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A Summer of Proust: 200-250

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Swann in love! Who doesn't love reading about love? Especially when its Swann in love and this volume of In Search of Lost Time is titled Swann's Way? I really enjoyed these 50 pages and I read through them very quickly, disproving the notion that something can't be classic and a page-turner.

Swann meets a girl who reminds him of the women painted by Sandro di Mariano (Botticelli to us common folk) in the Sistine Chapel. Through her, he secures a regular invitation to the home of M. and Mme Verdurin. Here he meets the painter du jour, a pianist who plays a song he thought he'd never hear again and a Doctor who can't let a name or a phrase he doesn't know pass without explication. The doctor is also a big fan of puns.

Swann's lady friend, Odette, seems to be quite taken with him. She likes to go visit him and writes him letters. Here's the thing, though: Swann himself seems to like the idea of her much more than he actually likes her. This is a pretty common phenomenon. A friend of mine once referred to her Netflix queue as good measure of how she thinks she is compared to how she actually is. She adds classics, foreign films, and documentaries to her queue, but they keep getting jumped by episodes of Rescue Me and the Gilmore Girls. Swann is like this. He recognizes classic beauty; he knows a lot about art and makes a connection between Odette and Botticelli, but before he sees her every night he spends a few hours with a working girl who is her exact opposite.

While he is first at the Verdurin's, the pianist plays a piece of music that he had only heard once before and had never been able to discover its name. When he hears it, he is amazed and is so fascinated by it that it becomes part of the ritual of being at the Verdurins. The best part of these 50 pages are the descriptions of the music. It is really amazing how Proust is able to use the printed word to capture an auditory (non-linguistic) experience.

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About Katharine Donelson

  • I’m enjoying this trek through Proust – you make the reading experience seem much less daunting than many of his admirers do!