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Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – November 30, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437964
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil in 1871. His father, an eminent Professor of Medicine, was Roman Catholic and his mother was Jewish, factors that were to play an important role in his life and work. He was a brilliant, very literary schoolboy, and later a half-hearted student of law and political science. In his twenties he became an assiduous society figure, frequenting the most fashionable Paris salons of the day. During this period he published a volume of sketches and stories, Les Plaisirs et le jours, and between 1895 and 1900 wrote a novel, Jean Santeuil, which was in many ways a first draft for his masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu.

After 1899 his chronic asthma, the death of his parents and his growing impatience with society caused him to lead an increasingly retired life. In the early 1900s he produced celebrated literary pastiches and translations of Ruskin, The Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies and it was during this period that he wrote Contre Sainte-Beuve, although it was not published until 1954. From 1907, he rarely emerged from a sound-proofed room in his apartment on the Boulevard Hausmann in Paris, in order to insulate himself against the distractions of city life as well as the effect of the trees and flowers which he loved but which brought on his attacks of asthma. He slept by day and worked by night, writing letters and devoting himself to the completion of À la recherche du temps perdu. He died in 1922 before the publication of the last three books of his great work. With À la recherche du temps perdu Proust attempted the perfect rendering of life in art, of the past recreated through memory. It is both a portrait of the artist and a discovery of the aesthetic by which the portrait is painted, and it was to have an immense influence on the literature of the twentieth century.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Swann's Way

Part 1


For a long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes, my candle scarcely out, my eyes would close so quickly that I did not have time to say to myself: “I’m falling asleep.” And, half an hour later, the thought that it was time to try to sleep would wake me; I wanted to put down the book I thought I still had in my hands and blow out my light; I had not ceased while sleeping to form reflec-tions on what I had just read, but these reflections had taken a rather peculiar turn; it seemed to me that I myself was what the book was talking about: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between François I and Charles V. This belief lived on for a few seconds after my waking; it did not shock my reason but lay heavy like scales on my eyes and kept them from realizing that the candlestick was no longer lit. Then it began to grow unintelligible to me, as after metempsychosis do the thoughts of an earlier existence; the subject of the book detached itself from me, I was free to apply myself to it or not; immediately I recovered my sight and I was amazed to find a darkness around me soft and restful for my eyes, but perhaps even more so for my mind, to which it appeared a thing without cause, incomprehensible, a thing truly dark. I would ask myself what time it might be; I could hear the whistling of the trains which, remote or nearby, like the singing of a bird in a forest, plotting the distances, described to me the extent of the deserted countryside where the traveler hastens toward the nearest station; and the little road he is following will be engraved on his memory by the excitement he owes to new places, to unaccustomed ctivities, to the recent conversation and the farewells under the unfamiliar lamp that follow him still through the silence of the night, to the imminent sweetness of his return.

I would rest my cheeks tenderly against the lovely cheeks of the pillow, which, full and fresh, are like the cheeks of our childhood. I would strike a match to look at my watch. Nearly midnight. This is the hour when the invalid who has been obliged to go off on a journey and has had to sleep in an unfamiliar hotel, wakened by an attack, is cheered to see a ray of light under the door. How fortunate, it’s already morning! In a moment the servants will be up, he will be able to ring, someone will come help him. The hope of being relieved gives him the courage to suffer. In fact he thought he heard footsteps; the steps approach, then recede. And the ray of light that was under his door has disappeared. It is midnight; they have just turned off the gas; the last servant has gone and he will have to suffer the whole night through without remedy.

I would go back to sleep, and would sometimes afterward wake again for brief moments only, long enough to hear the organic creak of the woodwork, open my eyes and stare at the kaleidoscope of the darkness, savor in a momentary glimmer of consciousness the sleep into which were plunged the furniture, the room, that whole of which I was only a small part and whose insensibility I would soon return to share. Or else while sleeping I had effortlessly returned to a period of my early life that had ended forever, rediscovered one of my childish terrors such as my great-uncle pulling me by my curls, a terror dispelled on the day—the dawn for me of a new era—when they were cut off. I had forgotten that event during my sleep, I recovered its memory as soon as I managed to wake myself up to escape the hands of my great-uncle, but as a precautionary measure I would completely surround my head with my pillow before returning to the world of dreams.

