Swann's Way is Marcel Proust's literary masterpiece and is part of the multivolume novel Remembrance of Things Past. In Swann's Way, the author recalls the youth of Charles Swann in the French town of Combray. Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing and at times comic portrait of French society at the close of the19th century and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love. This is now the entire audiobook, not in two parts.
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Proust's writing is perfect and John Rowe's delivery is perfect. settle into Swann's Way (Pt. 1 and Pt 2) as though you were settling into a huge comfy chair with all the time in the world stretched out before you and you will NEVER regret the time spent listening to this version of volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. to the contrary. you will quickly purchase the other volumes, cancel all appointments, turn off the phone, give up on facebook, and listen with awe and keen interest to John Rowe read Marcel Proust. what more could a book and an audiobook deliver?! the time is most definitely not lost. ohmygoodness.
How can I write a review of Proust’s seminal work without sounding like some kind of blabbering idiot? This is one of the most profound books in all of literature. My goal this year was to read 80 books but I could spend an entire year reading, rereading and pondering between the covers of just this one masterpiece. Of this the Publisher’s Summary: “In this first part, Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing, and, at times, comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century, and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love.” That’s almost as bad as anything I could write. The book was at times about a profound vision of obsessive love to be sure but it was so much more. About French society at the close of the 19th century? Maybe; I wouldn’t know; I hardly noticed. For me, the book stood out for its words, the use of words, the language, the prose itself. That was the layer I got stuck in and never seemed to have emerged from. The words were often melodious; sentences were fraught with musicality. Though nothing exactly like a poem, the words did flow in a rhythm but more like that of the ocean’s rise and fall, a natural ebb and flow, not like that of the forced meter of a poem.
Within the chapters, one could contemplate or meditate for extended periods of time on singular sentences. And what sentences some of them were. Some were the longest I have ever encountered in any book but they always made sense and always stood perfectly as they were. And no, Sister Mary (grammar school English composition teacher), they were never run-on sentences. The author never takes such license. The description of a meditation only begins to purport Proust’s familiar visions rooted in the here and now. These seemingly endless sentences had the effect of drawing me in to the fathomless depths of the space between two breaths.
Obviously, it was, at least for me, not a book to be taken lightly or read nonchalantly. It was a book that at times required a certain dedication to and enthusiasm for to read. This is not a book for everyone but one that everyone interested in great literature should at least attempt. Had it not been summer and my workload less than strenuous, I might not have appreciated this book as much as I did. For me, I had to pay attention but when I did, it was a trip into my mind that only a few authors have had the ability to take me on.
Having read and now listened to this volume, I found the experiences to be quite different and each with its own merit. With a book in hand, I could more easily reread passages. With an audiobook, it sometimes felt like I could more easily internalize and be transported by both author and narrator. The narrator, in this case John Rowe, was nothing shy of outstanding in his delivery. I am so glad that he is available for the remainder of the series.
In the interest of time and space and because I could never do justice in a review to the writing’s of this master, the following is an excerpt from perhaps the most often quoted part of the book on remembering the taste of a pastry and tea. The rest of the passage can be found here:
“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?
I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, then a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself. The drink has called it into being, but does not know it, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a progressive diminution of strength, the same message which I cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call it forth again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.”