Swann's Way – Marcel Proust, A
This blog has suffered the last several days as I have suffered from a tenacious bout of the flu. Other than attend classes and go to work, I've been trying to do as little of anything as possible. Funny thing about being sick. At any moment, you can slip into a state of altered consciousness, half-awake, half-asleep, and start having reveries about the apple trees behind your house when you were seven years old, or the early days of your hoops career, or whatever. Having the flu is conducive to re-opening a window to your past.
And that thought provides a segway to this very brief review of Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. As far as I know, Proust was not sick when he wrote this book, but he did live in a room with cork-lined walls, which gives you the impression of a man seeking security. An invalid, if you will. And Proust couldn't think of any one thing, seemingly, without swimming down streams of connotation to the ocean of the past.
It's hard to do justice to Proust's descriptive ability. Swann's Way is a collection of lovely, painstaking observations loosely held together by an ethereal storyline. The result is evocative, nostalgic, and wandering. Proust requires patience, but every so often he rewards you with a rapier-like observation. Like this one:
Just as it is not by another man of intelligence that an intelligent man will be afraid of being thought stupid, so it is not by a great lord but of a country bumpkin that a man of fashion will be afraid of seeing his elegance go unappreciated. Three quarters of the expenditure of wit and the lies told out of vanity that have been squandered since the world began by people who in doing so merely diminish themselves have been squandered on inferiors.
Some of Swann's passages I would like to read and reread. Others demanded more prolonged attention than I could muster for, say, the storied lineage of a cathedral window. But Proust writes with unparalleled lyrical beauty, a miraculous memory, and a knack for idealizing and polishing the world by describing it.
Listed on the Master Book List
Thursday, March 02, 2006