblivion, where every pain inflicted by bare existence was mentally absorbed, physically assimilated, awakening inspiration and channeling those existential wounds whose presence has been cursed with the countenance of eternity placing them in the midst of a maelstrom of creativity a whirlwind in front of my weary eyes, as I contemplate the melodious renaissance of the little phrase , like a phoenix blazing in the darkness, time and time again, triggering memories of passion and loss, obsession and self pity, the absurdity of possession wishing for love to recede, reveling in melancholy, harboring a hope for deliverance.He apologized for his fear of new friendships, for what he had called, out of politeness, his fear of being unhappy You re afraid of affection 223 RECAPITULATION PLACE NAMES THE NAMEUnravel every mystery, reader.helped me better understand what a contradiction it is to search in reality for memory s pictures, which would never have the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from not being perceived by the senses The reality I had known no longer existed 481 CODAAnesthetized beings seem to have lost the ability to see beauty in life, in people, as they continue to watch the days go by, one after another, impassively, resignedly, like a medieval prisoner gazing up at a small window that helps him realize the presence of the sun and the coldness of the moonlight that perennial, pale glow that is whitening forlorn skyscrapers at this moment while holding the keys to the dungeon where he has been dwelling for years but, unable to move due to some uncanny force, perhaps a comfortable fear, could never manage to open Those days will never cease to pass, days teeming with books, music, windows, soothing memories and distant dreams, instilling life in despondent bodies brimful of ideas, reflections, beauteous words belonging to this novel, the efflorescence of Proust s brilliance and generosity, that furnished me with a sense of solace which helped me sleep through an entire night, after the last page was turned Pages Words Words involving goodbyes when love becomes agony Existence attached to impossibility Childhood made of beloved places and reminiscences of diverse textures and flavors An everlasting waiting that will remain so when facing unwavering reluctance A purpose in life A wretched alchemist grasping love and art, cutting through their shells in the hope of finding a droplet of essence a hopeful distillation, a futile attempt at turning existence to meaning a combination of both Traces of beauty The beauty around us The scent of freshly brewed coffee A pile of books The contradiction of my emotions on paper Staccato lines, disjointed thoughts, scribblings without any light The sun seeping through the cracks in the blinds Breakfast in bed A flowering garden The fragrance of jasmines A motherly kiss A nonexistent immutability which involves not only blissful times but, fortunately, ages of sorrow Memories, madeleines lazy Sundays in my hometown A sonata echoing through the years The art of appreciation in a single dewdrop, before everything withers away.June 2, 16 Also on my blog Photo credit Tea cup and madeleine Patrick Forget via tourisme28.com Madeleine de Scudery, Le Pays de Tendre CCLes Champs lys es via Pinterest Water Droplets via Nevsepic Reading a book for the first time is a great, exciting experience that packs a myriad of emotions and sensations you re happy because of the joy of starting another journey, anxious because of your expectations, curious because of the reviews you ve read or things you ve heard about the story it s something similar to going out on a first date, where everything is novelty and if the book the person proves to be interesting indeed you want to find outandOnce the initial excitement is over and the euphoria settles down, once you know the story and you re serious about your and their intentions, it s time to find out whether you can see yourself marrying that person, less enchanted by what have come so far than by the valuable promises of what s yet to come Do you want to commit and not commitment in the sense of obligations or compromising, but as an alignment of expectations, convergence of desires and companionship Yes Then you can re read the book you know the story, you know the characters, you know what it has given you so far, but you feel there sto absorb, to learn That was my feeling when I decided to re read Swann s Way I wanted to extend my experience with it, I needed to go through it all again.Meeting the characters for a second first time made it possible for me to observe certain traits in them that, perhaps by not being sure of which of those characters would become important in the narrative like when you meet someone and you not always can tell if they re gonna be in your life forthan that brief moment, so you don t pay them the deserved attention , I didn t register in my mind or that I never truly noticed and now, after knowing and caring for them, re reading their first words and the first time they were described had that same sensation you feel when opening a photo album from long ago and looking at the old pictures, where you see how younger your friends were, how they were thinner and had a different haircut Du c t de chez Swann was first released in 1913, with publications costs paid by Proust after it had been turned down by leading editors who had been offered the manuscript in longhand.Upon the release of this first volume of the Recherche, Marcel Proust was commanded for his wonderful effort I should say accomplishment, really