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Remembrance of Things Past: Volume II - The Guermantes Way & Cities of the Plain (Vintage) Paperback – August 27, 1982

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Before his death in 1922, Marcel Proust accomplished the monumental feat of recording Remembrance of Things Past, a fifteen-volume literary history, much of which was based upon his own adventures and minute observations. The Guermantes Way is an installation in this collection and recounts, among other things, his childhood in Combray and the relevance of grasping the importance of particular events and people from his past in his development as a writer. Although autobiographical, Proust employs suspense and the observation of minutiae to illustrate our own subjective existence.

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To read [Proust] thoroughly constitutes a mental discipline, more humane surely, but equal in rigor to Euclid. That is why, in spite of the piquant nature of much of his material, Proust will never be a widely popular writer. -- The New York Times Book Review, Rose Lee
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 27, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394711831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394711836
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Gardner on June 18, 2004
Moncrieff/Kilmartin's translation is still the best. Proust's life-work is the most psychologically acute novel ever written, and a perfect match between form and content. His form is the memoir, conceived as a piece of music, with themes and variations, codas and recapitulations. The content is a list of evolving concerns, from love (in all its forms) to aesthetic creation and appreciation, as well as a sort of living autopsy of the aristocracy of his time. His motives were manifold, but it seems Proust primarily wanted to get in the final word on those people he knew throughout his life, and show he both understood them (better than they themselves) and that they had little inkling of his amazing inner life. For all his encounters with and criticisms of snobs and poseurs throughout the work, and his tendency to fully absorb himself in his experiences, Marcel the narrator risks coming off as a snob himself; but quite the opposite, he denigrates himself constantly with reference to his own writing abilities, up into the very last section of "Time Regained" when the structural idea for the novel we have just read comes to him. He's disappointed many times by his own experiences, when they are is measured and conditioned by the background of his keen aesthetic imagination. His salvation is both the Idea for the novel, and a theory of time/identity which has been "calling out" to him with his famous episodes of "involuntary memory" (the most famous of which is the tea-dipped madeleine). As one reads on, there are times when it seems Proust has suspended all action and narrative in favor of impressions which resonate against one another. It may seem gratuitous or self-indulgent, but he is "performing" his theory at the same time he's telling you about it.Read more ›
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Volume I of this Vintage series was a little bit overwhelming as a reading experience. Proust is dense, difficult and the diction takes quite a bit of getting used to. It was a relief for me that the reading experience got much easier by the time that I reached this volume. Nothing is going to leaven Remembrance or make it less dense, but if you make it as far as The Guermantes Way then you are bound to have come to some peace with the language.

The Guermantes Way and Cities of the Plain are full of both broad humor and deep sorrow. The treatment of the death of the Grandmother, particularly the way that she slowly retreats in dreams, is one of the most real and affecting sequences of its kind that I can remember in fiction. On the other hand, the comedy of manners at the society parties plays out like a kind of Belle Epoque Sex & the City. Proust skewers the foibles and fables of the relationships of the rich, and often left me chuckling to myself as I read.

The farther I go, the more I find these books to be one of the most memorable reading experiences of my life. Nothing in these books makes me lessen the recommendation that I read after reading Volume I. In fact, I find that my admiration is only increasing as I read.

If you can, try tackling Volume II as quickly as possible after finishing Volume I. It really helps a lot to treat Remembrance as a single book, rather than a series. It also avoids time re-learning the feeling of the Proust prose.
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As disconcerting as it can be to painstakingly grind one's way through a thousand pages of an extraordinarily dense novel and realize that you're only a third of the way through it, it actually does get easier once you pass that first volume (admittedly quite the hurdle) and move into the second volume. A combination of me slowly getting used to Proust's knotted sentence structures (seriously, they're not just like a snake attempting to eat themselves but like a snake going back in time to eat itself and its parents simultaneously) and the author dialing back on the diction ever so slightly leads to some level of comfort with the whole affair and the experience becomes a bit more immersive. Familiarity does help, as while he seems to have more characters introduced than I have friends on social media, a lot of characters make repeat appearances from the earlier volume and in fact find themselves deepened and brought into sharper focus as a result. The themes of time and memory remain much the same but with the definite sense of passing time it adds more poignancy to the proceedings, as if starts to seem as if telling the tale brings about its own costs. Instead of reading about the narrator going on and on about whatever sentimental philosophy that occurred to him at a particular time, there's a weight to it now, a grasping sense of trying to recapture something before it fades away entirely or slips through his fingers. The writing could hardly be called "feverish" but in some moments there's a hint of desperation, as if by not getting this down correctly he risk not only losing a vital part of himself, but of family and friends that are long gone already and drifting into oblivion even further by the second.Read more ›
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Proust is a very great writer, but he is a touch self-indulgent, and extremely verbal
besides. Which is to say, in the age of "What's Kim Kardashian's latest hair color"
sound bite, he's seriously out of sync. It would take a while to read the whole epic
work, but it is worth it. Being a Proust admirer involves PERSISTENCE, a lost quality
nowadays. Tough, slightly overwhelming, somewhat self-absorbed, but with a huge
streak of genius running through it.
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