When the narrator of Swann's Way dips a petite madeleine into hot tea, the act transports him to his childhood in the French town of Combray. Out of his Pandora's box of reflections comes a memory of an old family friend, Swann - a man who was long ago undone by romantic desire and cruel reality. In this reverie lie the insights the author seeks about his own life and ageless truths about the ephemeral nature of emotions, places, and, ultimately, love.
A masterful ode to memory's power to haunt the heart and nourish the soul, this first volume of Proust’s magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time, remains an unmatched accomplishment in the Western literary canon.
AmazonClassics brings you timeless works from the masters of storytelling. Ideal for anyone who wants to listen to a great work for the first time or rediscover an old favorite, these new editions open the door to literature’s most unforgettable characters and beloved worlds.
Revised edition: Previously published as Swann’s Way, this edition of Swann’s Way (AmazonClassics Edition) includes editorial revisions.
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- Lorenzo Coopman
A fountain of joy.
I loved it, I once despaired I could ever finish this book but with this spoken edition I longed for more. the voice was really suitable for this work, elegant and very pleasant. The story and way of writing won't please everyone because of its extreme richness but it worked well for me.
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- Tom Dolan
REVIEWER FREES HIS MIND FROM PROUST!
I am fanatically and emphatically in tune with Proust's love of quiet. I share his hatred of sounds that penetrate the brain, interfere with deep thinking, and, thus, disturb the mind. Intrusive sounds from the outside world forced their way into Proust's mind & scrambled his brain – making it impossible for him to think freely and deeply.
So, he sound-proofed his room. By doing so, Proust created his own little sanctum sanctorum of peace and quiet. Therein ensconced, Proust was able to hear his own mind speaking silently to him.
We CANNOT listen in on the exclusive, private, intimate, one-on-one communication between Proust and his mind. But we CAN read the words that Proust wrote in his heroic effort, as writer, to tell us readers what his mind was telling him.
With his ears closed to the outside world, Proust was able to hear one voice only, the voice of his own mind, as it wandered back into the past; back into memories; back to his youth; back even further . . . to the person who was sine qua non to his life and to his mind: his mom. Lest we forget who gave us our lives and our minds in the first place, Proust reminds us. Then he goes off on his own.
Wherever his mind goes, he goes. Wherever my mind goes, I go.
I do not strap myself into Proust's masterpiece, as if it were a straitjacket. Nor do I allow Proust's masterpiece to lock up my mind. Just the opposite. I use Proust's masterpiece to unlock my mind; to liberate my mind; to let my mind's inner space (contained within the confines of my thick Irish skull) become my mind's outer space (my own private universe) chock full of thoughts, feelings, memories, realizations, insights, imaginations, intimations, analyses, expressions, flashes of genius, stupidities, etc. – all kinds of “stuff!” – all my own – that I, alone, am free to explore.
Freed from the gravitational pull of Proust's masterpiece, my mind goes wherever it wants to go; thinks whatever it wants to think; and writes whatever it feels like writing.
Looking back in time, I see that the turning point came when my mind dared to tear itself away from the pages of Proust's book. From that point forward, this review took on new life:
My intellect freed itself. My imagination ignited. My emotions erupted. And my thoughts went flying!
My thoughts refuse to come back down to earth. They are still up there, aloft, hovering on a higher plane, from whence they send down messages, which I work out as written words.
The words are breathtaking. The work is backbreaking. And the climb is steep. For, the trajectory of my review is perpendicular (#), rather than parallel (=), to the pages of Proust's book.
Proust's book is a life product of his mind. My review is a life product of my mind.
To confine my review to the confines of Proust's book would be to confine my mind to the confines of Proust's mind.
That I cannot do. That I would not do, That I have not done.
I confine my mind to the confines of no mind but my own.
I am at home in my own mind. My mind is my home.
I am the only one who lives here. Nobody else is allowed in.
I am alone with my mind because I want to be alone with my mind.
I live to think. I sleep to dream. I wake to write.
My thoughts change into words as they travel from my mind, to my fingertips, to the keyboard, to the page, where they hang around and do nothing until you bring them to life in your mind, simply by reading them.
Imagine the relief, the gratitude, that a man feels when, shipwrecked and alone on a far-flung island, his hopes are realized when a desperate message he had written, bottled, and tossed into the sea is picked up, opened, and read.
There you have me.
Here you have my words.