but his work was questioned for having no structure at all Another positive aspect that reading Swann s Way for a second time provided me and that brought me great satisfaction was to note how there are no loose ends in Proust s narrative and how it all comes together but only eventually and once you read it completely Sections that apparently I didn t make much sense of in the first time, or just imagined were there because of the writer s recognized taste for digressions and lengthy inner monologues now appear clear to me as being essential to the work, as being active and important parts of his story and giving me a sense of how well planned even from the conception and greatly executed everything was It s all connected and bound together, but I do agree it s merely perceptible at first.The general themes of the book are all mentioned in the first part Combray, pt 1 or Overture, in some editions , in those glorious opening pages about the confusions one might feel between sleeping, dreaming, and being awake The section was masterfully inserted in the beginning of the book, as Proust s calling card, for it works perfectly as a introduction to the marvelous, unknown world, outside of time, that we re about to enter Besides the innumerable meanings it has to the continuation of the story, which was only accessible to me on this re read, what I most appreciated about those first pages and I can remember the same sensation back when I first read them, although the feeling was then wrapped by another, even a stronger one, that of the complexity it was for me to read, to decipher his long sentences and the meanings of his prose , was how that confusion of falling asleep is something simple, that everyone can relate to, that everyone has felt at least a couple of times, and yet it was so skillfully written that he was able to isolate, to perfectly put into words such an ethereal, volatile moment, as if he gave a proper form to something that s been known and felt, but never seen like he painted the wind.In addition to being such a beautiful overture and a perfect writing lesson, that passage also stands strongly as a decisive metaphor for everything that s yet to come as the drowsy narrator falls asleep and wakes up, getting lost in between and trying to find himself, to locate his whereabouts, completely adrift in time and space, so he will remain that way throughout most of the narrative of his life trying to find himself, to know who and what he is, resorting to numbing philosophical observations and deep self reflections on various subjects and his relations All the confusion of that seemingly regular moment also serves as a parallel to the work itself what isla recherche du temps perdu an autobiography, a romance, a novel And does it have to be or become one or any of those Is it Proust speaking directly to me and if not, who is this person saying I With all of this uncertainty taking place at the beginning, one might feel that the writer gathered all possible puzzles and doubts in the palm of his two hands and threw them in the air, as if he was trying to pick them up in whatever order it was in which they landed on the floor what is not clear just yet is that all of these riddles are interconnected like a spider web is and that instead of making a mess, he only enlarged the scope so the connecting lines would become discernible and placed it all precisely as he needed things to be.During one of the nights where the narrator reminisced about his past in bed, trying to remember it voluntarily, one outstanding scene came to him the goodnight kiss drama that would forever scar his life and alter his identity What Proust does in that renowned episode that speaks wonders about character presentation is to introduce us to the narrator s personality, to his nervous ways and delicate, susceptible nature In that moment, we witness an important discovery he makes about himself he becomes aware that he can t resist or control his nervous impulses, that he is oversensitive and the fact that his parents abdicated their authority only came as confirmation to his diagnosis This originated in him the paralyzing fear that he would never have any will or strength to achieve whatever he needed to or planned in his life What seems to be nothingthan a simple moment where a spoiled child, a brat, disobeys and challenges his parents is indeed the beginning of a long lasting disorder that will be pivotal to the comprehension of the path the narrator walks in life up to the last moments of Time Regained.For obvious reasons, this piece was one he could easily remember, but the remaining of his past experiences didn t come to him as naturally Enter then the celebrated madeleine episode The sumptuous moment where the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea rekindles inside of him all the details from a lost time, as if he was able to relive, to grasp them, is probably the part for which Proust and the Recherche are most known and recognized because of the involuntary memory incident but it is, in my opinion, only a detail a pretty one, that changes everything in the painting, no doubt , but still only a drop in the vast ocean he opens before us, inviting us to sail away not that the episode isn t, once again, wonderfully written it receives life while being read, it comes alive out of the book, just like the flowers, the good folk of the village, the parish church, and the whole of Combray came out of his cup of tea But there is still so much to be explored, to be appreciated and that equally deserves recognition this