Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust ***

I like the modernists, usually, but sometimes they can be a bit much. Proust's book is French modernism at its height, and it reminds me much of Virginia Woolf in its focus on thought. Add to that an interest in memory and love, and one has the essence of the first volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. The first two hundred pages recount a child's life and his interest in his own mother (hello, Freud), culminating with the beginning of his interest in Gilberte, Swann's daughter. The second section I thought the strongest and the most interesting--"Swann's Love." Here, we get the story of Swann, falling for one Odette. At first, lady's man that he is, he has little strong interest. She's not his type. She makes a play for him, and he spends time with her accordingly, but without much intensity. During the course of the section, however, Swann's interest grows, even as Odette's seeming interest falls. This interest finds form in jealousy (Odette, Swann learns only later, has been something of a gentleman's woman herself). Watching the transformation take place is interesting, if a bit mind-numbing in a Woolf sort of way.

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