- File Size: 4542 KB
- Print Length: 1605 pages
- Publisher: Athenaeum Classics (April 4, 2019)
- Publication Date: April 4, 2019
- Sold by: De Marque
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07QC72MTB
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #879 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
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In Search of Lost Time [volumes 1 to 7] Kindle Edition
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This bargain-priced, Centaur edition is COMPLETE in 7 volumes and is handsomely formatted -- happily with traditional indentions to distinguish paragraphs (rather than spacing) and an active TOC. I have not detected the level of programming imperfections mentioned in some earlier reviews, so if there are any still present in this current edition of Proust's massive work, they are (so far as I can tell) few and far between and not particularly bothersome. The only problem that this edition originally had is that, when arranged alphabetically by author with other Kindle content, it appeared under "Marcel" rather than "Proust," thereby separating it from any other versions, individual volumes, or different translations of Proust one may own. That may or may not still be the case.
Speaking of translation, this has been rendered from the French into English by C. K. Scott Moncrieff (vols. 1-6) and by Sydney Schiff (vol. 7). The solid, traditional "old" translation now in the public domain, it is admittedly neither the newest nor necessarily the best, but it is still very readable -- and it is certainly very affordable. Yes, the excellent $49.99 Modern Library edition currently in the Kindle Store IS superior because, being newer, it has the benefit of recent manuscript discoveries and subsequent research resulting in some added and re-positioned content, textual emendations, translational revisions, and syntactical clarification initially by Terence Kilmartin and subsequently by D.J. Enright (all this being especially true in the last volume). It is the ideal, and I rightly appreciate it as such -- but I still greatly enjoy my Centaur ebook version. Widely read and enjoyed for many years, the now "classic" Moncrieff translation has generally withstood the test of time, and imperfect (comparatively speaking) as it may be, nothing of supreme importance is missing, nor is it so poorly translated as to greatly hinder or irredeemably obscure Proust's plan and purpose. The grand themes regarding memory and the passage of time, the insights into love, life, and human behavior, and the vivid word-pictures of people and places are all here, clearly and intimately presented.
[FYI: The individual volumes that constitute the aforementioned $49.99 Modern Library bundle from Random House can be purchased separately (the 7 works packaged as 6 volumes ) for much less. The first volume sells for $12.99, but the other 5 are only $2.99 each (for a total of $27.94). I mention that because Schiff's vol. 7 in this Centaur edition is a somewhat "weaker" translation than that of the preceding volumes by Moncrieff; therefore, even if you purchase this edition, you MAY wish (for comparative purposes) to also consider purchasing the equivalent Modern Library vol. 6 for $2.99. If you do, be aware the Modern Library version begins a bit earlier in its rendition of that final volume than the Centaur edition; the corresponding starting line in the Modern Library volume is at Kindle location number 250.]
It may be quite daunting for those used to reading fast-paced modern novels to approach this lengthy and admittedly intimidating tome (here consisting of seven volumes or parts but in reality ONE lengthy work, which is why I will refer to it in the singular), but motivated readers who engage it with the proper mindset will discover riches commensurate to their labor; "In Search of Lost Time" truly is as rewarding as it is challenging. Do not necessarily expect immediate and full illumination, and/or enlightenment in just one reading of it. It requires savoring (literally so, since Proust appeals to all the senses) and a lifetime of return visits to successfully mine all its many treasures.
But by the same token, don't be afraid of it. Just begin reading and permit the descriptive flow of Proust's long sentences and lush imagery to seduce and enthrall you. And as you read, you will be introduced to colorful and, at times, enigmatic characters who, the further you get into the book (and even moreso with each re-reading of it), will reveal new facets of their lives for you to ponder and relate to your own.
This is no mere book, but a time-machine, a cathartic attempt by Proust to recapture a lifetime's worth of impressions, not only of people, but of events (large and small), fleeting moments, and repressed emotions -- life lived but not fully understood in the living of it -- such "things" as tend to be taken for granted, ignored, or under-appreciated when initially encountered and experienced, and which would otherwise eventually be forgotten except by subsequent and deliberate association, recollection and contemplation. This is what Proust does in this unique literary recreation of a life lived, remembered, and re-experienced. As the title implies, he is searching time past for that which would otherwise be forever lost.
Proust is aware, however, that in re-experiencing such memories, they can too easily become altered in the process. With each recall their intensity fades and they become tainted, compromised by present-day associations. Proust writes, "And if I still possessed [a particularly beloved book from his grandmother] I should never look into it; I should be too afraid that I might gradually insinuate into it my impressions of to-day and smother my original impressions beneath them, that I might see it become so far a thing of the present that, when I asked it to evoke once more the child who spelt out its title in the little bedroom at Cambray, the child, not recognizing its voice, would no longer reply to its summons and would remain for ever buried in oblivion."
