- Paperback: 658 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 10, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1978142145
- ISBN-13: 978-1978142145
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 457 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,355,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Swanns Way (Large Print Edition) Paperback – Large Print, October 10, 2017
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Low-priced, 7-volume, public domain-based editions such as this, contain the old (but in its own way "classic") C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation of Proust's exquisite and sublime epic novel, REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST (a title which newer translations render as IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME). This is a must-read classic. Comprised of 7 volumes, it (to speak of those 7 as one entity) is unique in its purpose, that being to intimately examine a lifetime in such detail and nuance, so as not merely to recall it, but to recreate and recapture it via all the senses, thereby preserving it for all time. Thus, the narrator's reconstituted life becomes so real to us (as readers of it), we feel as if the people, places, and situations he so profusely and vividly depicts have become OURS as well. Therefore, despite this book's great length, many devoted readers will undoubtedly repeat the experience more than a few times during their lifetimes, thereby renewing acquaintances with old friends and revisiting now-familiar places. Such is the magic and power of this book.
Notice I said "narrator's reconstituted life" (above) rather than Proust's. While this is a highly autobiographical work, it is still fiction, and although the narrator/protagonist may GREATLY resemble Proust, he is, nevertheless NOT Proust. This is a great NOVEL, not a great AUTOBIOGRAPHY, and it should best be read and enjoyed and judged as such. Indeed, it is one of the greatest novels of all time (and to many, it is THE greatest).
This particular translation is not necessarily the greatest, however, and newer translations take advantage of subsequent manuscript discoveries and textual research to make content additions and relocations, translational corrections, and syntactical emendations. That's not to say Scott Moncrieff's translation is terrible; on the contrary, it is quite serviceable and has become somewhat of a classic in its own right. 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, and are more than adequately rendered by Moncrieff. Nevertheless, the newer translations do it better by being more accurate to Proust's original -- but they are more expensive. The Modern Library/Random House ebook edition (which I happen to especially like) is priced at $49.99 (though purchasing its volumes separately reduces the price almost in half). A great book of this magnitude is certainly worth it, but not necessarily to everyone.
While I greatly enjoy Proust's magnum opus, I do admit the reality that not everyone will feel its magic. It is a very long and detailed work with lengthy, descriptive, convoluted sentences that can be somewhat tedious and difficult to comprehend, and its "plot" cannot be regarded as especially exciting. Reading this massive work from start-to-finish requires the investment of much time, great effort, and dedication, but its rewards are truly commensurate to one's perseverance. Those who can stick with it may very well come to regard this as the best ebook purchase they have ever made -- and likely ever will. But YOU won't know until you've given it a try, and an inexpensive, but complete edition like this provides the perfect opportunity for you to do so.
"Swann's Way" was written originally in French. The first English translation appeared in 1922 (the year of Proust's death). This translation is part of a long-term project by Penguin Books to create a brand new English translation of "In Search" using a team of translators. The entire project was published in Britain in 2002. US saw the release of the first four volumes in 2004. But the US will not see the rest of the series until 2019 at the earliest. (The British releases of the remaining volumes can still be purchased through Amazon.)
This is my first experience with Proust. Proust is not a story-teller like John Steinbeck or Mark Twain. Instead he spends a lot of time observing what's around him and describing what he sees in highly poetic language. You'll see long discussions about the weather, the wildflowers and the trees, the clothes people wear, the vehicles they travel in, and the music they listen to. Proust makes many references to classical music like Mozart, Liszt and Wagner.
"Swann's Way" contains three sections: Combray, Swann In Love, and Place Names: The Name.
"Combray" is a boy's memoir of life in Combray, a small French town. It has no real plot. The famous "madeleine" is a desert cake dipped in tea that the narrator bites into and suddenly remembers many forgotten memories of his past. The boy narrator talks about his love of reading and infatuation with the theater, his reclusive grand-aunt Leonie Octave, his housekeeper Francoise, the evening visits of Swann, and his obsession with getting goodnight kisses from his mom. "Combray" explains the book's title: there are two walking paths out of Combray. One of those paths runs past the home of Swann, and is therefore nicknamed "Swann's Way."
"Swann In Love" has been described as a novel in a novel. But again it read more like a memoir than a real story. The section takes place before the events in "Combray."
Swann is a well-to-do socialite who is invited to the Verdurins' soiree by fellow socialite Odette de Crecy. Swann falls in love with Odette but he is infatuated and eventually lapses into obsession. He finds himself spying on her, stalking her, stealing her mail, and using her friends to gain information. Amazingly, Odette continues to see Swann as a friend, but he just uses these occasions to pry into her past affairs and rumors of lesbianism. Not surprisingly, she drifts away from him.
"Place-Names: The Name" is the shortest section (supposedly truncated per publisher's directions), and could be retitled "The Narrator In Love." It is yet another memoir of another man (actually a boy) in love with none other than Swann's daughter Gilberte (the name). The boy is not as obsessed as Swann was, but nevertheless causes much stress for his poor governess when he insists on walking to various places in Paris in the off chance of finding Gilberte.
Proust is one of those authors that, like fruits & vegetables, is supposed to ‘good' for you. Fortunately, Proust is not avant-garde or experimental, and his language is straightforward and not that hard to understand (probably because the translator made it so). Even Proust's famously long sentences are heavily punctuated, so they aren't too hard to follow.
Since "Swann's Way" is a classic, I'm going to leave it to the scholars to rate the novel itself.
But five stars go to Lydia Davis' readable translation, the highly informative intro, the detailed footnotes, and the attractive book design.
I'm even firmly believing I'll make it through to the end. Wish me luck!