proust thread

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im so glad i dont go to parties

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 09:31 (eight years ago) link

"Why, Basin, you know quite well who' my aunt means," cried the
Duchess indignantly. "He's the brother of that great graminivorous
creature you had the weird idea of sending to call on me the other
day. She stayed a solid hour; I thought I should go mad. But I began
by thinking it was she who was mad when I saw a person I didn't know
come browsing into the room looking exactly like a cow."

"Listen, Oriane; she asked me what afternoon you were at home; I
couldn't very well be rude to her; and besides, you do exaggerate so,
she's not in the least like a cow," he added in a plaintive tone,
though not without a quick smiling glance at the audience.

He knew that his wife's lively wit needed the stimulus of
contradiction, the contradiction of common sense which protests that
one cannot (for instance) mistake a woman seriously for a cow; by this
process Mme. de Guermantes, enlarging upon her original idea, had
been inspired to produce many of her most brilliant sayings. And the
Duke in his innocent fashion helped her, without seeming to do so, to
bring off her effects like, in a railway carriage, the unacknowledged
partner of the three-card player.

"I admit she doesn't look like _a_ cow, she looks like a dozen,"
exclaimed Mme. de Guermantes. "I assure you, I didn't know what to do
when I saw a herd of cattle come marching into my drawing-room in a
hat and heard them ask me how I was. I had half a mind to say:
'Please, herd of cattle, you must be making a mistake, you can't
possibly know me, because you're a herd of cattle,' but after racking
my brains over her I came to the conclusion that your Cambremer woman
must be the Infanta Dorothea who had said she was coming to see me one
day, and is rather bovine also, so that I was just on the point of
saying: 'Your Royal Highness' and using the third person to a herd of
cattle. The cut of her dewlap reminded me rather, too, of the Queen of

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 09:40 (eight years ago) link

im so glad i dont go to parties

So is Proust - a conclusion he reached after not getting enough of 'em over a decade or so.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 09:50 (eight years ago) link

How does it compare to A Dance to the Music of Time?

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 09:51 (eight years ago) link

proust has more laffs

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 12:26 (eight years ago) link

Indeed it does have a lot of laffs - know you are reading Moncrieff and I wonder whether I should pick that up again for that reason. The multi-translator that I've read and love I think is less funny but somehow the 'laws' Proust abstracts from all the beahaviour he witnesses/creates comes out a lot more here.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 12:33 (eight years ago) link

i read the first volume in lydia davis because i'd read the moncrieff version before. moncrieff is a more enjoyable reading experience, which helps

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:06 (eight years ago) link

he's a bit cheesecakey though, or like having a giant cadbury bar, in places

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:07 (eight years ago) link

new biography of Moncrieff makes him sound a p interesting figure:

i read the moncrieff/kilmartin translation in penguin, which worked out fine for me. have since seen a version further revised by D J Enright, which i might try if i ever re-read (which I would like to do.)

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:15 (eight years ago) link

we have been in this drawing room for 80 pages and I suspect we have the same to pass again

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:06 (eight years ago) link

"words do have some meaning after all, damn it"

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:17 (eight years ago) link

I still getting the courage to open the second part of Sodoma and Gomorra. He is in Balbec yet again. First part was pretty brilliant.

Frederik B, Friday, 5 September 2014 16:32 (eight years ago) link

The second part is even better, especially the way the Charlus-Morel relationship frames the new phase of the narrator's relationship with Albertine. (I'm nearing the end of The Fugitive, myself.)

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 16:42 (eight years ago) link

A Dance to the Music of Time was a massive – in every sense – disappointment.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:43 (eight years ago) link

balbec "yet" again? do i have another visit to deal with before then?

i can't decide if i care particularly about the things i know will happen already, given how much the unexpected reappearance of figures from earlier in the narrative is one of its stock tactics, tics, schticks

i am pro 'dance'; suspect powell less of a snob than proust tbh

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 18:31 (eight years ago) link

did someone, on ilx, talk about the bit where bloch's father tells saint-loup a painting is by ... i forget, manet? ... and saint-loup innocently asks if it is signed, not meaning to cast aspersions, and bloch sr's reaction demonstrates that he thinks saint-loup is casting aspersions, and also that he is lying

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 18:32 (eight years ago) link

It's only his second long visit after In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, I think (?). I do like the repetitions, it gives structure to what could easily be seen as thousands of pages of dinners and vacations. Also, I'd just recommend the Deleuze book on Proust and the Signs. That one is pretty brilliant, really gave me a lot to focus on as I read.

