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Comments for Swann's Way
When I finished my weekly posts of my reading of Ulysses I asked on Twitter which book I should do next. The answer was a resounding In Search of Lost Times by Marcel Proust. It seemed to me like the perfect choice. It took me 19 weeks to finish the first volume, Swann's Way.
In Search of Lost Times is like Don Quixote, written and published over a number of years and revised and translated. In the case of Don Quixote the book is manageable with onionskin paper to be squeezed into one thick volume (even with all the illustrations). Not Proust's work though. It's massive. It makes The Lord of the Rings look like a short story. The Modern Library edition that I'm reading offers the seven volumes in six. As there are seven distinct titles, I will treat Proust's oeuvre as seven separate books instead of one massive novel. I'm not doing this for scholarly reasons, just convenience.
In Swann's Way there are two stories. There's the one of a young boy growing up among important and well known adults, aristocrats, artists and other celebrities. As a young child he is in awe of the adults around him. When the book closes and he has grown into young adulthood he sees his heroes with a better understanding of human nature. The person who brings about the end of his hero worship is Charles Swann.
Most of this six hundred page volume is centered on Charles Swann and his courtship with Odette. She though isn't the idealized vision of beauty and sophistication he thinks she is. She is his equal in temperament, vanity and vices. She is best and worst thing that could possibly happen to Swann.
I have a brand new copy of Within a Budding Grove which I am now working my way through. I suspect it will be another five months to finish this volume.
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