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Swann's Way (Modern Library Classics) Mass Market Paperback – April 27, 2004
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From the Inside Flap
The first and best known volume of one of the landmarks of world literature. Available separately for those who want to approach Proust carefully!
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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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.
I'm even firmly believing I'll make it through to the end. Wish me luck!
And this volume is only the beginning of REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, which still makes it the open door into a new world.
REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST was a transcendent reading experience for me. Very seldom in my reading life has an entire world opened to me, completely convincing, absolutely jammed with amazing men and women, and full of insight into what it means to be human, even if the person who is writing it all down is neurotic, over-sensitive, snobbish, and deeply in the closet. (The funny thing is that everyone who knew Proust knew that he was gay, and he never realized it.
The best characters in this book--Swann, Odette, the fearsome Mme. Verdurin, the Duchess Guermantes, Baron Charlus, Albertine, the narrator himself, just to name a few--are among the greatest characters ever to inhabit a page. The sequence of novels is loonnnnnhhggggggg and occasionally boring. So skim a few pages, it won't hurt Proust. But this book has changed the way I feel about many things and has brought me a new perspective on writing, after decades of reading and writing.
Okay, I'm talking about the entire REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, of which this is the first volume. But seriously, why start if you're not going to finish it?
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