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41 of 41 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

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Who sanctioned these titles?
By way of 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.
Published 5 days ago by J. Patterson


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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most beautiful novels ever written, 31 Mar 2010
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 (and also less ambiguous) translation from the French, and I think this is perhaps the strength of Lydia Davis compared with the original Scott Moncrieff translation. Whether it is an improvement or not 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 new one is technically more accurate, 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. Highly recommended.
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111 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique reading experience, well worth the effort, 15 Sep 2004
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A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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Sooner or later every serious reader must come to terms with Marcel Proust's six volume work, Remebrance of Things Past. This new translation is as good a way as any to get into it, and Swann's Way, as it is usually called, is the first volume. This is a challenging read. The reader needs to relax, to give up all hope of finishing the book quickly, or of finding an exciting plot or much forward movement in the book. But once you have set aside your notions of what constitutes a novel, and are prepared to go on this meandering journey of self-disovery (through finding in yourself the same thoughts that Proust thinks), you will find an intimate and beguiling novel which will generate the "of course" reaction in you as you see yourself and the people around you in a new light.
Proust has the gift of analysing the interior motives of his characters, not just in terms of their actions, but in terms of their thoughts and speech. He detects the evasions and dissimulations in everyday social interactions and exposes the deceits of convention and tradition. Having read this book I can say that all though it was a difficult read, it was worth the effort and the memory of this novel past has affected the way I look at the world around me. I look forward to volume 2.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some lost time reading previous translations enjoyably regained, 1 Aug 2011
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Mr. P. Michaelson (uk) - See all my reviews
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I am dependent on English translations for reading works originally in French. Given the turgid, convoluted, over literal translations of Proust that I am used to, Lydia Davis' production is a joy to read. She manages to convey the huge range of emotion and shades of meaning necessary when translating Proust; very lucid. She also demonstrates the importance of the translator not only for making works available to other language speakers but also for making a work live on accommodating changes in the target language.The notes are really helpful. I would live to read further volumes translated by her whilst realising that they may produce rather different translation problems. All in all (something I did not think I would say about Proust, a gripping read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I understand, 28 Mar 2011
By 
Friend of Dorothy (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
Having avoided Proust for 30+ years because of his reputation as the 'serious' writer to top all serious writers, I finally got round to reading this first volume ... and now I understand what all the fuss is and was about.

There's actually nothing `difficult' about his style (as perhaps there is with someone like Joyce or Faulkner). The experience is rather like sitting comfortably in an open boat being carried rapidly, but not too rapidly, along a river. The scenery is varied and exquisite. Occasionally, the boat enters a slower stretch of water. However, you are so relaxed that you accept the change readily. Eventually, you move back into the faster water, feeling even more receptive to your rich surroundings.

Of course, this feeble simile doesn't do the book justice. Let's just say it's an experience well worth having. Oh, and parts of the books are really quite funny. For example, the descriptions of M. and Mme. Verdurin. I'm looking forward to reading the other volumes.

October 2012 update: I'm on the sixth volume and my admiration for Proust is now boundless. Every paragraph seems to contain insight or wisdom about the human condition and how we frame and process ideas and memories of the people we love, both while they're living and after they're dead.

Here's a more or less random extract: "We exist only by virtue of what we possess, we possess only what is really present to us, and so many of our memories, our humours, or ideas set out to voyage far away from us, until they are lost to sight! Then we can no long make them enter into our reckoning of the total which is our personality. But they know of secret paths by which to return to us. And on certain nights ... on awakening I found a whole fleet of memories which had come to cruise upon the surface of my clearest consciousness, and seemed marvellously distinct."

Even out of context, that extract gives the reader something to think about: "We exist only by virtue of what we possess, we possess only what is really present to us." You'd be forgiven for thinking that was a quote from a poor Indian guru, but they are the words of a rich Frenchman at the beginning of the 20th Century. Extraordinary insight.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The molecular structure of memory, 16 April 2010
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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Having started this book maybe four or five times over the last three years or so, and indeed having firmly concluded that it was not for me, I let myself be persuaded by Clive James' to make one last effort to get past the point at which I usually stalled. That being where the young Marcel is waiting in anguish for his mother to come and kiss him a last goodnight. My difficulty was not just the immense effort required to unpack and assimilate each rambling, labyrinthine sentence. No one enjoys an exquisitely deconstructed stream of consciousness novel more than I do. But when the inner life of the subject is so constrained by the prurient, bourgeois conventions of Proust's times I find that a cloying sense of claustrophobia accumulates in my chest and throat as I read, such that I must put the book aside every few paragraphs to breathe freely again. Even having built up sufficient momentum to break through into the main body of the book and complete it, I cannot say that these sensations have dissipated. I have rather had to accept that this neurotic unease is one of the defining parameters of the reading experience, but one whose discomfort I now recognise is compensated for by Proust's extraordinary power to evoke a corresponding stream of resonant recollection within the reader. Reading Proust there are times when one finds ones locus of awareness suddenly split. One is simultaneously the reader of Proust, and also the reader of the meta-novel, which is the stream of conscious recollection of a fabulously dense associative network of episodes from the reader's own life, that has been activated by his reading of Proust.

One may read some novels to take pleasure in the author's facility with language, or one might admire an author for their psychological perspicacity and wisdom. But I would say that the highest expression of the novelistic art is in the conjunction of these dimensions. But there can be few examples of their being so perfectly fused as the scalpel like prose with which Proust dissects the flux of human consciousness with near atomic precision. I would observe that this is not true stream of consciousness, where thoughts are typically left incomplete, and some measure of randomness inevitably pervades their association. Efforts to pin down this kind of realistic consciousness have been notably made by the likes of Joyce or Pynchon. But Proust's stream of consciousness is that of an ideally beautiful mind, where each lapidary thought is completed, tied off and labelled with an exquisitely apt metaphor or simile, and successive thoughts are assembled into a genuinely coherent stream. The difference is somewhat akin to that between rough, fractured granite and pebbles washed smooth by millennia upon a beach.