is one in a series of perfect, brilliant moments in the first of seven volumes of a work s life It is not the apex, the climax, although it brings the narrator and to his readers such a sense of happiness but to single out this passage, without what s to come, is to miss the point of Proust s entire work, as the narrator tells us, quietly between parenthesis, thathe did not know yet and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made him so happyJust like him, we must also wait to understand what this passage really meant in his life.With all of his remembrances at hand thanks to that singular taste of madeleine dipped in tea, the narrator then unveils the enchanting, alluring times he spent with his family in the small town of Combray This section Combray, pt 2 is so ravishing and carries such a lovely, warm feeling, perhaps because of the importance that we attribute to those times, because we know the impact it had on us, so it s completely relatable that even though, of course, my childhood memories does not correspond to those remembered and told, I could still feel the magical aura and dive into the book as if I was his best friend visiting at Easter time, listening to aunt L onie s talking with Fran oise and trying to reassure her of her ultimate recovery reading with him in the garden and ultimately glimpsing his ambitions of becoming a writer My favorite part of my vacation was, however, walking with him both on the M s glise and the Guermantes ways these two paths, these two sides, so separated from each other that they even require different doors to be accessed and beginning to understand the implications they would later have in the narrator s fate.The next chapter, Un Amour de Swann is an extensive and intensive , comprehensive analysis of love and all of the feelings that come with it or derive from it, or because of it Proust analyses every aspect of this happy, glowing feeling that can turn into a malady, dissecting everything, putting every action under many different lights and observing them from different perspectives from the very beginning, the reasons love appeared, to how it grew, to how it went sour and faded away It could easily and rightly be called Une tude de l amour instead.This narrative takes place years before the narrator was even born, and it shows us the poignant relationship between Charles Swann and Odette de Cr cy a relationship that will be paralleled by the narrator in years to come mostly everything on Swann s Way is set for important future developments I appreciate how realistic the approach for this love story was like it s happened time and again in many relationships, it begins with both parties involved going besides themselves to please each other, doing things they normally wouldn t, in order to enchant the other, not realizing that they wouldn t be able to act that way forever, to keep those promises and live up to that established pattern, to what has come to be the expected It seems a common behavior to paint oneself in better colors, to be nicer, to be arranged in better lights while in the seduction phase and then, once the work appears to be done, once the goal has been achieved, the lights are dimmed, the cosmetics are off and enters the actor, the true person behind the character while perhaps this actor without the personage wouldn t be as charming and therefore not enough for the enchanting act, after love has happened, it seems he s sufficient to keep it going The effort one made in order to seduce switches sides and becomes the effort the other has to make in order to break up , which seems to be equally as challenging, if not .After Odette landed Swann and he fell for her, she turns cold and distant, leaving him jealous and wary His suspicions become so uncontrollable and consumes every little detail, like an animal who s been hungry for days and, once being fed, eats as much as it can less as a compensation for its starvation than to store food for not knowing when it would be able to eat again Swann s ultimate desire is to possess Odette Possession not only physical but also psychological, of the mind, of the spirit and soul the obsessed lover wants to be inside of Odette s body, to know every single person she knew, talked to or simply met, from past and present times He needs to know her every thought, as if it was possible to detach her scalp and pick up her brain like a woolen ball that, once disentangled, would become a long thread of readable sentences containing all of her opinions and ideas Swann seems so caught up in Odette s spell that freeing himself looksandas something impossible.After shifting back years to the future still in the past though, don t lose yourself , comes chapter 3, the last one Place Names The Name In this section, like in the previous ones, the narrator takes us on a journey through time, beginning with his infatuation for Gilberte Swann s daughter and their play dates on Champs lys es, passing through another moment that displays his poor health and ending while visiting again the Bois de Bologne many years after he went there daily to cross paths with her mother, only this time he is disappointed and melancholic about the passing of time not as much as another jump in time will make him feel though but I m getting too ahead in the narrative, as that only happens in the last volume and the transformations he sees in the Bois and in the women s dresses, their hats and even in the cars What s interesting about this closing chapter is that it gives us, concomitantly, a taste of the past as the book title suggests, the