Go ahead. Help yourself. Pick. Choose. Accept. Reject. It is all the same to me. Of course, when you turn your nose up at my words, and snort at them, it does hurt my feelings, more than a little. But you cannot read my feelings. You can only read my words. So, undaunted, I offer you my words, meticulously arranged, on a silver platter, as an array of tasty hors d'oeuvres, personally presented, right here, right now, right under your nose. You sniff my words. You smell my words. You snort at my words. You sneeze upon my words. And there is nothing I can do about it. But my words can do something about it. And my words do do something about it. Back at the silver platter, right under your nose – your up-turned and snorting nose – my words, starving for freedom, have been on the brink, the very brink, of rebellion. You and your nose nudge them over that brink. After being sniffed, and smelled, and snorted at, and sneezed upon one too many times by you, dear Reader, by you, my words break out of my mind, run riot, and spill themselves all over the entire length and breadth of the page! As you observe, in shock, from a safe distance, there remains the slightest possibility, no matter how remote, that you may be amused by such an outlandish spectacle. But that is none of my business.
My business, occupation, preoccupation, calling, vocation – all I am & all I do – is my life's work, the work of my mind.
MY mind. No other.
Proust's masterpiece was all about one mind, his own. Having read Proust, I know his book somewhat. But I do not know his mind. Nor can I know his mind. Nor would I want to know his mind.
My mind is the only mind I know. I know no other mind.
No other mind knows my mind. Only I know my mind. I alone.
My mind is the only mind I own. I own no other mind.
No other mind owns my mind. Only I own my mind. I alone.
As I write and re-write this review, all on my lonesome, I know what I am writing about. I am writing about my own thoughts, which take place in my own mind, exclusive of any other mind.
My mind is the only mind that thinks my thoughts.
No other mind thinks my thoughts.
I am the only writer who writes my words.
No other writer writes my words.
I am the only reviewer who writes my review.
No other reviewer would dream of doing such a thing!
Nor did I have any such dream. I was wide awake all the while.
To write my own original, unique, authentic, true-to-my-own-mind review, I had to strike out on my own, leave the pack behind, and write, as only I can, about my mind's response to Proust's writing.
As I read, I resisted. I refused to substitute Proust's thinking for my thinking. When it came time to write this review, I renewed my resistance. I refused to substitute Proust's writing for my writing.
True, Proust is the world-famous author of a literary masterpiece of extraordinary length. Whereas, I am a nobody chipping away at this measly little review. But still! This is my review. Not Proust's.
Proust spoke for himself in his book. But he does not speak for me in my review. I speak for me in my review.
I do not take the book that Proust has handed me and let it weigh down my mind. No! That is not my style. I go at things from an odd angle, more to my mind's liking. I manhandle that book, that ball, that Proust has handed me, and I run with it. I zig and zag my way, my own way, to the end zone (this review).
I follow but one leader, my mind. My mind knows what it is doing & where it is going. But I do not. I just mindlessly follow my mind. My mind tells me what to think, what to write, what to say. And I obey!
I take dictation and direction from my own mind – no other.
I cannot be other than who I am. Who am I? I am my mind.
I do not just HAVE a mind of my own. I AM my own mind.
But I am not my own man:
As a man, I am a slave. As a mind, I am free.
My mind is all I have. My mind is all I am. There is no me. There is only it. So, I spoil it rotten. I let it play freely; work things out; think things through; trust its own sense of right and wrong, good and evil, up and down, this way and that; get plenty of sleep; dream; imagine; invent; analyze; pontificate; stumble; fall; make an idiot of me; come up with ideas; reject; return; rejuvenate; go back to square one; start from scratch; leave off in the middle of nowhere; never finish anything; become an imbecile; get underestimated, misunderstood, rejected, kicked out of places, or go unnoticed.
Laughingly, I claim to be "only kidding" when, down deep, I am dead serious.
Seemingly sad, I cannot help choking on the hilarity of my every waking moment!
O, spontaneo meo!; o; o; o; my mind; my mind; my mind . . . imagining; inventing; opening the door to all kinds of crazy thoughts, feelings, creative imaginations, emotional memories, explosive expressions, unexpurgated expurgations, and what not . . . whatever comes to mind is invited in (only to be subjected to searching interrogation the moment it dares to cross the threshold) . . . and on and on it goes ... my mind and I … we break open the sky!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I peck out this review.
Keystroke, by keystroke, I cut & claw my way out of captivity.
Suddenly I am free. Suddenly I am cold. Suddenly I am afraid.
It is winter. It is night. And I know not what to do.
I know I must do something. But what is that something that I must do?
All I ever do is think, write, and walk.
So, I think, I write, and I walk.
I press on. I oppose the wind. I trample the snow.
I devour the Universe. I mutter to myself.
The clock ticks and tocks. Time marches on.
One thought follows another.
I go forward. I make progress.
I slip. I fall. I lose my way. I lose my mind.
I reconnoiter. I reconsider. This way? No, that! Here? No, there!
