Summer’s “Lost Time” Reading

Posted: August 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Marcel Proust.  Getty Image

Marcel Proust. Getty Image

An interview with Justice Stephen Breyer in The New York Review of Books (November 7, 2013) “On Reading Proust,” caught my attention because I always felt that I was missing out by not having read Marcel Proust’s masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu. In fact, 2013 marked the centennial of the first published installment, with the final one published posthumously in 1927. So, I figured that these were signs that I could not ignore and so I immediately downloaded Proust onto my Kindle.

There it waited patiently (as many books still do on my Kindle) until I took the plunge, which has been challenging, exciting and a bit disorienting. Proust, even in translation, is not necessarily an “easy read,” in particular because sentences can go on for a page so that by the end it is difficult to remember the subject. But, I found that this is one of the remarkable achievements of Proust because once you ignore parsing sentences and allow them to simply be absorbed rather than scrutinized they become more than just a string of dependent clauses. It is, in fact, closer to how we think than we may be aware – reminiscent of James Joyce, who actually dined with Proust months before Proust’s death in 1922. Although they claim to have not read each other’s works, I am sure that Joyce would have admired Proust’s prose.

I am presently only about half way through so cannot make judgments about the entire work but suffice it to say that Proust’s insights into human behavior and his penetrating gaze into social discourse are a joy to read and to be a part of. Reading mostly on my short subway commute to and from Brooklyn I have at times become oblivious to the nearby humanity and am transported back to the fin de siècle society of Paris — a true respite that may only last for minutes but that stays with me for a lot longer.

Leave a Reply