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on 31 March 2010
This is the second volume of Proust's masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, and it is not really worth reading this without first reading Swann's Way, the first volume.
Whether this translation is an improvement on the earlier Scott Moncrieff version (the title of which was more loosely translated as Within a Budding Grove) is a matter of personal opinion. The differences are fairly subtle, and I don't think one translation can be said to be better than the other. This one is technically more accurate and closer to Proust's original French, but Scott Moncrieff retained the 'feel' of Proust's writing quite brilliantly.
Whichever version you go for it is a beautiful book, not really concerned with plot but with characters and what it means to be human, full of sensitive observations about life and love. This volume contains some of my favourite passages of the whole magnificent work.
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on 6 March 2003
For so long a figure of "high literature" in this reader's mind, Proust is far more accessible and contemporary than many might think. A misleading title(if not beautifully poetic) leads one into an expectation of adolescent romances and rendevzous. "In the Shadow..." is more accurately about the opening up and growing awareness of a young mind to the world. Over the course of his walks and travels, the Narrator enters us into the halycon world of literary dreaming its inevitable disappointments, all the while reavealing a fantastic social tapestry (noble histories and romantic intrigues) that is a mirror into the psychology and actions of society people (to this day still). There are those who would chide Proust's allusions and his "wordy" prose, but his assessment of human behaviour and depiction of the melding of pre-conceived (perhaps naive) notions with their dessicated reality makes this novel an essential read for anyone who lives and interacts with people.
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on 12 February 2014
Apart from its merit as a translation, the notes and synopsis are invaluable. Using these with the text in association with the original text is a very helpful tool for understanding many of Proust's esoteric references.
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And so I have completed the second instalment of Proust's majestic hyper-novel, having at last arrived at a stage in life where I am properly receptive to its wonders. It took some half dozen attempts for me to get past the first fifty pages of the first book, In Search of Lost Time : Vol 1 : The Way by Swann's, and once on my way it never ceased to be a job of serious intellectual commitment to maintain progress. Gradually however, the strange rewards, unlike those of any other novel I have read, became sufficiently apparent for labour to become compulsion. With the second book I made the decision to read it on its own terms, almost as though learning to read again, reducing my customary reading speed so as to extract the significance of each sentence, sometimes reading it aloud as one might poetry.

In book two we accompany Marcel on a fantastic voyage down into the synapses which retain the minutiae of his memories of his teenage years. Inevitably, as we go, memories from our own lives of that period are stirred and reawakened, both bitter and sweet. Not just of incidents and concrete experiences, but of the very flavours and configurations of states of consciousness, essences of being and awareness, until now, long since numbed and attenuated.

In these years Marcel is acculturated to the complex conditions of his social circumstances. This takes place through a process of osmotic absorption of the myriad codes and signals from his encompassing social milieu, all with the minimum of deliberation and awareness. At a period in French history when a still symbolically and economically potent aristocracy were scraping alongside an ever more ascendant bourgeoisie, the etiquette and protocols required to navigate the streams and strata of class were as exquisitely exacting as those of the Byzantine court or Confucian China. The elder Marcel looks back with subtle humour at the way the requisite manners and conventions were instilled in him and the emergent absurdities to which this insensible framework of hypocrisies at times gave rise.

Also in these years Marcel narrates the vicissitudes of his first encounters with the infinitely baffling phenomenon of love. The story of his first love and its subsequent, never quite explicit, rejection, has clear and obvious parallels with the trajectory of Swann's bittersweet love for Odette de Crecy, so meticulously described in the first book. Marcel's love for their daughter, Gilberte, takes him on a journey from joyous infatuation through shocked confusion to a final painfully won indifference. Along the way we examine the deceptions, and particularly the self-deceptions and false hopes, to which we all can become prey when afflicted by the madness that love can induce in us.

The latter portion of the book takes us to the fashionable seaside town of Balbec, where he spends a memorable summer accompanied by his grandmother. After a lonely arrival Marcel widens his circle of acquaintances, particularly with peers of his own age, thereby opening himself to worlds of new experiences. This culminates in his meeting with, and becoming accepted into the circle of `the girls', the young girls in flower of the book's title. This leads him more deeply, although still inconclusively, into the mysterious domain of love, as he finds himself variously stricken with overwhelming affections for the girls, singly or as an abstract whole. The book finishes with the arrival of autumn, and a too sudden and fragmentary end of this most memorable summer.

At this point one can now begin to speculate what conclusions might face the reader with the tenacity to reach the end of the series. Who will this Marcel, whose development we are following, now so avidly, become? Alongside another question looms. Who will I have become by the time I have reached the end of my own Proustian journey? Who will I have discovered myself to be, having looked into this immense mirror of vanity and profundity?
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on 2 September 2015
not my kind of book
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on 26 September 2015
really good
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on 25 July 2009
At a secret research laboratory in Switzerland, doctors have been working on a new approach to the treatment of infectious diseases. Late one evening, Doctor Carl Nürtur and his attractive assistant Jean are working together on the development of a new vaccine. When flirting together they accidentally knock over a test tube which spills on the floor and creates a reaction with the linoleum. Out of curiosity, Jean takes a sample of the new fluid and puts it under the microscope. It seems that the tiny fluid molecules are attempting to communicate by making the letters of a complex formula. When the doctors develop the formula they discover they have created a cure for measles. Further miracle cures are to follow, but the fluid starts to make unreasonable demands. It wants to be moved to a larger laboratory and that no other vaccines should be allowed within ten feet of its' tube. It also demands that the linoleum is moisturised. Dr Nürtur and Jean are by now famous Nobel prize candidates but they cannot cope with the incessant unreasonable demands of the fluid. They fight and the test tube containing the fluid is accidentally broken and the liquid escapes and evaporates. They agree that this was probably for the best.
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on 17 July 2009
I just believe that there are easier translations, and I could have finished this book earlier. But because this was one of the original earlier translations, where the translator was a great follower of Proust, he did not want to put his own words, and may have lost something while trying not to be "lost of translation". That said, hardcore literature majors would love this.
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