The method Proust employs to avoid (or at least minimize) the corruption of memory is by providing (within this massive novel) not just the recollections themselves, but a detailed recreation of the original setting and context which led to the creation of them in the first place. In this manner the "feeling" is capable of being fully recreated, renewed, and sustained, not only to the author/revealer/protagonist, but to the reader as well. By transference, these remembrances of HIS also become OURS, shared and captured for all time, and reinforced by each subsequent encounter with them. Thus, even after finishing this epic tome, many readers will wish to revisit it, to reacquaint themselves with characters who have become a part of their lives, to embrace anew the feelings of time and place it initially gave them, and, moreover, to savor much they may have impatiently dashed through previously -- but this time from a NEW perspective whereby they can now recognize in the past portents of the future, because BOTH are now known to them. Such is the power, intensity, and realism of this novel.
Make no mistake; this IS a novel, not an autobiography. But just as any author -- though Proust is hardly just "any" author -- puts himself and his life experiences into his works, much of what is here depicted as fiction has its origins in the realities of Proust's own life -- so much so, and so integrated throughout the whole of this work, that it's often difficult to separate the fact from the fiction, the raw material from the artistically enhanced, and most significantly, the protagonist from the author. It IS highly autobiographical, but we need not unduly concern ourselves with the DEGREE to which it is or isn't to enjoy it. Too often in any discussion of this work, some people forget this book (as it is presented to us) is not the story OF Proust's life. Rather, it is a story BY Proust about the life of someone very much like him but not, as Proust depicts him, truly Proust himself. This is true for all the characters in this remarkable book (all based on people Proust knew), but particularly for the protagonist's love interests whose genders are the opposite of their real-life inspirations and counterparts; Proust may have been homosexual, but his protagonist is not.
Proust thus transforms the realities of his life into a novel that exudes so high a level of verisimilitude, the reader can easily forget it IS a novel, a work of fiction (albeit extraordinary fiction), which deserves to be recognized, evaluated, and appreciated as such. And as such, it is today rightly and universally regarded as an outstanding accomplishment, a true literary masterpiece.
To be very honest, however, as much as I personally truly love this book, I must and do recognize that not everyone will. The magic I feel will not be felt by everyone, and for some, this may come across merely as an extremely long and boring old book. That's a shame, but that's the reality. The question is: What will it be to YOU? To find out, you must read it. So buy it, read it -- and you may come to regard this as one of your greatest Kindle purchases EVER. At this low price, you can certainly risk giving it a try. I hope you do, and I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as I and so many others have.
Even in translation there is no comparison with the vision and precise language of Marcel Proust. The film "Swann in Love" (from volume 1) only touches the surface of this 7-volume masterpiece of 20th century literature. You can just read "The Guermantes Way" (volume 3) if you don't have time to read all 7 volumes that are told from the point of view of the youthful, brilliant "M" who has been admitted into the confidences of the French Parisian aristocracy just before World War I. In "The Guermantes Way" the young "M" recounts an 'upstairs/downstairs' story, set mainly in 1898 at the height of the Dreyfus affair, of his contacts with the servants downstairs (such as Francoise the Cook and Jupien the Tailor) while obsessively pursuing the aristocratic, beautiful Duchesse de Guermantes who resides nearby (the real-life Duchesse de Chimay-Greffulhe), whose family, through the Duchesse's aristocratic cousins, in-laws, and nephews, (especially Robert Saint-Loup, an army officer posted in rural Doncieres near the coast where 'M' goes due to M's poor health, who is throwing all his wealth at the beautiful young actress Rachel), takes the young intellectual into their family and their 'salon' circle (lunches, dinner parties, teas put on by Paris's wealthy aristocratic women), where 'M' meets the cream of Belle Epoque Parisian society (one assumes much to the dismay of their descendants when Proust publishes in exquisite detail his frank recounting of those connections).
The Duchesse de Guermantes' brother in law, the elegant Baron de Charlus, deliberately takes the young intellectual under his tutelage, telling him the reason he will help 'M' socially is, "It is the people of my world who read nothing and are as ignorant as lackeys. . . ¶¶. . . I want you to understand that, if I do you a great service, I do not consider you to be doing me any less a one. Society people have long since ceased to interest me. . .Who knows but that you may be the person into whose hands it is to pass, the one whose life I shall be able to guide and raise to so high a plane?" With this sentiment as his inspiration, the young 'M' retains a vivid recollection of all these encounters, developing his radical insight that the society people he meets are acting out their roles on an invented public stage of their own construction, primarily to absorb themselves in the trivialities of their social activities and thus forestall the profound boredom and pressing sense of their lack of human connection that haunts their day-to-day existence.