Frederik B, Friday, 5 September 2014 18:55 (eight years ago) link

Benjamin's "Image of Proust" essay is also essential, although that probably goes without saying. I think the ending of The Guermantes Way, with the Guermantes' willful refusal to recognize death recapitulating the narrator's inability (yet) to mourn his grandmother, was probably the place in the cycle where I started to appreciate Proust's unexpectedly forceful command of narrative structure beyond the paragraph level.

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:18 (eight years ago) link

(I don't really know what constitutes spoilers in this thread, or whether they're even that relevant to reading Proust, but maybe I should be more circumspect about talking about plot here.)

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:21 (eight years ago) link

Beckett's book also essential.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 5 September 2014 19:24 (eight years ago) link

Yes! In my teaching days, when I taught Endgame a few times, I would usually start one of the classes with Beckett's analysis of habit, "the ballast that chains the dog to its vomit."

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:28 (eight years ago) link

i dont think we need to avoid spoilers on the proust thread, i think if ur contemplating reading proust you have high level developed reading skills that enable u 2 do things like read a sentence starting "I think the ending of The Guermantes Way..." and think 2 urself, i do not need 2 rd the rest of this sentence

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 6 September 2014 09:53 (eight years ago) link

i sort of recognise myself in proust's thing about sons who are rude to their mothers /:

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 6 September 2014 09:53 (eight years ago) link

how do ppl reconcile themselves with the antisemitism and homophobia and misogyny in this then

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:44 (eight years ago) link

is reconciling necessary?

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:49 (eight years ago) link

I didn't mean to write "themselves with"

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:52 (eight years ago) link

man the first reference to the war reminds me of the clunking 'this is the 50s!' stuff that tv show mad men used to do

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:52 (eight years ago) link

On the other hand, in light of what Proust's contemporary readers had recently experienced, in the first volume of The Guermantes Way the irony of Saint-Loup's protracted praise of the aesthetic beauty of military planning is handled exquisitely.

one way street, Sunday, 7 September 2014 18:47 (eight years ago) link

(I shake my head at having written "aesthetic beauty" in place of "beauty," though.)

one way street, Sunday, 7 September 2014 18:52 (eight years ago) link

how does he go from that to "if we had another war not that we will have another war it will be like the Götterdämmerung and the great flood rolled into one" though? dude needs an editor

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 20:06 (eight years ago) link

"Standing in the tunnel before a match against Liverpool at Anfield, I had a brush with something that Marcel Proust describes as 'a remembrance of things past'" - from I Am The Secret Footballer, pg. 19

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Monday, 8 September 2014 09:34 (eight years ago) link

five months pass...

I'm three quarters through my rereading of S&G. Charlus has said he prefers strawberry lemonade, leading the narrator to think, "Aha! He's given himself away as an invert!"

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 February 2015 14:49 (eight years ago) link

charlus is totally my favourite aspect of this, in retrospect

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:50 (eight years ago) link

hey alfred this one-liner is from the next volume turn away to avoid spoilers. everyone else, isn't this grand:

“For the American woman dinner-parties and fashionable entertainments were a sort of Berlitz School. She heard the names and she repeated them, without having first learnt their precise value and significance.”

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:52 (eight years ago) link

btw in re how do ppl reconcile the antisemitism and homophobia and misogyny in this then i arrived at a reading, i have decided everyone else is wrong about proust

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:53 (eight years ago) link

except people who say things like "volumes five and six fall off a little," i didn't want them to be but these people are right about proust

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:53 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

so what's the best translation of this shit

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:20 (eight years ago) link

english translation

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:21 (eight years ago) link

ck scott moncrieff forever and all time accept no imitations

adam, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:25 (eight years ago) link


drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:29 (eight years ago) link

these editions?

