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 ..Show More »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.
This is Proust at a gallop. Simon Vance has a pleasant voice and articulates beautifully, but reads far too fast. No time to relish the words or enjoy..Show More » the thought; the narrative has already left me behind. Don't buy this version. It's exhausting.
Proust's writing is exquisitive. This is the most consuming, sensual, imagery-dense novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The novelist's insi..Show More »ght and understanding of human nature is compelling. I want to live in France and drink tea and eat madeleines, while reading this over and over again.
John Rowe's narration is glorious (I listened as I read the book). Rowe made a dense text captivating and accessible. I could listen to him reading for many more hours.
I can’t get enough of Proust, and thanks to this monumental feat of audio recording, I don’t have to. What makes him so wonderful is his wonderful sen..Show More »se of humour and acute sense for human psychology. Not psychology in some sort of distant, academic sense, but pragmatic, observational and projective, where he not only sees things around him and is able to analyze through them the human condition, but also the marvellous clear-sightedness where he’s able to write about “himself” (inasmuch as we want to see the narrator as the author, something this work effortlessly embraces) as the object of critique. His irony, sometimes near-impenetrable, encloses whole conversations, that only afterwards one realizes have been written down in jest.
The second part in the series, “Within a Budding Grove”, (again, this is Moncrieff’s title, the correct translation of the French “À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs” rather being “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower” – as a sidenote, it’s good to know since the theme is played upon in the book) is slightly more difficult to appreciate than the sublime first volume, “Swann’s Way”.
I say “more difficult to appreciate”, which one may interpret as a coward’s way of saying “bad”, simply because while it’s a brilliant work, Proustian all the way through, it’s a step down from the wonders of the first volume, and for that matter, from the following volume. The first part, “Around Mrs Swann” ("Autour de Mme Swann"), is wonderful, but I can’t relate much to the Balbec episode, that is, "Place Names: The Place" ("Noms de pays: Le pays"). Perhaps it’s because we already have the archetype of Albertine in Mrs Swann that much of it feels rather rehearsed.
Neville Jason continues to amaze. Someone somewhere (vague enough for you?) described Jason’s ability to make Proust’s often quite complex sentences clear with his articulation and pace. He’s such a joy to listen to, and I’m completely sold on the prospect of listening to his “War and Peace” whenever I finish “Time Regained”.
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..Show More » 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]
Around ten years ago I started reading ”Time" from the beginning, as fervently as I had ever read anything. But I remember tha..Show More »t when I reached what really is the fifth volume in Proust after a few months I ran out of steam and never recovered to finish the project.
I started listening to the unabridged audiobook versions last autumn just as fervently for three months. And again I somehow hit the rocks with this volume. Perhaps I was just so saturated with Proust I couldn’t take it any more.
Unsurprisingly surprisingly, this is my least favourite volume so far, yet such a statement should be placed in its proper context, that is, taking into account that Proust even at his "worst" is as good as literature gets. Not that "Sodom and Gomorrah" isn’t psychologically masterful, and not that the language isn’t as beautiful as ever. Not that the themes of homosexuality and being Dreyfusard or anti-Dreyfusard wouldn’t be expertly conducted, both the kind of social taboos to make one lose all standing in society. This all Proust uses to great effect in exploring what I perceive to be at the core of his grand work: identity not as something that is, in the objective sense of the word, but rather as perceived and interpreted. Perceived in the sense that not only are we given an identity in our social sphere, we also assume one for different contexts. Interpreted in the sense that what we take on is a character, a role that abides to certain norms, often unsaid, but which, when broken, become apparent as reasons of disdain.
Yet somehow, despite its wonderful treasures, it just doesn’t connect with me. I think it’s because I was coming from a very intensive Proustian period and it was just too much, especially since ”The Guermantes Way” is, so far, my favourite volume, as perfect as a book can be, and I’m more than willing to return to this when I finally finish the series (at this writing I’m two-thirds through ”The Captive”).
I have only recently returned to the endeavour through Proust that I began last autumn. Probably due to oversaturation I had to stop after ”Sodom and ..Show More »Gomorrah”. But now, returning, it’s like I had never been away. Neville Jason’s perfect narration, the flow of Proust’s language and his deep insight into humanity are a trove of delightful treasures.