narrator seems to be really walking on Swann s way, or wearing his shoes, for a clearer metaphor, as we can see glimpses of the obsessive, sick love Swann felt for Odette appearing on the young boy s nervous nature, on his reflections about this feeling that are already borderline crazy and also of the future, of what s to become of him and his visions of love, of how he ll evolve and deal with it all throughout his life.Although it may seem we have nothing in common with a seemingly spoiled, nervous child, who lived and grew up in Paristhan a century ago, who breathed art and was constantly surrounded by paintings and classical music and that s the point where my life and his diverges the most, as I was not brought up with a strong art background and didn t have a Swann to walk on his way , still his maxims and reflections are so universal and relatable and one of the things that makes this possible is the fact that this almost anonymous narrator, of whom we have no physical descriptions and that expresses his thoughts by saying I to the point of when you read them out loud they become your own opinions, acting almost as a mirror to ourselves , are so relevant and adaptable to our simple, ordinary, every day situations, that reading him is like reading myself Proust s writing produces recognition I thought this would be a much slower read I planned to let the book dictate its own pace and take as much time as needed to get through this second read, for I had a feeling this was how it would go However, the fluidity of the text don t laugh at me , that does come once you get used to his style and the familiarity with the themes, characters and places ended up speeding things up, even though this time around I made a point of re readingthan once entirely my favorite passages and highlighting all of my favorite quotes For having already read these 3,000 pages of the Recherche once and precisely because of this intimidating length the only promise I made was to re read Swann s Way, although I did feel the lingering desire to re read everything But I imagined that I would be better equipped in making that decision after reading the first volume And now I know I can t stop, I ll proceed with a full re read.There s a film adaptation of Un Amour de Swann from 1984, directed by Volker Schl ndorff and starring Jeremy Irons and Alain Delon Despite its name, it does borrow scenes, characters and episodes from the other volumes, not confiding itself strictly to chapter 2 of this book, so be advised of spoilers As it frequently happens when books are adapted into films, especially ones we know so well, it wasn t quite what I expected and had in mind perhaps I m too influenced by the narrator in finding out things don t live up to my expectations and the real never quite compare to the imagined M Swann I had in mind suffered, struggledthan he did in the film, I missed the raw sentiment I felt while reading the narrative and, of course, many of his analysis and favorite quotes weren t included.Rating I m beyond ecstatic that even though Proust was immoderate with his money, he still had some funds to pay for the publication of this volume that was at first overlooked by publishers but that later became the first part, the seed of many wonderful things yet to grow and delight readers all around the world in the subsequent volumes of this classic masterpiece of literature For a magnificent first volume that I would let s be honest, that I will read yet onetime 5 stars For my re reading experience of the entirela recherche du temps perdu Vol 1 Swann s Way reviewVol 2 In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower reviewVol 3 The Guermantes Way reviewVol 4 Sodom and Gomorrah reviewVol 5 La Prisonni re The Captive reviewVol 6 Albertine disparue The Fugivite reviewVol 7 Time Regained review 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 Memory is a slippery little sucker It constitutes an elusive, transient cache of data, the reliability of which decreases in reverse proportion to the length of time it has been stored It can even be a blatant liar How often have we found ourselves convinced of the details a particular memory only to have those details called into question by some testimony or other of which we have been made newly aware It is almost frightening how quickly and naturally the bytes of our mind can be removed and supplanted by onesconvenient, ones designed to soothe our psyche, thereby allowing us to live at peace with ourselves.Marcel Proust was not a psychologist, but he may as well have been, what with his ridiculous understanding the kids are using the word ridiculous to mean like, way amazing, these days of the fluidity of memory, andspecifically, of involuntary memory, which may or may not be anyreliable than that which is conjured consciously Though we believe a person or a place from our past remains stationary in our idea of them while its true life counterpart adapts and progresses, Proust shows us how memory can have a life of its own, as well And yet when his narrator bites into that famous piece of sponge cake and transports us back to the days of his French childhood, we go willingly, not hesitating to question the accuracy or the validity of his musings Because it doesn t matter When in Proust s world, it is the remarks on human nature and memory and social customs and relationships and whatever else comes with that trip that makes it so worthwhile.The best part of Swann s Way, by far, is the intricate portrayal, from beginning to end view spoiler but evidently not really the end hide