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:32 (eight years ago) link



markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:38 (eight years ago) link

i read & love the former (moncrieff & kilmartin), not familiar with enright's revision

drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:45 (eight years ago) link

sorry can't be more helpful. if/when i read again in translation (still have crazy ambition to read it in french someday) may try enright (revising moncrieff & kilmartin).

many recommend new davis translation (of first volume); i've only read a few excerpts. comparing davis & m&k, without comparing either to the french, i find m&k more beautifully written. totally subjective (really, subjective): just love m&k's sentences more.

if i intended to read whole thing (all volumes), think i'd want to read same "voice" throughout-- which would be arg for m&k (or m&k&e) over davis, even if one preferred davis's translation of swann's way.

so don't take this as rec but just my subjective pref.

drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 02:44 (eight years ago) link

i read the first volume in lydia davis because i'd read the moncrieff version before. moncrieff is a more enjoyable reading experience, which helps

― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, September 5, 2014 1:06 PM (7 months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

he's a bit cheesecakey though, or like having a giant cadbury bar, in places

― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, September 5, 2014 1:07 PM (7 months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Monday, 4 May 2015 03:13 (eight years ago) link

enright's revisions of kilmartin's revisions aren't that big of a deal imo -- those two are trying to abolish howlers and make a style a little more consistent, but hardly changing the book's basic deal in english. i can't read french though so take this w a grain of salt!! -- there's a really good i think lrb article about the changes?

davis is fun to read and wonder about whether her studied affectlessnesslessness is more of a mesh w proust than one had ever realised, but i think it's better to start triangulating what proust is like from the version we had around for decades than to go to the scorched-earth penguin one

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Monday, 4 May 2015 03:15 (eight years ago) link

Love how often this question comes around (boo on me for noticing).

There are only two translations. try one - then if you don't like try he other one.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 May 2015 08:56 (eight years ago) link

This is the LRB piece i think (came up randomly on my twitter feed just now).

reminds me of this podcast (feat. Prendergast). don't like Matthew Sweet and Prendergast was know-it-all iirc but worth a listen if you'd like to be annoyed.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 May 2015 11:00 (eight years ago) link

five months pass...

Why would anyone take a dog to a dentistry exhibition?

Matt DC, Wednesday, 21 October 2015 12:29 (seven years ago) link

dogs love smiling so

j., Wednesday, 21 October 2015 13:31 (seven years ago) link

These are Parisian dogs though, theirs is a look of raffishness mixed with contempt.

Matt DC, Thursday, 22 October 2015 16:31 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

Wasn't this strange?

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 28 July 2018 19:04 (four years ago) link

I liked the fact that it was critical of Proust - something that no one of authority ever is in print. Proust has been untouchable for as long as I can remember. I literally don't remember seeing anyone contemporary ever writing a sentence critical of him.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 10:48 (four years ago) link

yeah, it's refreshing I guess to see someone have a go at Proust, but the pro-Powell stuff didn't work for me at all - didn't feel like the close readings were persuasive, just assertions of value/quality. The stuff about specific historicity of A Dance was decent.

Passionate defences of Powell often seem to have this 'I know this milieu/these people' thing hanging behind them - reductive, but I suspect Anderson as Eton + Oxford might feel that acutely.

Tariq Ali a big Powell fan too iirc but I don't know enough about the New Left to come up with an entertaining hypothesis about why Powell should do it for them so.

woof, Monday, 30 July 2018 11:22 (four years ago) link

I agree. I would separate the Proust element (very refreshing) from the Powell element where I don't have the knowledge to judge the claims.

I think I tend to agree that the reading of Powell wasn't terrifically convincing re: his value.

And I think it must be true about knowing Powell's milieu, as a big factor.

