I can hardly believe what I’m about to tell you. I have finished the first volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time – Swann’s Way. I thought I had read this years ago, but now having read it through I don’t remember anything after the first part, so I concluded I’d only read the first part. I remembered the magic lantern and the good night kiss, but that was pretty much it. The plan was to spend this year reading the whole thing, but as it took me 4 1/2 months to read the first volume, but I think I picked up speed after the first part. I certainly got more interested once Swann was on the scene and got used to the style.
I thought I had another 50 or so pages to go when I finished it today. The notes took up all the rest. After some early difficulty, (it was slow going for a while) I got more and more into it, But these characters are not like me. Marcel the character could spend hours staring at a church. I wonder how much Marcel the character was like Marcel the author. I bought a biography to maybe find out, but that will have to wait. I don’t like knowing what happens in a book before I read it, even a book like this where it’s not exactly got a plot. We meet young Marcel a highly emotional boy. We meet Swann who knows the family. They don’t like his wife, so he visits them alone. We get to know the family when they are holidaying in Combray. Then we meet Swann before his marriage, when he becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman named Odette, despite her being ‘not his type.’ Then we are back with Marcel who is still in school, but older, living in Paris, and perfectly capable of making himself sick with the power of his emotions, obsessed in his turn with Gilberte. All of this told in an avalanche of detail, a river of prose, you just have to sort of relax and float along. One definitely feels like one has only read part one and doesn’t know quite what to make of it. That any thoughts about it will only be turned on their heads later.
So, I hope I will read the rest of it. That it won’t take as long. That I might also read some other books instead of one incredibly long one, which is really what I think it is. Not six books, but six volumes of one book and it’ll take me years at this rate. I should have mentioned it at the beginning of the year. Maybe gotten a few people to read with me. It’s not too late, I’m sure you could catch up. I’m very slow.