spoiler AFTER Okay, well, I really screwed up my schedule this weekend, so now it s the latening am and nothing s happening for me in the sleep department Honestly I can t think of aappropriate time to review this book, which begins with insomnia.This was great It really was Granted, it s not for everyone, but nor is it the rarified hothouse orchid cultured specifically and exclusively for an elite audience of fancy pants dandies with endless supplies of Ritalin and time This book is fascinating and accessible, and, as noted below, quite risqu I adored it, though I m a little worried about singing its praises too loudly, since my low expectations might ve played a role in my love for it.There are two main parts to this book The first half is the narrator s first person reminiscences of being a sensitive little rich boy in the French countryside and, at the end, in Paris This portion contained probably the most incredible writing on the subject of memory and nostalgia that I have ever read in my life.When I was a kid myself, I, like the boy in this book, read a lot This had the result that somewhere around first through third grade, I had an unending stream of first person narrative running through my head at all times, describing all my actions and thoughts in the past tense, just as they happened e.g., I stalked out of the classroom and towards the playground s jungle gym, thinking furiously of Lindsay Kagawa and her treachery in turning the Girls Are Great club against me During that period I often stopped in the middle of what I was doing to contemplate the completely unfeasible logistics of actually writing down the endless novel unfolding in my head in real time Not only could I never remember all the mundane details of my life and thoughts, but this book, were it somehow to be written, would be impossibly long What I thought while reading Swann s Way is that Marcel Proust probably had a similar experience of a novel in his head, only he was a farinteresting child than I was and, muchimportantly, he actually did the impossible and managed to remember all this stuff, and then, somehow, to write it all down Proust s descriptions of the way he experienced and thought of the world as a boy are astonishing He is not writing from a child s perspective, but from that of an adult remembering his childhood in spectacular detail, and the effect is incredible I don t know much about brain science, really, but the vague rumors I ve heard on the street on how they re now saying memory works could not beclearly or gorgeously illustrated than they are in this book.If you re not fascinated by the processes of memory, sensation, aesthetics, identity, social relationships, and desire, this book will bore you out of your skull, unless you re really interested in fancy Belle Epoque French people, in which case, my friend, you are in for a real treat The second part of the book recounts a love affair between the little boy s adult neighbor, M Swann, and the woman of dubious reputation with whom Swann becomes infatuated Maybe there is nothing especially new here it s almost 100 years old, what do you want but I place this novel in an elite class with Anne Carson s Eros the Bittersweet for its absolutely excruciating depiction of desire and love If you re not madly in love right now and are feeling any regrets about that, reading this book will clear that right up, and you ll feel the relief of a clean bill of health after testing for a particularly gruesome disease This Swann in Love portion of the book also is very immersive, in the sense I think Natalie meant in her comment below, in that if you ve never had any idea what it might be like to wear a monocle and have a bazillion francs and footmen and a carriage with horses that takes you around to fashionable Parisian parties where you hang out with princesses and a bunch of other rich French guys also wearing monocles, this book will get you so much closer to that experience than you are likely ever to get, even if you do happen to be insanely wealthy and live in Paris, because as Proust observes I won t quote him here, ya gotta read it yourself the time described in this book is lost, and it is impossible now to return to it.This book did strange things to me, actually It made me crave what I didn t know I had the capacity to want for example, it made me yearn to be outrageously wealthy, preferably in France I ve realized I have all these latent francophilic tendencies I ve never acknowledged to myself, and now all I really want in the world is to go to Paris and stay in an obscenely fancy hotel for a few years and have fabulous clothes and all my every whim catered to imm diatement. And unlimited access to money And suitors And it would be good if it could be the nineteenth century, and I were super hot looking And helpful also if I could actually speak some French Anyway, a visit to the Frick, or the Met, or wherever I can look at some paintings of these ladies who never interested me so much until I heard what they were really up to, is definitely in order Also, I bizarrely enough happened to find myself briefly at Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain s brasserie on Park Avenue, on Friday night, which is definitely not my usual habitat, and the influence of this book was such that I fell into a swoon there while imagining an alternate life for myself in which I spent all my time in Paris, perambulating along the Champs Elys es with violets attached to my bosom, with everything about me and around me extraordinarily beautiful and slow and outrageously