Ali seems as self-indulgent a writer as almost any of his generation. His recent LRB interview woeful - rather confirming the recent ILB point about space in the paper being wasted.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 11:25 (four years ago) link

I get that Proust (and everyone bar idk Shakespeare, Milton and Dante) needs ppl having a go at and some of the criticisms are decent - but attacking Proust for his focus in on one particular class wasn't exactly mind-blowing. That's reasonable and true but it so doesn't matter. Or that he might be weird on relationships (I need to re-read those bits again)

Its been a while since I've read something that I think its quite good yet also a colossal folly. Just a sinking feeling - if you want to talk Powell up then don't place this albatross around him. Their mode of expression is so different anyway.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 July 2018 11:54 (four years ago) link

I had a lovely summer reading ADTTMOT eleven years ago but only its length is comparable to Proust.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 30 July 2018 12:03 (four years ago) link

my take (which shd perhaps go on the perry anderson thread we seem not to have started) is that there's an element of a bet here (if only with himself): that PA can punt powell up into the upper-layer blessed euro-criticosphere that he probably does actually belong in

also and more importantly he shd have written a *three*-part piece (=half as long again) comparing proust, powell and robert jordan's the wheel of time

mark s, Monday, 30 July 2018 12:26 (four years ago) link

lol, iirc Pound has a small go at Shakespeare and a big go at Milton

imago, Monday, 30 July 2018 12:46 (four years ago) link

I thought PA's criticism of Proust's odd, perhaps distorted approach to sexuality was bold and interesting.

Likewise his argument re: Proust's solipsism and lack of real interest in other minds and people.

I happen not to like Proust, which combines unhappily with the fact that everyone else does, so this critique was a once in a lifetime gift for me.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:07 (four years ago) link

Mark, would the PA thread be on ILB? I think so.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:07 (four years ago) link

iirc Harold Bloom and Roger Shattuck have also analyzed the novel's queer-in-every-sense sexuality

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 30 July 2018 13:09 (four years ago) link

Yes. I expect they said it was great.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:13 (four years ago) link

not really, more like, to use a phrase I loathe, "it is what it is"

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 30 July 2018 13:16 (four years ago) link

I Love Amphibology

mark s, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:45 (four years ago) link

xxxxxxxpost pinefox, you are not alone; I read In Search last year and thought it could be even better if half as long, though maybe that's too harsh. But def. appreciated one of the (Penguin Deluxe) translators passing reference to the Guermantes sector of high society as "a desert," although a geographical desert would be more consistently interesting to me than to the narrator. But he's into reading about science, and making his own observations etc., and the strata of society (as well as seeming liked massed figures/materials on diff planes, with individual elements and subsets brought through diff degrees of lighting, also thinking of orchestral and other boilerplate processing, with themes and plants and rocks and birds and things apparent for a while, 'til the cue/factory whistle/office nurse gives the signal---"The only constant in life is change," and so it grinds on); the strata can be of most interest to geologists or their fans though. Of course he's also preceded by Zola, and some of his characters pump each other for hot gossip with "Balzacian reasons" as alibi ho-ho.
He is interested in other minds, and different strata/shadings of class, incl. the nanny from childhood right through the time the narrator does with Albertine in the family apartment, and beyond. And the guy who spends all those aeons with Charlus.

dow, Monday, 30 July 2018 16:21 (four years ago) link

And the way people present themselves re Dreyfus, through the years, ditto re Germany, and technology (at least the influences of automobiles, photography, and cinematic narrative techniques, though the narrator turns up his nose at those last, in passing). But some of this is more a matter of Art Appreciation, giving a nod in thought and typing, than consistently engaging/enjoyable reading. Yes it is what it is, and wideangle-zoom rough patch rigor of the outside-insider autodidact narrator finding his voice may be the author's master plan---although the Penguin Deluxe translators report last second addenda and strikethroughs, notes sometimes garbled or otherwise hard to understand, previous fixes, incl. forgeries--but it all does seem of a piece.

dow, Monday, 30 July 2018 16:37 (four years ago) link

You seem to know it very well, Dow.

