Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th-century literature. Neville Jason's widely praised abridged version has rightly become an audiobook landmark, and now, upon numerous requests, he is recording the whole work unabridged which, when complete, will run for some 140 hours.
Swann's Way is the first of seven volumes and sets the scene with the narrator's memories being famously provoked by the taste of that little cake, the madeleine, accompanied by a cup of lime-flowered tea. It is an unmatched portrait of fin-de-siècle France.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBooks
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.
This is undoubtedly a great classic, though one that requires patience and concentration. It's all in the detail and minutiae, the process of remembering and trying to capture fleeting impressions and feelings from the narrator's childhood and then the perspective of Swann. The canvas is small but the detail incredibly rich, like a Persian miniature, and for the audiobook, Neville Jason does a great job to narrate with unflagging passion and feeling over such a sustained period. I must confess, however, that I drifted off quite often, and found it hard to maintain interest compared to other books where a more muscular plot pulls you along without effort. On the upside, it's split into 10 minute sections so you can swallow it down like medicine once or twice a day before switching to something easier going.
Memory and time.
Swann - fascinating to see his character develop over the course of the book and how his relationship with Odette turns out.
It would be invidious to choose. The book needs to be taken as a whole (and as part of the overall series). It is not just about "scenes", but interpretations and re-interpretations and linkages and philosophical and social musings.
A long book (and series) so pacing is important. Audio allowed me to race (relatively speaking) through the whole series as I could listen while walking, on trains etc.
It deserves its high reputation. Some, but relatively few, longeurs once you accept the way the book unfolds and get into the flow which becomes addictive. The central themes are as relevant now as when written. I was not sure how I would take to Neville Jason after hearing the free taster. He rapidly grew on me and gives what I think is an outstanding, nuanced performance, with appropriate characterisation. Clear and warm diction, easy to understand and follow as complex, long sentences were worked through with sufficient forward momentum. His voice is now Marcel Proust for me!
Tried 3 times to get past the first chapter; fell asleep twice and the third time I found myself screaming at my player. It felt akin to being stuck on a long haul flight sitting next to a double glazing salesman from Slough with a penchant for mid 20th century bus tickets.
If you want or need a 'story' or 'plot' of any kind, steer clear of Proust. A multilayered series of extraordinarily long sentences on the minutiae of memory, conversation, thought and human experience is what we have here. If you know what to expect this is an excellent reading.
This hurt. After years of my philosophy lecturers and literary heroes hammering me to read this I thought I'd give it a try in audio form. After 10 hours (which beats most attempts in a page-to-hour comparison with most folks) I gave in. Its not hard or complex or dense. Its just painfully flowery and dull. Perhaps it was the smug brown tones of the narrator, but I can't accept that any great novel could include a whole repetitious section on how hilarious it is when someone forgets that its Saturday, or that any human (fictional or real) could really give that much of a toss about asparagus. Precisely how many auntie foes this guy have anyway? And do the all have roughly the same personality, just as every male he knows seems to be surly?
I'd say I've wasted 10 hours, but I've saved myself a lifetime by knowing I won't read the other volumes.
"Writing and narration at its best"
My encounter with Proust's great work commenced ten years or so ago, when I purchased a six-volume version in hardcopy. An acquaintance and I would commiserate with each other, from time to time, on our lack of progress; intimidated no doubt by Proust's reputation for long sentences.
Then at a sale I bought two volumes of a 12-volume (abridged) Naxos audiobook on CD. I fell in love with the audiobook and Neville Jason's narration. I was surprised to find that Proust is such a good writer that it was a good listening experience even with most of the book missing.
The next step I took was to subscribe to the audiobook online where I had to download the next section every ten minutes or so. I had access to the full abridged work and it was cheap. But it was very tedious.
An introductory offer ito Audible.com is allowing me to get the full unabridged version at a price I can afford and in a convenient MP3 format. Swann's Way is surely one of the great audiobooks; and that's just the first volume of seven.
Absolutely captivating and stunning. The narration is outstanding - a delight to listen to and extremely well modulated. Do not allow pre-conceived notions regrading Proust hinder your taking this most worthy journey...cannot wait to continue the series.