Sometimes, as Eve was born from one of Adam’s ribs, a woman was born during my sleep from a cramped position of my thigh. Formed from the pleasure I was on the point of enjoying, she, I imagined, was the one offering it to me. My body, which felt in hers my own warmth, would try to find itself inside her, I would wake up. The rest of humanity seemed very remote compared with this woman I had left scarcely a few moments before; my cheek was still warm from her kiss, my body aching from the weight of hers. If, as sometimes happened, she had the features of a woman I had known in life, I would devote myself entirely to this end: to finding her again, like those who go off on a journey to see a longed-for city with their own eyes and imagine that one can enjoy in reality the charm of a dream. Little by little the memory of her would fade, I had forgotten the girl of my dream.

A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and worlds. He consults them instinctively as he wakes and reads in a second the point on the earth he occupies, the time that has elapsed before his waking; but their ranks can be mixed up, broken. If toward morning, after a bout of insomnia, sleep overcomes him as he is reading, in a position quite different from the one in which he usually sleeps, his raised arm alone is enough to stop the sun and make it retreat, and, in the first minute of his waking, he will no longer know what time it is, he will think he has only just gone to bed. If he dozes off in a position still more displaced and divergent, after dinner sitting in an armchair for instance, then the confusion among the disordered worlds will be complete, the magic armchair will send him traveling at top speed through time and space, and, at the moment of opening his eyelids, he will believe he went to bed several months earlier in another country. But it was enough if, in my own bed, my sleep was deep and allowed my mind to relax entirely; then it would let go of the map of the place where I had fallen asleep and, when I woke in the middle of the night, since I did not know where I was, I did not even understand in the first moment who I was; I had only, in its original simplicity, the sense of existence as it may quiver in the depths of an animal; I was more destitute than a cave dweller; but then the memory—not yet of the place where I was, but of several of those where I had lived and where I might have been—would come to me like help from on high to pull crossed centuries of civilization in one second, and the image confusedly glimpsed of oil lamps, then of wing-collar shirts, gradually recomposed my self’s original features.

Perhaps the immobility of the things around us is imposed on them by our certainty that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our mind confronting them. However that may be, when I woke thus, my mind restlessly attempting, without success, to discover where I was, everything revolved around me in the darkness, things, countries, years. My body, too benumbed to move, would try to locate, according to the form of its fatigue, the position of its limbs so as to deduce from this the direction of the wall, the placement of the furniture, so as to reconstruct and name the dwelling in which it found itself. Its memory, the memory of its ribs, its knees, its shoulders, offered in succession several of the rooms where it had slept, while around it the invisible walls, changing place according to the shape of the imagined room, spun through the shadows. And even before my mind, hesitating on the thresholds of times and shapes, had identified the house by reassembling the circumstances, it—my body—would recall the kind of bed in each one, the location of the doors, the angle at which the light came in through the windows, the existence of a hallway, along with the thought I had had as I fell asleep and that I had recovered upon waking. My stiffened side, trying to guess its orientation, would imagine, for instance, that it lay facing the wall in a big canopied bed and immediately I would say to myself: “Why, I went to sleep in the end even though Mama didn’t come to say goodnight to me,” I was in the country in the home of my grandfather, dead for many years; and my body, the side on which I was resting, faithful guardians of a past my mind ought never to have forgotten, recalled to me the flame of the night-light of Bohemian glass, in the shape of an urn, which hung from the ceiling by little chains, the mantelpiece of Siena marble, in my bedroom at Combray, at my grandparents’ house, in faraway days which at this moment I imagined were present without picturing them to myself exactly and which I would see more clearly in a little while when I was fully awake.

Then the memory of a new position would reappear; the wall would slip away in another direction: I was in my room at Mme. de Saint-Loup’s, in the country; good Lord! It’s ten o’clock or even later, they will have finished dinner! I must have overslept during the nap I take every evening when I come back from my walk with Mme. de Saint-Loup, before putting on my evening clothes. For many years have passed since Combray, where, however late we returned, it was the sunset’s red reflections I saw in the panes of my window. It is another sort of life one leads at Tansonville, at Mme. de Saint-Loup’s, another sort of pleasure I take in going out only at night, in following by moonlight those lanes where I used to play in the sun; and the room where I fell asleep instead of dressing for dinner—from far off I can see it, as we come back, pierced by the flares of the lamp, a lone beacon in the night.

These revolving, confused evocations never lasted for more than a few seconds; often, in my brief uncertainty about where I was, I did not distinguish the various suppositions of which it was composed any better than we isolate, when we see a horse run, the successive positions shown to us by a kinetoscope. But I had seen sometimes one, sometimes another, of the bedrooms I had inhabited in my life, and in the end I would recall them all in the long reveries that followed my waking: winter bedrooms in which, as soon as you are in bed, you bury your head in a nest braided of the most disparate things: a corner of ...

