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A powertool in the study of the modern arts.
on 28 May 2011
In Search of Lost Time is a very strange experience and not just while your are actually reading it.
I'm not, although I would like to, go into Proust's strange prose style - which admittedly you do get used to after a while, in fact it becomes so normal you find yourself doing it - because I'm not a student of literature and there are others far more eloquent than I to explain his elongated sentences that go on and on forever without coming to an end and by the time you get there you've forgotten what he was talking about when he started.
But like I said, you do get used to.
Actually, in the beginning I used to underline the subject-verb-object (or whatever order it came in) with pencil - dirty habit I know.
But the strangest thing about reading this book comes after.
You hear his echo EVERYWHERE!
Not just in thoughts on the nature of memory and time, but also: self image, alienation, love, self pity, selfishness, sensation, food, fashion, snobbery, delusion, hypochondira, society, vision, colour, art, fickleness... and you realise you'd never really thought about them objectivity before. Proust breaks these ideas down for you into their constituent parts, contemplates, ruminates (yes maybe a little too long), and leaves you with a clear sense of it within the human experience.
This book had such an impact on early 20th century artists and writers you hear these echoes constantly, even if they are second hand influences, but strangest of all, you hear them in yourself.
The book is a breakdown of all the silly games humans play with themselves and each other.
Very few of the characters , least of all Marcel, is admirable.
Is that because Proust is unafraid to give him over to you guts and psychic bubble and all?
Would any real life human being BE endearing if we could truly see inside their soul every single selfish thought and demon?
I doubt it, but then Marcel is probably a silly boy anyway.
Be warned - you may not necessarily find this "entertaining".
Is it worth it?
I think it was, although I wasn't sure until I was 2 books in. Then I took a break and read Nabakov's Lolita (fabulous book) and realised just how much more I was able to interpret now I could use Proust as a literary window.
If the study of the arts since 1913 was like DIY, In Search of Lost Time is like an electric screwdriver - you never knew how much you needed it until you have it.