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"Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about.."
on 15 April 2016
Like the Bolton Choral Society's attempt to summarise Proust's In Search of Lost Time as a five-part madrigal, you'd think Stephane Heuet's attempt to recast Proust's epic novel as a cartoon strip could only result, at best, in a heroic failure. In fact, in its own terms, I think it's a triumphant success.
What's missing, of course, is the slow-burning, spellbinding seductiveness of Proust's meandering, meditative prose style - although Heuet's adaptatation does in places quote from the original at some length. What's completely new as a reading experience, equally obviously, is the visual impact of the very beautiful and ingenious illustrations, which will give even the seasoned Proustian hours of pleasure, and which bring the more visual elements of Proust's text vividly to life. Heuet is not afraid to play with the format of his layout, and some of the book's real triumphs are when he allows his illustrations to burst out of the standard grid and into 'widescreen' mode, as it were. More than once I quietly gasped with pleasure on turning the page to discover breathtakingly good and impactful pictures of (for example) Swann and Odette in Swann's library, Combray in spring from the banks of the Vivonne, or the magic lantern shows Marcel enjoyed in his early childhood.
What's also a novelty is the sheer pace at which the reader can romp through the plotline, which is never really an option with Proust's original. Even though, by necessity, 95% of the detail is glossed over, Heuet's adaptation nevertheless succeeds rather well in conveying the full sweep of Swann's grand amour with Odette, for example, in under an hour of reading time - no mean achievement. So it's almost like having a microwave version of Proust: no substitute for the slow-cooked haute cuisine of the original, but still a very tasty ready-meal when you fancy a Proustian snack. And, best of all, it's a book that will almost certainly whet your appetite for a bite of the real thing.
The book itself has been lovingly printed on durable, high-quality paper, and is a real objet de vertu that would make a lovely gift for the hardcore Proustian as well as the newly Proust-curious. Warmly recommended.