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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most beautiful novels ever written
This is the first volume of Proust's masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, and it is where you must start if you want to read Proust. It works just fine as a novel in its own right, unlike the following volumes. The only question is, which translation should you read? Until this edition it was usually titled, in English, Swann's Way. 'The Way by Swann's' is a more literal...
Published on 31 Mar 2010 by Phil O'Sofa

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the most boring books I have read in my life
Dont get what the fush is about. One of the most boring books I have read in my life. Great if you need something that will put you to sleep at night. I give it two stars because it has some ok passages
Published 2 months ago by asdelq


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In search of one's own past..., 20 Feb 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
This is one of the classic works of literature. "Swann's Way" is the first volume of Proust's magnum opus, which has traditionally and somewhat inaccurately been translated as "Remembrance of Things Past." The French title "A la recherché du temps perdu," would be more appropriately rendered as "In search of lost time." The passive implications of "remembrance," the much more active implications of a "search." A key distinction lost in that literal, or not so literal, translation. The entire work is one of the longest in literature. Like knowing the first line in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (Wordsworth Classics)), knowing that it is the madeleine (a cookie), dipped in tea that triggers childhood memories, is one of the touchstones that is the required knowledge of a literate person. As the author says: "And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die."

The novel is set in the last quarter of the 19th Century, during the ascendency of the Third Republic, as well as a French middle class. Each summer Proust's family would leave Paris, for a small town in La Beauce, the French "breadbasket," an hour and a half west of Paris (at least today, by autoroute). In the novel the town is called Combray. It's real name is Illiers, beyond Chartres a bit, and just to the north of the modern throughway. For Proust's centennial celebrations, the town's officials combined the two words, with a hyphen, and renamed the town. Proust's family would stay in his Aunt Leonie's house, and enjoy the marvelous temperature climate, and the very long days of summer (full dark did not occur until 11 pm around the solstice). Obviously it was the "pre-digital age." Even having dinner at 8 pm, the French custom, would allow time for a "post-prandial stroll" during the long evening. "Swann's Way" refers to one of those particular walks that ended in the Pré Catelan, a lovely garden that Proust's uncle designed. This walk he associated with joy and goodness as opposed to "The Guermantes Way," the third volume of this work.

Rich and dense, this novel is beautifully written. Literature should personally impact one's life; great literature more so. I first read this work when my children were babies. At the beginning of the work, Proust, who turned out in real life to become a quintessential neurotic, went on and on about the importance of getting a good-night kiss from his mother. His "rivals" were the guests his parents were entertaining... and I vowed, more or less successfully, not to let my own guests take priority when my kid's needed that extra bit of attention (and the best I can tell, that seem to remain neurosis free). For a number of summers we enjoyed those long twilights, renting a gite rural only 12 km away. Aunt Leonie's house is still there, and the garden bell that tinkles (if no one has stolen it!). My family and I would take the walk known as "Swann's Way," with its lovely ending in the town's classic garden, and normally were the only people there. Such an experience is an essential complement to reading the work, even if it is read, gulp, on Kindle.

Consider some passage that I've marked: "There are tints in the clouds this evening...a blue, especially, more floral than aerial, a cineraria blue, which it is surprising to see in the sky...has it not also the tint of some flower, a carnation or hydrangea? Nowhere, perhaps, except on the shores of the Channel, where Normandy merges into Brittany, have I observed such copious examples of that sort of vegetable kingdom of the atmosphere." Or, "I gazed at her, at first with that gaze which is not merely the messenger of the eyes, but at whose window all the sense assemble and lean out, petrified and anxious, a gaze eager to reach, touch, capture, bear off in triumph the body at which it is aimed, and the soul with the body..." If the reader likes the word "leer" better, for its succinctness, then Proust is probably not for you. Or, referring to the sound of the bells coming from the village church: "...which had not melted into the air they had traversed for so long, and, ribbed, by the successive palpitations of all their sound-waves, throbbed as they grazed the flowers at our feet." And just one more: "...put to flight by that pale sign traced above my window-curtains by the uplifted forefinger of dawn."

