Time Regained (book review) by Marcel Proust

201119: well this is conundrum for though it is not like there are no other books to read, the question is- should i try to read it in French? yes say some, no say others- the translations are good enough... cannot decide... i am told to try 'les liaisons dangereuses' by de laclos maybe...


there are two reviews of 'proust', this one i think has everything the other has on 'swann's way'[book:Swann's Way|12750]... maybe? (28 likes here, 12 there...) same difference...


230619: looking at books that are more ‘achievements’ than necessarily ‘great reads’, i decide to focus on this most emblematic former, this we readers can simply announce author’s name and bask in general approval/annoying dismissal (not read in french though? pity...) and feel for few minutes have accomplished something. more than reading real long classic. i am thinking about this, about academic markers in general, because my father must face now losing all those years of knowledge learned, books read, seminars attended or taught, experiments, papers, etc as his alzheimer’s takes this away... is he/was he ever more than the scientist this made him...? and how does this play out for his elder sister my aunt a who is further on the degenerative slide? is she/was she ever more than the author all her work made her? aunt a is ‘alice munro’ so her work remains and i certainly value her... but does she recall recommending all of proust to me? let alone reading it all herself? and should i recommend this long classic to you unknown reviews readers...? for yes i do remember reading it and it has become more than just ‘achievement’ but then that is me... i read a lot...


180119: as many readers will not read the entirety of proust, i have decided to place my series review from volume 7 here at the end of the first book. which is often all most readers ever read and some may argue ever need read to get an understanding/idea of what 'proust' is...


much later later later later later addition: when i read the seven volumes of this kilmartin translation is not clear but sometime in the early 2000s. i feel sudden need to read modern classics and find this on millenium-end lists that includes joyce (who feels still rather an acrostic than novel), musil (said to be like proust?... i do not think so) beckett (whose plays but not novels i really like), james, dos passos, hemingway, faulkner, pynchon, rushdie... so i get carried away and read many of these Important Authors. i am not always pleased. in some ways i like short short novels that are no longer than needed for an idea rather than story to be recounted. 'periera declares' by tabucchi, 'chess story' by zweig etc. vs 'man without qualities' by musil... but after struggling again with and failing again to engage with 'ulysses', i decided to try proust. aunt a (alice munro) told me of course she had read him. then, after a pause, she said 'all of him', so this is reason enough to order him new, to read one volume/month slowly, only because my finances are limited in purchase, not because, at least in this translation, he is particularly difficult to read. i read somewhere that there is another translation with individual author's interpretations according to the voice of each volume, but i never purchase it. i am not sure i want to read him again, or if so maybe rather in french...


so i read this say 18 or so years ago. i did not study it. i only briefly talked with aunt a about it, and certainly to no one else, friends who are like normal people who are not too excited by reading long long books unless maybe they are about wizards or vampires etc. i did think about this book. in france i think the students may study some of this in secondary maybe as in english-speaking countries we read... shakespeare? maybe it has beautiful language. maybe it has culture/place/time-specific references. maybe it is even concise, though that seems against its entire nature. i contrast this with modern and contemporary authors i do really enjoy who are maybe not literary canon 'postman always ring twice' by cain, 'palm wine drinkard' by tutuola, 'solaris' by lem, some that maybe are 'naked lunch' by burroughs, 'jealousy' by robbe-grillet, 'if on a winer's night a traveler...' by calvino, 'the prospector' by le clezio... i have read far too many books. or is that possible. some of which are fourteen novels of 350 pages rather than say one novel of seven volumes of 700 pages. some which i also remember 18 years later and inflect whatever read since. none of which are this book...


so what is 'proust'? i read his work of his writing of his life by his critics but it is the book that matters in the end. the art is the art and everything else is everything else. i am glad to read him. all of him. there is maybe some proud glow of actually finishing him, but this lasts only one or two coffees then like normal people just shake their heads and talk about sports or politics, and give voice to the idea that maybe you should get a real life and not just read those old long literary books from another language... and then the glow is deservedly forgotten. for reading anything of any length is not an accomplishment, though being able to sort of sound like you 'understand' it may count. this book is probably review proof: if you read this site, read much, read many, you will hear of proust and make your own proud decision to tackle him. or not. i am glad aunt a rec's the entire book. so i do not necessarily like obsessive involved endless punctuation. or some empty politics/lack of (but for the dreyfus affair). so i may not immediately see relevance. so interminable emotional self-absorption may be tiring/boring. so there is no great sex, great wars, great loves. and no car crashes and explosions. but i am glad i have read all seven volumes. of course, maybe i am just slow to 'get it' and maybe you do well to read one volume and maybe you have that 'real life' normal people often refer to... all i can say is my rating on completion is sincere. this rating is for me...


this is a short note (061118) if you don’t want to read this long review: so you have finished this book. congratulations. what have you learned? this is a long book. everything you had heard of it is true, but no awards for you yet. now you must read it in french...


this is another much later later later later addition: having fun right now reading a graphic adaptation of volume 1: Swann's Way- review is here: [book:In Search of Lost Time: Swann's Way: A Graphic Novel|25620698], so maybe you want to read this book first or that book first...?


