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Oh, for heavens' sake
on 12 March 2017
I tried this because I thought that I really ought to read some Proust. A friend suggested that we read it at the same time and discuss it, which sounded like a good idea at the time. I have dutifully slogged my way through as much as I could bear.
Someone said of Wagner's Parsifal that it's the kind of opera that starts at six o'clock and after it has been going three hours you look at your watch and it says 6.20. Well, that's nothing to how I feel about Swann's Way. Endless, endless pages about what he thought as a child when trying to sleep, some reasonably well observed but incredibly laboured social comedy (I use the word comedy in its loosest sense), monumental quantities of minutiae about uninteresting characters (in which I include the narrator) and an overriding sense of someone utterly self-obsessed – and who is determined to visit the obsession mercilessly on everyone else. I was irritated and, frankly, bored witless; when I saw that, after a long, serious struggle through really quite a lot (it seemed to me), my Kindle said "8h 07m left in book" I heard Billy Connolly in my head saying, "Oh, d'ya bloody think so?"
I gave up. Seven volumes of this? *Seven*? Sheesh! Does anyone know the French for "For heavens' sake get over yourself"?
And now, following the effortful and emotionally enervating distress of having composed this piece, reminding me irresistibly of the long years of suffering in education (the subject of volumes 23-47 of my proposed masterwork), I feel the distressing stirrings of the need to go and do something else. And yet, I am in an agony of paralysed indecision, for I find that I am unable to move, to think, to live in any meaningful sense before I have received some response, some word, some show of acknowledgement from my readers, for without such approval (or its simulacrum, at the very least) how may my very existence be continued? My pulse beats and I become aware of inhaling and absorbing the exquisite torture of the realisation that no-one may read this, in the way in which, in that moment in which a maitre d' informs one that no table will be available for ten minutes, a torment of anguish and crushed hope gives way to the desire to repeat the request, a desire which must be immediately suppressed as the impulse would… (continué p. 794)