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Reviewing 'Sodom and Gomorrah' puts me in an awkward spot. What are the risks of looking back obliquely on Proust's fourth volume of 'In Search of Lost Time' (ISOLT)? Will any indirect reference to Proust's army of inverts turn me into a pillar of salt? Will I disquiet my friends and my family with funky quotes from Proust's salon-centric novel?
It is hard to grab this one volume and grade or inspect it separate from the previous three, and seems premature to attempt to capture the full body of ISOLT before finishing the next three. Still, having read/listened 2700+ pages /102 hours of Proust now, I can still feel confident in saying that the guy is brilliant, weird, distressing, mesmerizing, queer, petulant, boring, beautiful, raving, labyrinthine, decadent, lyrical, perverse, funky, banal, and that is just a sampling of my feelings about Proust on just one of his d@mned pages.
But this is a novel that once started, must be finished. It is also a novel that needs to be eaten in discrete and slow chunks. I'm not sure it is possible to eat an entire wheel of Leerdammer by oneself, or to drink an entire hogshead of wine, or to read Proust's ISOLT all the way through. It is brilliant, but needs to be consumed in small graceful quantities, preferably with your pinky sticking out.
27 of 31 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes. The narration is excellent in every respect, which is a considerable achievement given the novel. Neville Jason renders the very long sentences comprehensible, does different characters without overdoing the distinctions, and transmits the writing beautifully, which can only be so if he understood himself - again no mean feat
What did you like best about this story?
There's no need to review Proust.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No one has read this work in one sitting.
Any additional comments?
I have much less difficulty in reading this work via audiobook than by sight.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I read the first hundred pages in Mallorca in August 2014 and again set aside until re-visiting the same spot again at the end of October 2014. The fourth volume seems to be the spot where others have stumbled. I found that the answer to this one is to fill a few days with the very best that life has to offer - in my case a full cooked breakfast, beautiful sunshine in the best October temperatures in Mallorca in thirty years, sea swimming every day, good coffee and an afternoon ice=cream, grilled king prawns, simply fried mackerel and an entrecôte to round things off. In this context the extended reading marathons just topped up the feeling of good living that I managed to engender all week.
I have to say that the Charlus and Jupien encounter was a jarring counterpoint to what has gone before - but only insofar as the judgmental solemnising that is set down after the event rings with an out of place hypocrisy. The unwritten Gomorrhe of Albertine’s adventures were all the more enjoyable for Proust’s lightness of touch and certainly, when Charlus rejoined the happy social band and took up the baton of conversation and counterpoint, I was the happiest camper on the sunbed.
I decided that complementary good living is the only way to get through the final two volumes and so will postpone my next adventure in Proust until I can re-assume the posture - February 2015 and looking forward to Tenerife already!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I love Proust.
Around ten years ago I started reading ”Time" from the beginning, as fervently as I had ever read anything. But I remember that when I reached what really is the fifth volume in Proust after a few months I ran out of steam and never recovered to finish the project.
I started listening to the unabridged audiobook versions last autumn just as fervently for three months. And again I somehow hit the rocks with this volume. Perhaps I was just so saturated with Proust I couldn’t take it any more.
Unsurprisingly surprisingly, this is my least favourite volume so far, yet such a statement should be placed in its proper context, that is, taking into account that Proust even at his "worst" is as good as literature gets. Not that "Sodom and Gomorrah" isn’t psychologically masterful, and not that the language isn’t as beautiful as ever. Not that the themes of homosexuality and being Dreyfusard or anti-Dreyfusard wouldn’t be expertly conducted, both the kind of social taboos to make one lose all standing in society. This all Proust uses to great effect in exploring what I perceive to be at the core of his grand work: identity not as something that is, in the objective sense of the word, but rather as perceived and interpreted. Perceived in the sense that not only are we given an identity in our social sphere, we also assume one for different contexts. Interpreted in the sense that what we take on is a character, a role that abides to certain norms, often unsaid, but which, when broken, become apparent as reasons of disdain.
Yet somehow, despite its wonderful treasures, it just doesn’t connect with me. I think it’s because I was coming from a very intensive Proustian period and it was just too much, especially since ”The Guermantes Way” is, so far, my favourite volume, as perfect as a book can be, and I’m more than willing to return to this when I finally finish the series (at this writing I’m two-thirds through ”The Captive”).
1 of 1 people found this review helpful