As I say, I didn't like it much.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 20:17 (four years ago) link

Someone needs to do this with Simon Raven rather than Powell, just for the hell of it.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 1 August 2018 02:28 (four years ago) link

Pound has a small go at Shakespeare and a big go at Milton

He succeeded in enunciating why Milton was not a viable model for his contemporary poets to emulate, but failed to make a dent in the pleasures Milton presents, once you've accepted his chosen diction. Retrospectively arguing that a poet's diction is bad, because it sounds awkward to contemporary ears and you would never make the same choices he made, for reasons he would not have given the same weight as you do, doesn't cut much ice.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 1 August 2018 03:25 (four years ago) link

Interesting thread. Half-way through a re-read of The Guermantes Way. Finding the Mark Treharne translation a big improvement on the Scott-Moncrieff/Kilmartin version I read first.

frankiemachine, Sunday, 12 August 2018 15:44 (four years ago) link

Yeah, Trehane's enjoyable---no clue how it compares with the original, but a good read, like all the Penguin Deluxe volumes. Lydia Davis's version of Swann's Way is amaaazing. She recently came out with a collection of his letters to a troublesome neighbor; excerpts look promising

dow, Monday, 13 August 2018 00:01 (four years ago) link

Maybe I'll try Trehane when I get to volume 3 again. Last week I picked up a used set of the Penguin three-volume Kilmartin editions, and I've started on Within a Budding Grove. I think it captures the feel of the original really well. I was a bit put off by the sample of James Grieve's that I read.

jmm, Monday, 13 August 2018 00:27 (four years ago) link

Those Proust letters are OK, nothing amazing. He's too polite, never goes mental.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 15 August 2018 02:13 (four years ago) link

Finished Part II of the Perry Anderson essay yesterday. The discussion of Powell's politics turned the essay around -- as in it was finally selling Dance to the Music of Time to me and it was simply compelling to see Anderson trying to discuss why this Conservative radical came up with the goods. It just helps that Proust and Powell's politics can't be compared so he was left to mull over Powell's odes to Thatcher.

This was timely in the sense that I have been looking to start a reading project around the English Tory novelist. It did leave with a feeling that if I wanted to read elegant prose by a British reactionary, that out of Powell, Amis (father not son I am not that crazy), Larkin, Waugh, Naipul, Wodehouse (more of a question mark on that last one)...well I would've dipped into something short by all of them but now also actually feeling that I'd like to try a few vols of Dance.. as well. I'll see how that goes.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 19 August 2018 20:31 (four years ago) link

Fortunately, you can read three volumes of Dance in a week.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 19 August 2018 20:37 (four years ago) link

I don't think I shared that reaction -- as I probably said before, it seems like a case of PA's perverse attraction to people on the political Right. I couldn't see how he made Powell's politics valuable or appealing.

But I also don't read as much or as fast as xyzzz so I won't be up to reading the novels themselves.

the pinefox, Monday, 20 August 2018 08:45 (four years ago) link

I don't think its so much about making Powell's politics valuable or appealing. I am not sure that was the intention here.

The paradoxical radicalism might be worth delving into. The regret for the past as it was lived, with a lack of nostalgia for it - which does seem to separate him from others. I liked that he felt the world Powell described (unlike Proust's Third Republic) hadn't quite disappeared. Dancing to the time (finding the patterns across a time span), not trying to recapture...its interesting. Whether it'll turn out like that is something to be seen.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 20 August 2018 10:27 (four years ago) link

xyzzz, if you have the time/inclination I would also recommend the three volumes of Powell's journals published in the late 80s/early 90s. The right-wing politics/Thatcher-love are a bit more naked on the fork here (whereas most volumes of the Dance, superficially at least, are more 'even-handed'), plus you get lots of great book chat, sharp-eyed observation of people known and encountered, and a hilarious (and quite possibly self-aware) subplot of the increasingly tetchy, elderly Powell being harassed and pursued by adoring fans, academics, television producers, tradesmen etc. They're all v good toilet reading (as Hilary Spurling mentions in her biog, Powell himself plastered the lavatory in his home with a gigantic collage).

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 13:42 (four years ago) link

Thanks Ward, they actually sound really fun!

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 14:08 (four years ago) link

Any recommendations on good/interesting studies on Proust? In the next few days I plan to end my hiatus from la Recherche and finish it off (I just have Time Regained to go).

After reading Perry Anderson's essay, I'm intrigued by the Malcolm Bowie book, Proust Among the Stars, and Gerard Genette's Narrative Discourse. I've read Beckett's book which is great and which I think I'll re-read.

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 20:35 (four years ago) link

Ah, should have scrolled upthread and read through before posting...any recs in addition to Benjamin's essay (which I'll also reread) and Deleuze's book?

