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My first recommendation when reading Proust is the reader MUST make sure they have a reliable bookmark, because when (not if, but when) you lose your place your faulty memory will not be able to remember exactly where you just were. One young nubile girl starts to blend into another young nubile girl who looks at this point a lot like her friend. One picked flower starts to smell like another from an earlier page; a page that seemed to exist a whole lifetime ago. One young man with mommy issues starts to look almost exactly like another young man with grand-mommy issues.
That being said, you don't read Proust for the lines. You read Proust for everything else. It is those moments between plot points where all the rich texture resides. There is something languorous about just simply letting Proust's prose wash over you ~~~ wave after wave. Suddenly, you really don't care if you've already read a certain page because you are content and you recognize that you will read it again in just a few pages anyway and it will be beautiful and true all over again.
Neville Jason's narration is a fantastic crutch. I use the narration to keep me paced as I read the text. I tried this approach first with Joyce and it worked so well I used it with Pynchon. The listening/reading approach is perfect for Proust.
21 of 23 people found this review helpful
If one is not emotionally repulsed by the snobbery and pretentious French world at the time of the Dreyfus affair described within this book than one probably is missing out on what the author is trying to get at. Volume I needs to be read in order to follow what's going on in this book. The first fourth of the book wraps up the story from the previous volume. Marcel, the narrator's, name is not mentioned in this book and is only briefly mentioned in the first book. The maternal grandmother doesn't even recall Marcel's family name when polite convention required it. I'm intrigued by Odette (Swann's wife) and I'm anxious to see how she comes back into the story. This story mostly covers a season at a resort and how Marcel would reflect on how he experienced falling in love. Our memories are shaded by who we have become and the author illustrates that by his story telling.
Proust could best be shelved under Philosophy or Psychology rather than Literature. Our experiences of the world are determined by what our prior beliefs were weighted by our expectations of what we thought was going to happen discounted by what actually did happen. Or in other words, we are all Bayesians. Proust gets that and will show how we always are extrapolating from the past into our interpolation of the 'now' and projecting a future. Sartre quotes Proust extensively in his 'Being and Nothingness' for a reason. (Though, I seriously doubt Proust would have thought of himself as an Existentialist if he had lived into the 1940s, but I suspect he would have been comfortable with the Phenomenologist label in the style of Gadamar as laid out in 'Truth and Method'. One gets the similar lessons in each book, but Proust reads like a story instead of reading like a dry philosophy text book).
Almost every other page in this book has a wry observation or two on being-in-the-world and the story is only acting as a pretense in order for the reader to understand deeper truths about being human. The world is not best experienced by atomization (that's a Nietzsche word and sentiment and the author within this book refers to Nietzsche many times). The totality of the whole through our familiarity of our being-in-the-world is how we must cope with our understanding about our own taking a stand on our own being. Even though, we are constantly in a Bayesian trap (the author doesn't use the word Bayesian but he continuously describes how we create our experiences in those terms).
One of the wry observations the author made is that even though we may dream about animals, animals are different from humans because they have reason with certainty and humans have reason without certainty. It's not important if one agrees with that sentiment (though, I do, and it's actually one of the better definitions I've seen for what makes humans different from animals), what is fascinating about this book is it has many psychological insights that are worth pondering. Another observation, when our inclinations are formed or discovered in our youth if we deny those inclinations latter in life we will be inauthentic to ourselves and much the less for it. The author was specifically referring to himself as a writer but it's easy to generalize that sentiment in to other areas.
It's our phrases (scrapes of music, works of art, or lines in a book) that make up our life and give us our understanding for the sublime. A real artist needs to break the mimetic trap from which we our thrown into the world and break free from the imitation of the 'they'. The narrator, Marcel, believes that a great piece of art such as a great book can help us move beyond the herd mentality of the they and allow us to transcend (he'll say that or equivalently in the narrative). There are a lot of deep thoughts within this book, but one needs to discover them for oneself and just be aware that this book does not read like 'The Girl on the Train' because it has something it wants to give to the reader beyond mere mindless repetition of stale story telling.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I can’t get enough of Proust, and thanks to this monumental feat of audio recording, I don’t have to. What makes him so wonderful is his wonderful sense of humour and acute sense for human psychology. Not psychology in some sort of distant, academic sense, but pragmatic, observational and projective, where he not only sees things around him and is able to analyze through them the human condition, but also the marvellous clear-sightedness where he’s able to write about “himself” (inasmuch as we want to see the narrator as the author, something this work effortlessly embraces) as the object of critique. His irony, sometimes near-impenetrable, encloses whole conversations, that only afterwards one realizes have been written down in jest.
The second part in the series, “Within a Budding Grove”, (again, this is Moncrieff’s title, the correct translation of the French “À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs” rather being “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower” – as a sidenote, it’s good to know since the theme is played upon in the book) is slightly more difficult to appreciate than the sublime first volume, “Swann’s Way”.
I say “more difficult to appreciate”, which one may interpret as a coward’s way of saying “bad”, simply because while it’s a brilliant work, Proustian all the way through, it’s a step down from the wonders of the first volume, and for that matter, from the following volume. The first part, “Around Mrs Swann” ("Autour de Mme Swann"), is wonderful, but I can’t relate much to the Balbec episode, that is, "Place Names: The Place" ("Noms de pays: Le pays"). Perhaps it’s because we already have the archetype of Albertine in Mrs Swann that much of it feels rather rehearsed.
Neville Jason continues to amaze. Someone somewhere (vague enough for you?) described Jason’s ability to make Proust’s often quite complex sentences clear with his articulation and pace. He’s such a joy to listen to, and I’m completely sold on the prospect of listening to his “War and Peace” whenever I finish “Time Regained”.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
This is my first ' read' this far into Proust and I loved the story and the poetry of some the passages is so beautifully musical that I will be returning to listen again like one wood to a symphony, after I have finished volume six!