Father of three. Film enthusiast, literature buff. English and Italian teacher.
To some extent writing about a single book in Marcel Proust's seven-part "À la recherché du temps perdu", more accurately translated as "In Search of Lost Time" but in Moncrieff's translation having the title "Remembrance of Things Past", is actually writing about the whole series. But since I am listening to the whole of it, I'll be writing about them individually as well.
I'm by no means unfamiliar with Proust, having read seven tenths of it in Finnish, my first language, in which it has been released in ten volumes instead of the original seven ("Swann's Way" is divided in two volumes, as is "Within a Budding Grove" and "Guermantes' Way"). It'll be, then, a nice experience to return to it and ultimately go all the way.
Proust's writing works wonderfully in the audiobook format. The way his language builds up, all the allegories and metaphors stacked upon each other and how the currents of thought swerve having been recalled by any minute detail, all this works beautifully when one reads the book but exceptionally well when one is read to. In this respect Neville Jason's narration is superb. He takes his time, not procrastinating but certainly not hurrying.
Equally importantly his reading brings out the humour in Proust. And what a hoot this book really is! The dinner party at Combray and a certain episode about complementing the wine brought by Swann is hilarious on page and is really brought to life when heard out loud. Many other instances work just as wonderfully, including the Verdurin episodes in all their glorious absurdity.
And then there's Swann himself and his love and infatuation for Odette. At the same time fervent, life-affirming, destructive and inescapable, the irrationality with which Proust paints Swann's actions, or rather, the movements of his soul, only reinforces the believability of his neurotic obsession. His story is framed by the Narrator's own insecurity in love, first toward his mother at Combray, then for Gilberte.
I know how I'll be spending my next credits.
Keeping this short, there's hardly much I might add with any elaborate analysis to the wonder that is Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude". It's funny, and I mean laugh-out-loud funny, it's emotionally draining; exquisitely written, both poetic and perceptive, it's full of great characterization, all sorts of interesting turns of events and all this narrated with precise, economically beautiful language.
The audiobook was delayed, for some reason, and only released this year. John Lee's narration seems to draw the ire of many, but I for one absolutely loved his reading. True, at first I was shocked – the ebb and flowing of his sentences felt idiosyncratic and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. But I continued listening, and very soon I found myself acknowledging that Márquez's narration is just as idiosyncratic, if not more. I was enticed by the words and the voice. In the end I was so involved I was sad when I was finished.
I think this is a wonderful audiobook, not only because the book is among my all-time favorites, but also because of Lee's performance. I've never heard any of his audiobooks before, and he sounds a bit like a musing Hugo Weaving or a Raul Hilberg. This book sold me on the idea of finding more works read by him.
Originally published in two parts, the third part of Proust's mammoth work is equally gigantic in its audiobook form (it's 28 hours long). Yet whereas I found the second part, "Within a Budding Grove", a step down in form, this is as brilliant as they come.
Two things stand out. Firstly, The first part of the volume includes not only remarkably penetrating wit, which Proust has in abundance, but also the most devastasting tableau of sickness, withering and death. His wrenching clear-sightedness and the ability to verbalize borders on medically objective descriptiveness at times, and passionately emotional at others.
Secondly, Monsieur de Charlus. He is a fantastically written character, a monomaniac of epic proportions with paroxysms of repressed aggression that transcend even Ahab's biblical ravings.
I think it was Nabokov who described Proust's chief d'oeuvre as "fantasy" (again, I think he preferred to the first half of the seven-part work), a definition befitting Proust's fantastical sense of reality, not only his own but that of his contemporaries and characters. What makes Proust so wonderful a teacher of human character is his ability to see beyond this reality and reach to the conditional, the possible, as well as the impossible; imagined conversations that we project onto characters, conversations that never took place that still define social relations. In short, all the stuff human culpability in falsely attributing characteristics to other people based on misinterpretation, it's all here.
Proust doesn't give any answers, that's for sure, but he's the most acutely clear-sighted observer of our condition in Western literature since Shakespeare has offered. Okay, fine praise and just the kind of name-dropping and hyperbole that says absolutely nothing other than emphasizing my enthusiasm for Proust. But I can't help it, the familiar memes that we recycle over and over again are the only things in my disposal that I can throw at you. I'll stop raving now and instead go listen the next volume, "Sodom and Gomorrah".
[I finished listening to this in early September but only had time to post this review now]