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 20:36 (four years ago) link

Roger Shattuck's book is valuable. So is Beckett's slim volume.

The Silky Veils of Alfred (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 29 August 2018 20:37 (four years ago) link

The Malcolm Bowie study is really good. Its a very intense, rigorous study that becomes a really great work in its own right.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 21:43 (four years ago) link

I just started digging into Proust secondary lit this year, but a few things have stood out. Definitely Malcolm Bowie's book, which read to me almost like poetry criticism in its minute attention to particular sentences and patterns of imagery. I also really liked Edmund Wilson's chapter in Axel's Castle.

I read a philosophical study by Joshua Landy, Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust. I found some parts much more engaging than others, but worthwhile. If you're also interested in Kant's aesthetics, there's a great essay by Richard Moran comparing Kant and Proust.

Honestly, so far I've probably gotten the most enjoyment out of biographical studies. George Painter's two-part biography is great and seems to be the standard English biography. I'm in the middle of Caroline Weber's Proust's Duchess, which isn't primarily about Proust although he's all over the book. It's about three women who became social celebrities in the salon culture, and who gave Proust lots of material for the Faubourg set. I don't think one would need to be a big Proust fan to get into this book.

René Girard's Deceit, Desire, and the Novel is supposed to be a classic, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I want to have read Stendhal first.

jmm, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 23:20 (four years ago) link

NYRB has this coming out in November, and it sounds interesting. I've just been reading about Czapski in Bloodlands.

jmm, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 23:30 (four years ago) link

Anything by Michael Wood, who adores Proust, is great. Almost enough to interest me in Proust.

LRB archive:

the pinefox, Thursday, 30 August 2018 06:48 (four years ago) link

Cool, thanks all for the recommendations. I'll make a point of looking out for the Bowie when I finish and will keep an eye out for the others.

Also, thanks for sharing that about the upcoming Czapski translation, I'd never heard of it but it sounds v compelling.

Federico Boswarlos, Thursday, 30 August 2018 14:18 (four years ago) link

Really enjoying Time Regained so far and especially the way - despite Anderson's reading of Proust, though it is fair for the preceding vols - history really enters into the novel and really broadens the narrative. I haven't read much about Paris itself (or anything (?) that had been set in the city) during WWI, so it's also doubly interesting to me from that point of view.

That and, of course, all of the Charlus.

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 3 September 2018 17:05 (four years ago) link

To add to the pile. Looks intriguing, would pick up if I saw it cheap:

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 15 September 2018 13:50 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

Malcolm Bowie has a nice way of putting things.

A diction of this kind, especially when it is combined with a literary syntax that seems to offer a working model of speculative thought, has an optimistic underlying message for the reader. Proust's writing – the fantastication of it, the fine-spun texture of it, the power, pace and precipience of it – is a song of intellectual gladness and an unwearying tribute to the music of comedy. If there were no stubborn philosophical problems in the world, and no war, famine, disease or torture in it either, all thinking might resemble a gracious and disinterested Proustian paragraph. In the present sorry state of the world we may find ourselves returning to Proust for a new sense of mental largeness and potentiality. From within our dull, platitudinous everyday language, we may go back to Proust, as if to a great poet, to be reminded of the wonders that such language, under pressure, can still perform. Proust’s novel is a three-thousand page incantation, an insolently protracted exercise in word-magic, a tonic, a restorative for any reader who has gone tired and listless under a late twentieth-century tide of verbal waste-matter. Perhaps Proust really is Europe’s last great writer, as some of his slogan-prone enthusiasts have claimed.

Yet Proust’s novel has another, less encouraging, story in it. Seeking to localise this, we might be tempted to say, in the words of Shakespeare’s Troilus, that the narrator’s ‘desire is boundless but his act a slave to limit’, and there would be evidence for this view. Proust’s protagonist, for all his wishfulness, seems to have limited energy and willpower, and an ailing sense of purpose. In the course of a very long tale told about himself, he does not do very much. In society, he is immobilised by the spectacle of other people’s busy posturings. In the inner realm, he sees bright futures ahead of him, but often sinks back into an anxious torpor at the very moment when decisive action is required to actualise any of those possible worlds. He havers. He maunders. He drugs himself with retrospection. Surely the narrator’s vision of a boundless, endlessly self-transforming landscape of personal experience is a compensatory fantasy of precisely the kind that one would expect from someone who spent too long lazing indoors, refusing to pull himself together and seize the day.