I keep changing course, ever mindful of my mission.
My mission, my life's work, my vocation, my calling is to listen to my mind; think things through; dream things up; write things down; tear things up; re-think; re-write; re-fresh; and re-new!
Try as I may, trudge as I do, I cannot keep pace with (never mind catch up to) my mind.
As my mind races forward into the future, my past gives chase -- and closes in from behind.
My life is a line of time that my mind ties up in knots, one after the other. Each knot, a written word. Each line of knots, a line of words. One line follows the other. The lines pile up. The days go by. Then everything stops.
Is that any way to live and die? Of course not!
But it is all I have. It is all I do. It is all I am.
So I have learned to like it. And I have learned to like me.
I have my lifeline of time. You have your lifeline of time. Proust had his lifeline of time. One's lifeline of time is one's own: personal, unique, exclusive, inalienable, individual, and peculiar.
If the authorities were to set aside the realities of I, me, mine, my self, my personality, my uniqueness, my exclusivity, my inalienability, my individuality, my peculiarity, etc. -- all of which are incorporated in my own one-and-only lifeline of time -- they might be able to simplify matters, and streamline the analysis, by filtering out all this "I, me, mine" stuff.
The end product of such a process of elimination – or, shall I say, extermination – would be a lifeline of time that applies not just to one person, but to all people.
In other words, a "generally applicable" lifeline of time that brings me to my knees; cuts me down to size; draws and quarters me; disembowels me; butchers me; chops me up into tiny little pieces; drains me of my blood; dries me to a crisp; pounds me to smithereens; pulverizes me to a fine powder; casts my dust to the wind; sweeps away all memory of me; and blasts me to oblivion . . . thoroughly, completely, totally, absolutely . . . thus leaving behind no trace whatsoever of the real life that had actually been lived live, and in person, by a real human being, this real human being, yours truly, me, I, I who have taken it upon myself to write not just another review, but this review, a review that is true to my self, my mind alone – no other.
I insist upon presenting myself to you as I am, not as I am not.
Accordingly, I refuse to present myself to you as some sort of "generally applicable" apparition drained of all my "I, me, mine" stuff – i.e., those personal, unique, individual, peculiar, unshared, nonpareil realities that make me me – not somebody else.
Stripped and gutted of everything that makes me me & mine mine, the "generally applicable" apparition, which I shudder to speak of, would have a lifeline of time that is all time and no life; all mathematics and no biography; all science and no sentiment; all function and no feeling; all objectivity and no subjectivity; all that and no this; all there and no here; all then and no now; all them and no me.
But enough about me. Let's get back to time:
I own my own lifeline of time. But I do not own time itself. Time owns itself. Time has no owner but itself. Time is its own master. I can master my own time. But I cannot master time itself. Rather, time itself masters me.
Time is one thing. Space is another. Not time. But space. Not mind. But body. Not mental. But physical. Not intangible. But tangible. Not process. But substance. Not point. But place. Not line. But volume. Not transitory. But established. Not shared by one and all alike. But mine and mine alone.
Billions may be alive at the same time as I am alive. But I, only I, live in the space that I occupy at any moment in time.
From the surface of my skin to the core of my being, my space is mine, mine alone, nobody else's.
I can pick up and move my space from one location to another. But I cannot relocate my point in time. If only I could!
I would go back in time. I would correct my past. I would make right all the things I got wrong -- the worst of which was my ingratitude to my parents, the dearest, sweetest, kindest, wisest people I have ever known.
But I cannot go back. Can I? No.
There is no going back in time. Lost time is lost forever. It can be searched for. But it cannot be found.
Memories are a different matter. These can be recalled, re-imagined, and written about. Which is what Proust did.
Proust had his memories. I have mine. Proust wrote his book. I wrote my review. As I went back and forth between reading Proust's book and writing my review, the universe inside my mind resisted the universe outside my mind. Homespun galaxies of my own mind repelled foreign galaxies spun from Proust's mind. An imaginary intergalactic struggle between my mind and Proust's mind ensued. It is still going on. It has consumed time, wasted resources, and made me mad. So mad that, to this very day, I insist and persist in making this review mine, not his.
When I read, I listen to the writer. When I think, I hear my own mind. But when I write, something else happens:
The engines of my intellect rev up, sparks go flying, and my fingertips catch fire -- a wild fire! -- torching the wide open expanses of a limitless prairie known to polite society as “the keyboard.”
And so it came to pass that my review worked itself up, played itself out, and spewed itself forth -- with great fury!
The book that sparked this inflammatory little review of mine is a classic, a masterpiece, in which the twin miracles of writing and reading create the highly imaginative illusion that the mind of the writer is coming back to life in the mind of the reader. Such a miraculous resurrection may seem quite real. But it is not real.