Customer Reviews

For copyright reasons, the last two volumes cannot be sold in the U.S. until 2018!
I read the introduction, and thought I should prepare myself, but just to get a taste of what I would be in for, I started reading the first chapter.
Napoleon Bloom
I'd read a review of this edition by Christopher Hitchens, who faults Davis's prose in comparison to Moncrieff/Kilmartin's.
JR Pinto

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

148 of 151 people found the following review helpful By C H Hall on April 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you click on the Kindle teaser on this page, it will take you to the Kindle order page, which shows a cover photo of this wonderful Lydia Davis translation in the Penguin series. However, if you order the Kindle edition, you will find to your great surprise that it is NOT the Davis/Penguin edition, but rather another one that is in the public domain.

Kindle routinely pulls this bait and switch act with translations and out of copyright classics. It's beneath Amazon and should stop now. I'd also feel pretty peeved if I were Lydia Davis or Penguin, upon whose reputations Kindle is trading rather inappropriately.

If a hard-text shopper ordered the Davis edition and were given something else instead, wouldn't that be a bait and switch? Amazon would never dream of doing that. Why, then, do they think it's acceptable with Kindle books?
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171 of 186 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on January 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
To read Marcel Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" is a pleasure and a challenge in the same proportion that any brave read can have. Not only is it a hard task, but also a very pleasant one. The books are written in such a way that readers are transported to another time and place, and get to know the characters as if they were old friends of ours. Of course, if it weren't like that, not many people would dare to try and read the seven novels that compound the whole series. But Proust is a master to keep your interested glued to his words. Even when this words are in a paragraph that lasts four pages.

"Swann's Way" is the first novel and it is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It is good because everything is new to us, so the `nameless' narrator takes his time to explain a lot of things, introduce people, describe places and the action is built up bit by bit. On the other hand, the reader is not used to Proust style and when we come across a paragraph that lasts four pages we get scared.

To make things more complicated, when he was writing "Remembrance of Things Past" Proust wanted to make a novel, but he also wanted to philosophize. Therefore, there is a lot of philosophy in his books. At first this device seems to be difficult to understand, to get the gist, but with time, one gets used to it, and is able to realize that we're not supposed to read this books in the same way we read any other novel.

Proust's work is about senses. He does not expect you to understand everything he is saying. His narrative is not cumulative. What he wants, in fact, is to make his reader feel what he was saying, to feel things like time passing through our lives and its effects on our memories.
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145 of 158 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Ford on March 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Lydia Davis's new translation of Swann's Way is splendid. I've reviewed it in more detail under the Amazon listing for the hardcover Viking edition, which is the one I own. These are books I intend to keep, and I want them in hardcover. If your needs are more transient, then by all means buy this paperback edition.

In Britain, this first volume is titled The Way By Swann's, and there are a few differences in the text. (French quotations remain in French; conversation is shown by dashes instead of quotation marks.) So it would appear that this Penguin paperback has the same text as the U.S. Viking hardcover and is not simply an import.

Note that if you should buy this volume from a Marketplace seller, you ought to note the ISBN and make very sure that the seller is offering the book as shown and not an earlier translation by Scott-Montcrief or others. Believe me, Davis's is the one you want!

-- Dan Ford
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124 of 142 people found the following review helpful By an orchestral and jazz bassist on February 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Just as a general note with Proust translations, compare them in a bookstore before you buy any of them.

There is the original C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation, which is beautiful, though based on a flawed edition put together shortly after Proust's death (especially the later books in the set).

Then there is Terrence Kilmartin's revision, which is based on a much better French edition. You can still find editions of this used, and occasionally new as well. I prefer this one, as Kilmartin didn't change most of the truly beautiful language that Moncrieff rendered except in a few places to clarify confusing sentences.

D.J. Enright, who worked with Kilmartin, made further revisions after the latter's death, whose work (so he says) was incomplete. His reworking is based on yet an even newer edition of the French text, though with fewer changes than the previous French edition had from the original. I feel that Enright modernized the language too much. He claims French hasn't changed much as a language compared to English since the early 20th Century, so to approximate how it would read to a French person today, it needs to be put into more comtemporary language. I don't care for it personally.

I've read some of these other, altogether new translations, which is a good effort considering the potential for incoherence you might have reading a revision of a revision of a translation (whew!). They're not bad, but nowhere near as much of a "new standard" as, say, the Pevear-Volokhonsky translations of Dostoevsky, which give the reader a clearer original while still using beautiful and idiomatic English.

But back to Proust. Decide for yourself!
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