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Swann's Way Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 11, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 218 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Relax: it's fantastic. There's no question that Davis's American English is thinner and more literal than C.K. Scott Montcrieff's archaically inflected turns of phrase and idioms, at least as revised by Terence Kilmartin and later by D.J. Enright. The removal of some of the familiar layers of the past in this all-new translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned: the colors seem sharper and momentarily disorienting. Yet many readers will find it exhilarating, allowing the text to shed slight airs that were not quite Proust's and making many of the jokes much more immediate (as when he implies that sense-organ atrophy in the bourgeois is a defense mechanism and the result of hardening unarticulated feelings). As accomplished translator and novelist Davis (The End of the Story) notes in her foreword, she has followed Proust's sentence structure as closely as possible "in its every aspect," including punctuation, word order and word choice. To take just one case, where Montcrieff/Kilmartin describe Mlle. Vinteuil finding it pleasant to metaphorically "sojourn" in sadism, Davis has the much more definitive "emigrate." Proust's psychological inquiry generally feels much sharper, giving a much more palpable sense of Freud and Bergson-and of the young Marcel's willful (if not malefic) manipulations of those around him. For first-timers who don't have French and are allergic to the slightest whiff of euphemism, this is the best means for traveling the way by Swann's.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is now generally viewed as the greatest French novelist and perhaps the greatest European novelist of the 20th century. He lived much of his later life as a reclusive semi-invalid in a sound-proofed flat in Paris and giving himself over entirely to writing IN SEARCH OF LOST --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 442nd edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067003245X
  • ASIN: B00030KOJ4
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,630,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fortunately, I was never assigned Proust in school and, prior to picking up Swann's Way, knew of Proust mainly through a Monty Python sketch. I thus came to the book with almost no preconceptions. It was, without exaggerration, one of the best reading experiences I have ever had. Proust is unlike any other novelist, somehow looking at life with both incredible analytical detachment and, at the same time, a neurotic coloring that is all his own. But, to fully appreciate this work, you have to take it at the right time. That time, for me at least, is middle age, when you begin to accept your own neuroses, when your own life consists of 50% memories, and when you can appreciate the relentless dissecting of the immortal "types" who inhabit every society. I have gone on to read the next two novels in Proust's series and now have to force myself not to consume the remainder too hastily. Even if Proust turns you off the first time around, wait ten years and try again.
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Format: Hardcover
Those of us who love Proust - either from long acquaintance, or from reading him for the very first time - can count ourselves fortunate in now having two very fine English translations to work from: the classic Moncrieff/Kilmartin rendition of the complete novel, and the new Lydia Davis translation of "Swann's Way." I've read and enjoyed both, because each brings something special and valuable to the work.
Davis is a breath of fresh air, being more literal (while still literary!) in that she follows the original French syntax and meaning more closely. I liked her translation, and applaud it. Normally, such a fine translation would be my first choice. However - and I admit this is a very subjective judgement - I was long ago seduced by the sheer beauty of Moncrieff/Kilmartin, and therefore cannot love the Davis translation quite so much. Of all authors, Proust requires us to surrender to the beauty of his language. Davis' translation is, for me, more likeable than loveable.
Really, it's an old (and impossible to resolve!) conflict between the more literal and the more "poetic" type of translation. I've dealt with this myself, in trying to translate Baudelaire, and there's no perfect answer. One thing I'd suggest (if you haven't read MK) is to get the MK translation of Swann's Way, now available in a very inexpensive paperback, along with Davis so that you can get a feel for both ways of appreciating Proust's great and magnificent work.
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Format: Paperback
We apply "classic" and "masterpiece" too liberally, but regardless of how loosely or strictly we deploy the terms, Marcel's Proust's extraordinary novel belongs to the shortest of short lists deserving such description. At the risk of hyperbole (though I do not thing it is hyperbolic), Proust is the one writer of the 20th century who perhaps belongs to the ages more than to his own time, who belongs with Shakespeare and Dante and Homer.
Many are put off Proust by not understanding the structure of his work and his writing strategy. The book, to many, seems to have no point and no plot. The novel actually does have a plot, albeit a simple and not easy to discern one: Will the narrator (usually termed "Marcel") become a writer? Through seven long volumes, we watch Marcel variously resolve to write and then forsake his resolve, we see him even forget for enormous lengths of time his intent to write. Through love affairs, through events with his friends, through reflections on all matter of subjects and experiences of every kind, Marcel finally comes in the final volume to rediscover his vocation and the subject of his work.
This first volume in the series contains many of the most famous episodes in all of Proust. The famous passage in which the Narrator tells of his not being able to fall asleep as a child is found in the first pages. The most famous section in all of Proust, that of his eating as an adult a madeleine that first creates an inexplicable sense of joy and then engenders a plethora of involuntary memories of his childhood, is also found in this volume. The second half is the remarkable story of "Swann in Love," in which family friend Charles Swann falls in love, much to his surprise, with the courtesan Odette.
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By A Customer on September 3, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Swann's Way is the gateway to the most beautifully written novel there is, that is, the whole of the "Search for Lost Time". Contrary to reputation, it is not "difficult" (in the way, say, Joyce or Faulkner can be) but it is not for people who prefer to skim across novels rather than immerse themselves in them. There is no use in my pulling out the superlatives; to do so would just invite redundancy to the books that have been written on him. But for anyone who loves reading (and who checking out this review does not) I would consider it a great loss to have gone through life, loving books as you do, and having missed out on Proust. It is an experience that will remind you of why you love to read and stay with you throughout your life.
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Format: Paperback
One of the most fascinating and beautiful books I've ever read, Proust had a knack for taking the smallest detail and making it meaningful and beautiful. His sentence structure is very different from anything I've ever read before and his writing style is very dense(somebody once told me that it was like swimming through mayonaise) He is one of most original writers of this century and certainly one of the most poetic. Reading Swanns Way has made me hungry to read more of Proust. I've looked everywhere for the whole set of In Search of Lost Time(or Rememberence of Things Past) luckily Amazon has the whole set. Everybody should at least try to read Swanns Way.
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