This first instalment breaks broadly into two halves; the first an examination of the childhood recollections of Marcel himself, while the second describes the falling in love of Swann, an adult acquaintance of Marcel's, and its barely perceptible souring into jealousy and finally indifference. Both are poignant; the first for its charming innocence, the second for its unflinchingly meticulous examination of the capacity for self-deception in even the most assured and capable of people. Both will evoke unavoidable resonances in the readers own life, the latter perhaps less comfortably than the former. Proust's humanistic wisdom is demonstrated in the fact that, despite his unerring eye for the frailty and weaknesses to which we are all prone, he casts no blame and invites only sympathy from the reader.

The next book in the sequence In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (In Search of Lost Time Vol. 2): In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower Vol 2 has arrived today and sits beside me on the desk while I write. I cannot say that I am looking forward to it with entirely unalloyed pleasure. The hint of stifling pressure builds in my throat just to contemplate it. But alongside it, and slightly more compelling is the electrical tingle in the roof of my mouth that is the sublimated appetite to return once more into Marcel's gentle and luminous world. A world that for both better and worse is gone forever, but which thanks to Proust we can experience in our own day, with the same vividness as when we slow our thoughts and open our senses to our own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh my word, how wonderful., 19 Mar 2014
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I don't know if it's the age I've reached (late 30s), or whether it's Lydia Davis's translation - but I can't put this book down.
I read it first in French when I was 19 (but it was too much for me to take in), then in English (but for some reason it was also too much for me to take in). I've re-tried a few times, but really got nowhere. I appreciated it aesthetically, but not emotionally, I found it trying despite my best intentions. Then, having found my love of fiction on the wane over the last few years (I don't know why) - but still desperate to read - I picked up this translation, but with little hope. However I find I'm cramming as much in as I can before bed, again in the morning over breakfast, at lunch if I can...if you'd told me one day that I was carrying Proust around everywhere with me, finding it very difficult to put down, I wouldn't have believed you!
Like someone who's had a religious epiphany, I want to share it with everyone, but the experience is so personal in some way that I can't find the words without sounding bonkers! I think it's absolutely wonderful.
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69 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Internal Dialogue of Stalled Thinking Is Irresistible, 27 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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All of us have self-talk, which is quite different from the way we converse with each other or write. Proust has captured self-talk in a delightful display of stream-of-consciousness writing that is unequaled in literature. You will find yourself remembering many of the same thoughts in your own self-talk. By focusing inward, Proust succeeds in portraying much of what is universal about all of humanity.
Unlike Joyce, who employed the same technique, Proust is easy and delightful to follow. You will sense beauty in thought that will make you glad to be alive. It will also stimulate you to notice more about the world around you and your reactions to it.
Do be aware that an internally-focused book does not have a lot of action and drama in it. On the other hand, neither does most of life. I think Proust has captured the essence of human life in a very valuable way. But if you like Dirk Pitt novels and little else, you would do well to avoid Swann's Way.
The main drawback of self-talk is that we often build hurdles where there are none. We often talk ourselves out of things that we should pursue. As a result, our thinking stalls our ability to act. You will find lots of delicious examples of this in the hypochondria explored in this book.
Although this book is rarely assigned in literature classes, almost everyone would benefit from reading it. You can best use it as a mirror to see yourself better. That should make for a tasty dish that is irresistible once tasted. Bon appetit!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, 10 Aug 2013
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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) (Kindle Edition)
It is so beautifully written that reading even only a part from it is enough to quench your thirst for beauty. It is much more than a very well written book. İt is music, it is painting. It is art in all its dimensions. Gokcen Baskan
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not put off reading this book, 10 Aug 2008
By 
SL Bradbury (East Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
I urge you to get this book out of the library, read it on-line, or best of all buy this superb translation. My response to the book has been quite emotional, and since others have better explained what the book is like, I will just say don't put off reading it until you break your leg or (as in my friend Rod's case) get a bit of pneumonia.
I also recommend How Proust Can Change Your Life because it is a beautiful little book and it will help you get the most out of reading In Search of Lost Time.
Yes, I really do think that Proust can change your life, in the sense that I changed the way I think about myself and other people, as if the restricting walls and ceiling of my dark little world had just fallen away.
I wish I had read this when I was 12 years old, but now will have to do.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius. In Search Of Lost Time is a amazing book to read which also reads you!, 3 Dec 2008
By 
Mr. Ms. Tait - See all my reviews
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The book could change your whole outlook on life with Prousts limitless aesthetic understanding of the human condition that exspands and changes with each volume. The 1st and 2nd Volume about childhood and adolescence are sublime. The 3rd Volume which deals with the narrators way into polite society is dull, nothings more tedious than reading about aristocrats talking to each other, despite Prousts witty, slapstick humour but gets funnier in the last volume when the aristocratic circle is infiltrated by outsiders due to the outbreak of WW1. The 4th Volume moves into the secret high society world of homesexuality, which contains what Samuel Beckett describes as the greatest passage Proust ever wrote about the death of his grandmother and the events relationship to time, which for anyone whose had to grieve for a loved one will find very moving. The 5th volume is about the narrators realtionship with the mysterious Albertine which is the longest and least enjoyable volume, with its outdated view of homesexuality in the wierd character Of M.Charlus that reaches its tragic conclusion in the last volume of this great work.
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