The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust (Volume III of RoTP/ISoLT)

Volume III of Remembrance of Things Past / In Search of Lost Time

 

From 1001 Books:

"It has often been said that the importance of Marcel Proust's monumental novel lies in its pervasive influence on twentieth-century literature, whether because writers have sought to emulate it, or attempted to parody and discredit some of its traits. However, it is equally important that readers have enjoyed the extent to which the novel itself unfolds as a dialogue with its literary predecessors.

Remembrance of Things Past, (or In Search of Lost Time) is the daunting and fashionable three-thousand-page 'story of a literary vocation,' on which Proust worked for fourteen years. In it, he explores themes of time, space, and memory, but the novel is above all a condensation of innumerable literary, structural, stylistic, and thematic possibilities. The most striking one is the structural device whereby the fluctuating fortunes of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy from the mid-1870's to the mid-1920's are narrated through the failing memories of an aspiring writer, Marcel, who succumbs to many distractions. This defect of memory entails misperceptions of all sorts, partly corrected, bringing rare moments of joy by the faculty of 'involuntary' memory. These moments of connection with the past are brought about by the contingent encounters in the present, which reawaken long-lost sensations, perceptions, and recollections. It is these moments that give the novel its unique structure, which, no doubt more than any other novel, calls for careful reading. Appropriately, the publication of this epic novel in French is still evolving, as scholars continue to work on notes and sketches. The novel has also recently attracted new translators into English, long after the translation into English between 1922 and 1930. Proust's 'mass of writing,'as it has sometimes been described, continues to expand."

It's about time. And don't pay too much attention to what it says above. Pay attention not to structure, but to sensation. Digression is the very technique which is being used here. The structure is just a road map, so that at times we may return to the main route we are meant (or are trying) to follow. But life is about going down the 'road not taken.'

 

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