"Not a book one reads but inhabits & floats through"
For years, I have put off reading Proust mainly because the size of In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past seemed intimidating. Now, having finished Swann's Way: Vol 1, I feel a compelling need to keep going.
This novel is preoccupied with all the details that surround time, desire, love, memory, happiness, life, truth, names and relationships. It is vivid, detailed and reminds the reader to look, feel, grab, smell, think, confess, and take big risks to grow that one perfect, mystic blossom of love.
Proust's prose is beautiful, his imagery is brilliant and he seems to swing for the fence on every page. This is not a book one reads, but one inhabits and floats through. But first one must find and dip your own Madeleine.
Neville's reading is brilliant.
“Remembrance of Things Past” is referred to in Haruki Murakami’s recent book, “1Q84”, as a book that is rarely read because of its interminable length. It is chosen by Murakami’s bodyguard-character as reading material for “1Q84”’s female hero while she is hiding in a safe-house. One wonders why Murakami chooses “Remembrance of Things Past”. The answer is clear in “Swann’s Way”. “Swann’s Way” exemplifies the quality of classic books; i.e. readership longevity and life’s universality.
By telling a story, Proust is showing why and how people should be accepted for who they are; not whom one thinks they should be. Swann begins to see Odette as an independent human being; albeit a toxic companion for his life, but one that, if loved, should be loved for who she is, not what Swann thinks or wants her to be.
This interpretive insight, whether right or wrong, is an example of why Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” is a classic. A classic resonates in some way with whoever reads it, based on their human inheritance and life experience. Even if this critic’s insight is wrong, Proust writes beautifully, with detail and intelligence that are classic values in themselves.
"Neville Jason brings this book to life"
Yes - this is a story that is both easy to listen too and densely rich with detail. I read the entire Search of Lost Time over ten years ago and of course have forgotten much of it, so this audio version has been a great way to get reacquainted - and to discover meaning and significance that I overlooked the first time.
I know that each additional listen will reveal yet more meaning and connections between characters, places and events.
Neville Jason has perfect pace and delivery. And most importantly for a book of this size and complexity, he has the talent and vocal dexterity to give each character a unique and engaging voice.
The text is the earlier translation, so can seem a little precious at times, but Neville Jason's delivery is so good that it stays fresh and alive.
"Neville Jason superbly navigates Proust"
The narrator understands what he is saying and superbly navigates his way through Proust's endless sentences.
The dipping of the cake into the tea, of course. That is the "most memorable" because everybody who has head about the book knows about that scene already -- and almost nothing else about the 2,500,000 words in "In Search of Lost Time."
All are superb and not to be forgotten.
Surely you jest! It's very, very long.
So this is beautiful. The language is beautiful. The structure is beautiful. The narration is beautiful. But it gets really, really boring to listen to. Like being fed constantly on perfectly ripe strawberry's dipped in rich cream. Lovely for a while but then it starts to wear thin after a few hours.
I set out on this thinking, "Great - another classic to get under the belt" but while I made my way all the way through this volume I gave in halfway through the next. "Rememberance..." is clearly not for me. I listened fo 7+ hours to the story of a mans life and realised that at the end of it I could not care less what happened to him. I just found myself thinking that Twain or Hemmingway would have given me just as much information and just as much pleasure in about half a page and 5 minutes of narration. And yes - I know that makes me a philistine but I don't care.
The narration is very clear and a pleasure to listen to but the text is just too windy for my tastes.
"Great narration for the male parts"
One of the greatest books and on the whole well read. Horrible narration of all female parts though. Why does he make all women in this book sound like imbeciles? It is still worth getting despite this annoying issue.
My only complaint: I wish he had slowed down the reading a bit when delivering the philosophical treatises. It's so much to take in one needs more time. Thank you to Neville Jason for his wonderful performance.
"Only Worth Reading When You Have Plenty of Time"
Proust has much to say about relationships and the inner voice that so often guides one. He does so with beautiful writing and descriptions; however, I am discouraged from reading more at this time of the remaining books because it simply takes too much concentration, compared to what one learns. Tolstoy is more my taste. Great insights about Life and relationships, with excellent story telling. It is the later I certainly miss in Proust.
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