Having just written such passages, I'm embarrassed to say that in 20 some years I have not gone on to volume two, In Search Of Lost Time, Vol 2: Within a Budding Grove: Within a Budding Grove Vol 2 (Vintage Classics), but with its recent purchase I should be able to make amends. Of the versions of this work extant, I'd strongly recommend the Vintage International, with the evocative cover that recalls the better aspects of summer in the Third Republic. And by all means, and not by chance, what better place to read this work, and recall one's own childhood than a summer visit to La Beauce? 5-stars plus.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly easy to read, 29 Aug 2010
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This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
I embarked on Proust's 6 volume epic as a result of a casual comment by someone that "you know you're middle aged when you realise that you'll never read the whole of In Search of Lost Time". I'm only 34 but decided I'd better start early as it was going to be a hard slog but I was pleasantly surprised by this first book.

The Way by Swann's is made up of 2 chapters, one about the narrators early life in his family's country home and one about the torturous love affair between Charles Swann and Odette de Crecy. Initially you do have to adjust to Proust's rhythm and the meandering nature of his writing. Both subjects are dealt with in minute detail which takes some getting used to especially if you read this coming off the back of a modern novel. Despite it's slow pace, once I got used to it, I did find it quite a page turner. The affair between Swann and Odette particulary was written in such a beautiful way that anyone who's ever been in love (or lust) couldn't fail to recognise the situation.

Obviously I have only read this translation by Lydia Davis so I can't say if it's better or worse than others but I found it flowed well which is all you can really ask of a translation I suppose. So all in all despite it's worthy materpiece reputation, I didn't find it a particularly hard read and testament to that fact is that I bought the next book straight away and am currently reading No. 5.

One point though, as I think other reviewer's have said, you do have to read them in order as basically it's one big novel about a boy's journey into adulthood.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the most boring books I have read in my life, 19 Oct 2014
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This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
Dont get what the fush is about. One of the most boring books I have read in my life. Great if you need something that will put you to sleep at night. I give it two stars because it has some ok passages
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 18 Dec 2014
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This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
perfect
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10 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would have happened if he'd had a coffee instead?, 7 Aug 2007
This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
Why oh why has this new translation been published in two different covers? The American ones, in Penguin Delux Editions, have gorgeous covers, and the British editions have the usual wishy-washy close ups of roughly period paintings, and for some reason, Groucho Marx on the spine. His eyes follow you around the room. If it were not for that stupid law that means the last two volumes of the translation can't be published in the US until 2019 (& why won't sombody fix that?) we would never have bought them in this version, and will have to spend the afternoon covering them. It is most distracting...
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who sanctioned these titles?, 5 July 2014
By 
J. Patterson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
The way by Swann's ?!? That isn't even grammatical! As for A love of Swann's, In the shadow of young girls in flower and Finding time again, well, what can you say? Lydia Davis is no doubt an excellent translator and I can only assume pressure was brought to bear to use these catastrophically inept titles, for whatever reason.
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6 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, 25 Aug 2011
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This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
Did I actually read the same book as the other reviewers here??? I found this book almost unreadable: convoluted, thick-as-treacle prose filled with the drippiest characters imaginable. I kept having to stop and go back a few sentences, suddenly realising I'd completely lost track of what was going on. Or rather, not going on, since pages and pages... and pages... would go by in a wierd miasma of semi-dream that's presumably supposed to be poetic. I'm sure Proust fully deserves his place in literary history, but I pity any students who have to study this stuff.
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16 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only love can break your heart, 30 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's: The Way by Swann's Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1) (Paperback)
Slow to the point of retardation, circular, ambiguous, prurient, self-absorbed and above all French; it is a mystery to me why this book is considered to be the finest novel ever penned.
I read this book on holiday in Ventnor and despite an overhelming sense of self-satisfaction at having read such a fat book, I was bitterly disappointing. I don't mind a little psychological acuity, the odd pastiche of the aporetic round of human living etc. but overall I found the plot thin and the action scenes over-written. Selling a million copies is the goal of every serious writer but I feel Mr Proust has made too many concessions along the way. Many of the gags are cheap and the female characters unconvicing. The comic timing is also way off - sometimes the punchline comes several pages after the set-up.
However, the Baron de Charlus is a good character and will ring bells for anyone who hails from the Sheffield area. There is also a very entertaining moment where the narrator chokes on a bit of cake and his whole life flashes before his eyes (although in slow motion).
I think that the over 40's and anyone who wants to learn how NOT to tell a joke would like this book. Probably not appropriate for readers with impaired memory or synaesthesia.
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