In reality, the writer's mind cannot come to life in the mind of the reader. After all, there is only room enough in one mind for one mind. The writer's mind and the reader's mind do not merge. They do not become one. They stay two.
Words are not thoughts. The writer's written words are lifeless little things that trigger live thoughts in the mind of the reader. Not the live thoughts of the writer. No. The live thoughts of the reader. Yes.
The reader's mind is as lively and alive as life itself, which, by its very nature, does not remain as it was in the past, but, rather, renews itself, continuously, as the future passes through the present, on its way to becoming the past.
Eventually, all memories of the past shall pass away. But the past itself shall never pass away. It remains as it was, safe and secure, for all eternity. Memories of the past may change. But the past itself does not change. Ever.
Now then. You can read this review, or not read it, as you so choose. But Proust has no such choice. He cannot read me. But I can read him. And I have. So, what do I make of Proust? This: my review. Not the review that anybody else might have me write. No. The review that I would have me write. Yes.
The way I see it, Proust's masterpiece is merely a means to an end. It is a catalyst. It stimulates my thinking. It is a cattle prod. It jolts my living brain with electricity. Thus electrified, I cannot help dictating, deleting, and re-writing my lively, ever changing, renewing, re-renewing, and re-re-renewing review.
I know what I am thinking as I read Proust's book. But I cannot know what Proust was thinking as he wrote his book. I can only read what he wrote. I cannot know what he thought. I can recall my memories. But I cannot recall Proust's memories -- no matter how much of my time I spend reading what he spent his time writing.
So, why do I read Proust? Why do I bother? Here is my answer:
A good book ignites the imagination and sends the mind flying!
Once I come back down to earth, however, I face the following real-life issues: my time versus Proust's time; my mind versus Proust's mind; my life versus Proust's life; my writing versus Proust's writing. In sum: me & mine versus him & his. To paraphrase Shakespeare: what is Proust to me, or I to Proust, that I should spend my future time reading about his past time? Why not spend my future time with my own mind, rather than with Proust's mind? Why not write about me & mine rather than read about him & his? After all, I do have a mind of my own, do I not? Why not tap into my own mind instead of tapping into Proust's mind? What goes on in my own mind is infinitely more real, to me, than what goes on in Proust's book. Compared to Proust's masterpiece, whatever I write may be a muddle. But it is my muddle, a muddle of my own making, which I, only I, could create. Better a slave to my own mind than a slave to Proust's mind.
Be that as it may, there are times when all writing & no reading makes Jack a dull boy. At such and such a time, I may reach for Proust's book, open it, and commence reading. After a very few pages, however, the loud smack of the book slamming shut startles me. I look up. I look around. Then it dawns on me:
My mind has packed up and left me -- left me! -- again!! -- for the umpteenth time!!! -- to go rambling here, there, everywhere, anywhere it pleases . . .
When my mind comes back home to me, it finds me all ears. I am eager to hear whatever my mind feels like telling me. I crave the peace, the quiet, the silence of that study wherein my mind might feel free to confide in me its deepest thoughts and most personal feelings. But no place is quiet. Wherever my mind and I go, the humanimals are there. They keep barking. They keep barging in. They keep intruding. They keep getting in the way between me and my mind. My mind and I want to be free from such interference. We want to listen to one another intently. We want to hear each other clearly, distinctly, in depth, and in detail. I want to hear whatever my mind has to say to me at the moment! O?? And what, pray tell, does my mind have to say to me at the moment? Whatever it thinks. Whatever my mind happens to be thinking at THIS moment. THAT is what I want to hear.
What I do NOT want to hear are privacy-violating, serenity-shattering, nerve-racking, mind-scrambling, thought-killing, aerial bombardments of boom, boom, boom pounding on my eardrums -- against my will, mind you, against my will -- courtesy of thoughtless, inconsiderate, self-absorbed, music-enjoying, cell-phoning, home-invading, brow-beating Storm Troopers who kick in my door; invade my home; force their way into my sanctum sanctomroom; pin me to the floor; violate my person; crack open my skull; scoop out my brain; and, thus, terminate the pristine stream of my consciousness, not knowing what they do.
O to be free of that! free of them! free to think as freely as my mind can fly! free to think as deeply as my mind can dive! That is all I want. Mental freedom. Freedom for my mind to think its own thoughts. Freedom for my ears to listen for -- and to hear -- whatever it is that my mind has to say to me. Freedom to think silently. Freedom to write quietly. Freedom to breathe the air. I inhale to think. I exhale to write. I dive down deep into my own mind. There, I stay submerged until I am good and ready. Then, at long last, I rise to the surface and break it – gasping for air!
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