Well, yes. This is partly right. Proust’s narrator is a comic creation, and he belongs, with Goncharov’s Oblamov (1859), a variety of Chekhovian males, the hero of Svevo’s As a Man Grows Older (1898) and Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1952), to the company of those who, while seeming merely indolent and indecisive to the impatient observer, are withheld from action by what the connoisseur will recognise as an admirable reticence and pudeur. A la recherche du temps perdu is a comedy of hypertrophied appetites and shrunken deeds. But Proust is a tragedian, too, and the tragic vision that his novel sets forth is one in which desire is a slave to limit. Desire in Proust teases us with the promise of an unceasing plasticity, but underneath the changing array of its objects it is all the while subject to fixation. Early configurations of sexual feeling continue to haunt adult experience. Phobias, obsessions and fetishes keep turning the narrator’s prospective, forward-flung imaginings back towards the needs, the injuries and the blighted pleasures of infancy. Desire keeps on repeating itself. It nags and needles, and will not let the past go. And Proust’s lengthy book, even while it glitters with fantasy and invention, insists upon this bounded and fixated quality: a desolate pattern of recurrence, a sense of pre-ordained pain and dissatisfaction, governs the procession of its narrative episodes. All love affairs fail, and fail in the same way. All journeys end in disappointment. All satisfactions are too little and too late. Death picks off the narrator’s admired mentors one by one, rekindling and reinforcing his childhood feelings of abandonment.

jmm, Monday, 26 November 2018 14:48 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

New multi-translator effort here:

I am so happy to announce that I will be translating Vol. II of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu for the lovely folks at Oxford University Press! It is a dream come true -- there's nothing more fulfilling than translating Proust ❤ @OxUniPress

— Charlotte Mandell (@avecsesdoigts) October 19, 2020

xyzzzz__, Monday, 19 October 2020 20:17 (two years ago) link

The version I've been reading is from Yale University Press, "the C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation edited and annotated by William C. Carter". The first three volumes have been published so far, and I am going to tackle the third sometime this winter. I found the annotations particularly helpful, since I have no idea who most of the painters, authors, actors and politicians mentioned in the text are.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 19 October 2020 20:42 (two years ago) link

oh cool, let 'em come down---was already gonna mention one reason that the manuscripts incl. catnip for translators: Davis and/or someone else in the series mentions somewhere re not only did Proust, like Balzac, keep trying to get changes in past the last minute, scribbling all over galleys etc., but discoveries have gradually accrued, some of them within each other, such as early editors etc., such as the author's brother Robert, tried to clarify, at times by nonprofessional means, and then there was the concerned citizen known to some as "Proust's Widow," who took it upon himself to re-write or maybe just write, in the manner of (what Marcel in Heaven might see and bless in *these* words after all) at least one passage, dunno exactly; I'll have to get the books out of storage.
The other thing I came here to say:
Thee other thing on my mind and in my headphones right now, is Willner's Bolan tribute, which for the first time has me struck by how B.'s words might seem too careless at first, but he always gets around to hitting the mark, as does MP, who can take much longer to do so, or not so longass long (sometimes even in the same sentence). This music lead back here here, as Madame Bowie reminded me.

dow, Tuesday, 20 October 2020 23:42 (two years ago) link

Change to "led me" (back here)

PS: there's a footnote somewhere in the same series, with the author's marginalia from above: "This is bad writing"--but he didn't change that one!

dow, Tuesday, 20 October 2020 23:47 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Mandell is doing a translation iof vol 2 and is tweeting some choice phrases.

The first few times we arrived there, the sun would just have set, but there would still be light; in the restaurant’s garden, where the lamps hadn’t yet been lit, the day’s heat was subsiding and settling, as if at the bottom of a vase,

— Charlotte Mandell (@avecsesdoigts) May 9, 2023

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 9 May 2023 09:03 (one month ago) link

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