expensive.But anyway, well, I d say I m digressing, but in discussing this particular book I suppose there is no such animal Were parts of this slow Parts of this book were reminiscent of the principles of Buddhist mindfulness practice, which is to say, they could be pretty awesome but not necessarily lively, and at times a thoroughly painful bitch to slog through Yes, I cannot tell a lie there were times I d realize I d been stuck on the same paragraph for twenty minutes while my mind wandered off to something totally unrelated, and sometimes I d have to set the thing down and come back to it later This book does require some patience, and it s not a cover to cover thrillfest, no, okay, fine, it isn t HOWEVER, its reputation as a total snooze, or as something just for the heroically literary minded is, IMO, undeserved I see plenty of valid reasons why someone would not get into this book, but if you have any interest in this type of stuff, don t be scared off by discouraging things you might ve heard Yeah, you might not like it, but you might also be pleasantly surprised I sure was I get bored very easily, and I have a hard time sticking with a lot of books, but this one sucked me right in, and was fascinating and satisfying on so many levels The salacious sensory candy munching Jessica who loves Valley of the Dolls had a lot to savor here, as did the slightly brainier one who enjoys thinking about the mechanics of time and memory, and there was besides those things , enough going on here for many of my multiple warring and confused personalities I liked that.So yeah, in closing, I guess I should address the inevitable part versus whole question Swann s Way is a satisfying novel by itself, only not really It did have a very lovely ending and could stand up on its own, except for the fact that I m hooked now, and wantI m not going to begin the next episode anytime soon, because I ve got a bunch of other stuff I d like to read and it can t just be Proust Proust Proust all the time, but I m definitely planning to return to this famously overlong novel at some point in the not too distant future though I m admittedly a bit nervous about this new desire for luxury, especially with the dollar and our economy being what they are If anyone knows a hopelessly wealthy, balding Parisian gentleman who is easily led by boorish, uncouth, immoral women, please feel free to provide me with an introduction at your next salon BEFORE This is one of those books I d never really heard of and definitely never thought about until I joined Bookface I mean, I d heard the name Proust and the word madeleines, but I d never thought too much about all that, and I think I d always sort of gotten Proust mixed up with Borges different, different, yeah, I know as a guy I d never read with a name I wasn t sure how to pronounce More recently, though this novel s acquired a kind of mystique in my mind based on people s reviews on here of it Last night I noticed that my roommate happened to have a copy on her bookshelf, and out of some idly morbid curiosity picked it up, to see if it could possibly be half as dreadful as I imagined.But actually, so far it s incredible So far I m on page 26 , this book is AMAZING Reading the first few pages was like doing yoga, except some kind of turn of the last century Frenchish kind of style, which of course is vastly preferable to the normal way Beginning this book is also like inhabiting somebody else s half awakened mind Cool Maybe the problem with it isn t really this book so much as the idea that it s supposed to be the beginning of a million and a quarter page novel, which is a pretty unappealing thought On its own, though, so far this particular installment seems surprisingly awesome Though, let s be honest here, I am not renowned for my patience, especially in affairs of the page, so let s see how long this infatuation lasts.Anyway, though, v promising beginning Now, of course, I m just waiting for the ACTION to start stay tuned 685 Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel ProustA la Recherche du Temps perdu Du c t de chez Swann la recherche du temps perdu 1 , Marcel Proust 1992 1369 9643054810 1389 20 1 2 At the hour when I usually went downstairs to find out what there was for dinnerI 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 Theyou look at asparagus the odder andwonderful 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 muchthan 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 muchthan 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 comforterI 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 muchenad with him than he is with herShe 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 mannerHer 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 OdetteBut 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 affectionsStanding 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 ZipporahHe realizes that despite his best efforts he is falling in love with her oraccurately of an ideal version of her His resistance has crumbledAnd 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 everSigh 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 OdetteAnd 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 operableIn 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 CambremerOh, 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 lovehe said to himself that people did not know when they were unhappy, that one is never as happy as one thinksI 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 SwannI 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.