In my review of the previous volume, I spoke of the pervading theme in Proust that somehow speaks to me the most in this time and place in my life: the sense of identity and how it’s formed, not only in our eyes but in others’, as well. Proust is, in this respect not only an incomparable psychologist but also a most gifted creator of character and circumstance. His characters pretend to be something they’re not, and in fact this pretense might be their uttermost reality. How we lie to each other and ourselves, then.
A wonderful experience to be lived and relived, the fifth volume in Proust’s heptalogy and the first part of what the author envisaged as ”The Albertine Novel”, ”The Captive” (”La Prisonnière”) was published in 1923, following Proust’s death of pneumonia and pulmonary abscess in November of the previous year. It’s thus the first of the three remaining volumes that, because of the varying states of (in)completeness, are under critical textual study. Moncrieff’s translation, the one used in these audiobooks, is, in this respect, an old one that is unable to take into account all the textual advancements, yet from what I understand it’s not a deal-breaker at all in the sense that it would somehow befuddle the reader/listener of Proust.
I’m nearing the end of a journey I’ll be sad to see end, but just the same I’m sober enough to admit that Proust, for better and worse, is not very di..Show More »ssimilar to something like marmalade: delicious in small quantities, but a stomach ache if gorged too much in too little time.
One ever-present theme in Proust is that of absence: absence of emotion, loyalty, social status, or whatever the currency. In ”The Fugitive,” aptly named ’Albertine disparue’ in the original French, is a very strong work, regardless of its incomplete state at the time of Proust's death. There is most certainly some sense of definitiveness in the way things are going, akin to a centripetal force that has been pulling us toward, and finally we realize we're almost there.
There's one aspect of Proust's writing I'd like to address here and that I haven't done elsewhere. It has to do with his ability to write lengthy prose poems and internalized flows of language without us realizing where we are, exactly. He might not set us in any place in particular, merely starts on his journey into the memory, and then we might pop up in a particular place. Or not. The effect is mesmerizing, and fits Proust's odyssey into the depths of memory and subjective experience and interpretation. That's a good reminder also when we are firmly set in a surroundings: we are never in an objective space that exists or existed for all, but in a reconstruction.
I started listening to ”Swann’s Way” in August 2013, and I’m expecting to finish ”Time Regained” by the turn of the year. I am constantly amazed by the high quality of the audiobook project, and Neville Jason’s unerring passion and expertise in delivering this wonderful work of art to us in this medium. When I’m done with Proust, I’m most definitely embarking on the Tolstoy Way, perhaps after a detour or two.
What can I say that hasn't been already stated in the reviews I've written for the other six volumes? I started listening to "The Swann's Way" in June..Show More » 2013, and now, 2 years and 5 months later, the sense of despair that had first replaced that initial sense of excitement and ambition is long gone. There's the sense of sadness, like seeing a loved one leave, or that sense of grateful, reverential awe one might feel when looking at the stars at night, and wondering about our smallness in the vastness of space and the universe.
"In Search of Lost Time" is an impossible work, so accessible in its inaccessibility, a marvel to behold, let alone think that it exists at all, that there was a man like Proust to create art like it.
There's so much enjoyment in not only the universally grand but the minutiae of a moment that it's like reading a vast catalog of humanity and still facing a haiku by Bashô. I wrote of "The Guermantes Way," my favourite of the whole series, that it has "the most devastating tableau of sickness, withering and death." But whereas in the earlier volumes death has been a personal guest, visiting the families through illness, this time death is afar in the rumbling of the bombers, and in the trenches. In this volume, men simply disappear from the world having died in the war, or deteriorate into beings that are mere shadows of their former selves. Proust makes his primary theme, time, work powerfully, through this inevitability of life, as all of his characters, without overt drama, simply play their part on his stage for a time and fade as the predestined curtain falls, and with it the perennial darkness.
I'm already almost halfway through Tolstoy's "War and Peace," likewise narrated by Neville Jason. What a man! Thanks to him, we have Proust, unabridged, available to us wherever we go. I like that thought a lot, since having read and listened to Proust, one starts to feel that we carry him with us anyway, such an interpreter he is of the ebbing and flowing of what makes us human.