June 12th, 2004

Swann's Way

Well, to be honest I haven't finished the book yet. But hey, I did join the community late in the month. :) Anyway, in the translation by Lydia Davis on pages 86-87 I think is a useful section for understanding how to read the novel.

"the ingeniousness of the first novelist consisted in understanding that in the apparatus of our emotions, the image being the only essential element, the simplification that would consist in purely and simply abolishing real people would be a decisisve improvement"

In this section he talks talks about how "emotion is multiplied ten fold" because it can be isolated. And I would argue that not only emotion, but almost everything is multiplied in the novel. Can we say Decadent?

Why I say that this page or so is useful in understanding how to read the text is that it may be read as a highly emotional dream, the obvious example being the tea cup and those things everyone talks about.

Perhaps I'm just saying what everyone else has said about the book a hundred times, but I thought that section was worth bringing our attention to.
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Proust is in my cup of tea

I have recently finished my undergrad class on Studies in Tolkien, a 3 week course in which I read The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the full Silmarillion, complete with papers, presentations, and exams. What an intellectual work out, haha. But now that it's done, I've been able to pick up on my reading for pleasure. And by pleasure, I mean "Swann's Way" by Proust. But I got through the full "Overture" in two sittings.. okay, maybe 3... and I was really drawn into the narrative. My version is by Vintage International, and is translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, and it's BEAUTIFUL. I think it's reawakened some of the vigor for reading in me. At least, for the passion of the written word. I discovered how much I loved it when I took a class on literary criticim.

But anyway, I have to share my favorite parts from this overture. The images Proust sets forth, the young child, all he wants is his mother's comforting presence at night, waiting up for her that night and her staying with him through the night. That moment was incredible to me. I especially liked this particular part of the text (from the Moncrieff translation):
First PassageCollapse )
Isn't that image beautiful?

And I know this takes up lots of space (hence the cuts), but here's another favorite quote from this first "chapter" of the text. I think it's essential to the theme Proust seems to be weaving with "memory" and, of course, the "remembrance of things past":
Second PassageCollapse )

This text seems to suggest an extremely psychological work. I'm not sure if this work could be classed under literary criticism in any other critical school than psycho-analytical, which would of course suggest Sigmund Freud (and thought I don't want to ruin the beautiful imagery, his Oedipal complex could be read fairly prominent in the first passage I quoted). His concepts of the sub-conscious also seem to be brought out clearly here; in the constant parallel to certain objects or experiences being linked to certain memories, even the memories of entire towns inside a cup of tea. I think Lacanian theory, the "Lacanian Mirror" or whatever the exact term is, could be applied here as well, as there are a couple of instances where the child of this portion of the text "realizes" something and describes "growing up" a little more, a sense of emotional puberty. At least within the text itself, these experiences suggesting further development could possibly link to Lacan and his mirror, and of course, other critics as well. I'd be interested to find out if any deconstructive or post-structural break-downs of this text exist. Any comments or replies? Agree? Disagree? *sigh* I love the written word.
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