Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th-century literature. Neville Jason’s unabridged recording of the work runs to 150 hours. Marcel's obsessive feelings of possession for Albertine have forced her to flee. It comes as a terrible shock and is followed by further destabilizing news about other friends.
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Finally, after hundreds of pages of anxious obsessional controlling reflections, near the end of this book we get some quite interesting reflections on love, how it changes over the passage of time and the meanings of male female relations
I started listening to Proust and it feels again like I've submerged into a slow-moving prose river. The water is clean, with gradual bends, but sometimes filled with small boiling eddies, swirls, and reverses. Time and memory move in one direction, but the current of Proustian memory contains an involuntary universe of vortexes and wakes. We fall in and out of love. Our memory of our love becomes bent and refracted as we move away from those we once loved.
Seriously, every time I read/listen to Proust I finish thinking he could write a whole novel about one small spot on a random river. An exposed rock or boulder that cuts the flow of the river into two halves could occupy 100 pages as Proust described the nuance of the water around and against the rock. He would obviously need to describe the varying temperature of the water and the way the light moves through the textured leaves of the green forest's canopy. How evening's light danced its crepuscular silhouettes against the reflections of dusk on the churning ripples of a slowly moving river.
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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 dissimilar 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.