this is another much later later later addition: if i am recalling the very beginning of proust correctly, there is a passage connecting a 'magic lantern' and sleeping disorientation, freedom physical, from temporal, locales, and some indication this dreaming status is what he tries to investigate, offer, recreate for the reader. have been thinking that this obvious claim of fantasy of reality, this escape, is mostly why i read anything. reading er and ws burroughs, thinking about proust, must suggest that it is unvoiced, immaterial, territory of the mind, of moods, of all emotions, which makes me recall pleasure of this read. it has become a part of my life...


this is a much later later addition: i have just been reading works of pulp action-adventure writer er burroughs, some written at the same time, compare, contrast, the experience of reading, the nature of writing, the probable readers addressed. not much overlap. in this book, it is necessary that the reader be appreciative, enjoy, most detailed, most ironic, most endless progression of emotional experience. in burroughs, it is all action all the time, and the emotional terrain is obvious, coherent, unchanging, not ironic in the least. this has been great to sense through these authors exactly how diverse are the world, the cultures, the readers of that era...


this is a later addition: and now now, four years past this review (now six more years...), i am reading a lot, a lot of philosophy, mostly continental, mostly far too 'dry' for most readers and as with heidegger am drawn to read more. now, having read more bergson, some postmodernism, i wonder if there is something else i am missing, there is suspicion that even without learning the language, i might read him again...


first review : i have decided to offer this anecdotal criticism, otherwise known as a review, only now, at time of review about ten years after i read it (early 2000s?), because it seems only now- after having read much other work and so better able to judge it without being simply overwhelmed by scale- that i can characterize the experience...


should readers on completion get some award? do you need to read it all to get the ideas? for it was/is an experience. whether you want to or not, it makes you think. about the long, long, very long, very detailed story, certainly there is much room for thought. but it is how the story is told is what the story is told. have mentioned before that i am not likely to read again unless i learn to read french, as yes apparently each volume has been translated by appropriate voices in another translation than the one i read, to try and capture proust's tone, so i have missed who knows how much language-specific aspects of his work...


after proust there is no such thing as a book that fails simply because it is too long. certainly there are books that are too long for what they offer. there are books that fail to justify their length. in this case, in what proust offers, it does help to be so long. on the other, most people also have a life independent of reading, therefore perhaps limited time to read, perhaps limited expectations of what any book of any length can offer, perhaps only so much thought, reading, meditating, they want to pass on a book. someone i respect greatly (alice munro)(aunt a) says she read the entire book, and i can certainly see how the ongoing topography of close delineation of social being and world, does not resolve here or here or here or even here or here or (this can be seen as a model for her work, as if the threads of stories are untangled and each formed into one of her short stories)... in anything like a climax, a revelation, any sort of conventional plot resolution. (aunt a even in her longer stories, even compiling all her collections, is able to find the right architecture, the right ending, but the 'epiphany' may be the entire story, the entire world, summed up only for that story) i find unlikely the idea proust would have resolved this book had he lived, as the unfinished work is all about the unfinished, the ungrasped, the passage of time without resolution but reverberations of nostalgia. the idea that this lost time is regained through Art, through this book, is believing the author and 'marcel' are the same person...


to judge it maybe you have to read it all: i have read that the title's 'lost time' means more what in english is called 'wasted time'. well yes, that is depending on what you want from a book, just a book, a way to waste time or pass time or lose time or maybe even enjoy time. change your expectations of the usual novel. ask for something different if not better, in some art-quality way. yes, now i have read bergson so understand better the way proust tries to follow him. if you can read his going-to-sleep meditation at the very beginning, revel in his metaphors, enjoy his long, long, very long sentences- there is no problem, only time, only patience, to read the rest...


i do not know if there is such a thing as metaphysical spoilers, but truly having read bergson is useful, though much of proust/marcel's thoughts are enveloped in sensation, nothing like dialectic, like logic, like any arguments, like actual 'philosophy', and you may find you just do not care. who are these people, do they ever do anything, does marcel have no concerns but his fluctuating emotions, can you actually take two hundred pages to describe a dinner party, is there really a great horror that almost every man turns out to be gay or bisexual, is jealousy universal proof of love, is self-deception how to maintain love, is pride and vanity the core of personality, is the dreyfus affair an actual concern or distraction or shorthand for character, what is this theory of involuntary memory and where can i get some, is lying in bed in a cork-lined room any way healthier than chasing after a dismissive, manipulative, possibly lesbian young woman, does everything truly happen at parties...


so, reasons to read. it is not architecture of non-existent plot, not obsessive wordplay, not new language, not just elaborate sentences that deliberately take as long to read as the sense or thought described, but yes it is an entirely different way of seeing, investigating, describing, that lived continuous terrain of emotions and memories. probably his grandmother loves him. probably the verdurins are horrific social climbers. probably it is more important that one central character likes to be whipped, than that an entire generation of young men are dying in a senseless war...


should i ever read it again? well, my copy is seven volumes of about 700 pages each. is it better than say fourteen individual books of 350 pages each? better is a judgement i do not make. different, yes, different than anything you will ever read...

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