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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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on 10 August 2013
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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on 10 August 2008
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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on 3 December 2008
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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This is one of the classic works of literature. "Swann's Way" is the first volume of Proust's magnum opus, which has traditionally and somewhat inaccurately been translated as "Remembrance of Things Past." The French title "A la recherché du temps perdu," would be more appropriately rendered as "In search of lost time." The passive implications of "remembrance," the much more active implications of a "search." A key distinction lost in that literal, or not so literal, translation. The entire work is one of the longest in literature. Like knowing the first line in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (Wordsworth Classics)), knowing that it is the madeleine (a cookie), dipped in tea that triggers childhood memories, is one of the touchstones that is the required knowledge of a literate person. As the author says: "And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die."

The novel is set in the last quarter of the 19th Century, during the ascendency of the Third Republic, as well as a French middle class. Each summer Proust's family would leave Paris, for a small town in La Beauce, the French "breadbasket," an hour and a half west of Paris (at least today, by autoroute). In the novel the town is called Combray. It's real name is Illiers, beyond Chartres a bit, and just to the north of the modern throughway. For Proust's centennial celebrations, the town's officials combined the two words, with a hyphen, and renamed the town. Proust's family would stay in his Aunt Leonie's house, and enjoy the marvelous temperature climate, and the very long days of summer (full dark did not occur until 11 pm around the solstice). Obviously it was the "pre-digital age." Even having dinner at 8 pm, the French custom, would allow time for a "post-prandial stroll" during the long evening. "Swann's Way" refers to one of those particular walks that ended in the Pré Catelan, a lovely garden that Proust's uncle designed. This walk he associated with joy and goodness as opposed to "The Guermantes Way," the third volume of this work.

Rich and dense, this novel is beautifully written. Literature should personally impact one's life; great literature more so. I first read this work when my children were babies. At the beginning of the work, Proust, who turned out in real life to become a quintessential neurotic, went on and on about the importance of getting a good-night kiss from his mother. His "rivals" were the guests his parents were entertaining... and I vowed, more or less successfully, not to let my own guests take priority when my kid's needed that extra bit of attention (and the best I can tell, that seem to remain neurosis free). For a number of summers we enjoyed those long twilights, renting a gite rural only 12 km away. Aunt Leonie's house is still there, and the garden bell that tinkles (if no one has stolen it!). My family and I would take the walk known as "Swann's Way," with its lovely ending in the town's classic garden, and normally were the only people there. Such an experience is an essential complement to reading the work, even if it is read, gulp, on Kindle.

Consider some passage that I've marked: "There are tints in the clouds this evening...a blue, especially, more floral than aerial, a cineraria blue, which it is surprising to see in the sky...has it not also the tint of some flower, a carnation or hydrangea? Nowhere, perhaps, except on the shores of the Channel, where Normandy merges into Brittany, have I observed such copious examples of that sort of vegetable kingdom of the atmosphere." Or, "I gazed at her, at first with that gaze which is not merely the messenger of the eyes, but at whose window all the sense assemble and lean out, petrified and anxious, a gaze eager to reach, touch, capture, bear off in triumph the body at which it is aimed, and the soul with the body..." If the reader likes the word "leer" better, for its succinctness, then Proust is probably not for you. Or, referring to the sound of the bells coming from the village church: "...which had not melted into the air they had traversed for so long, and, ribbed, by the successive palpitations of all their sound-waves, throbbed as they grazed the flowers at our feet." And just one more: "...put to flight by that pale sign traced above my window-curtains by the uplifted forefinger of dawn."

Having just written such passages, I'm embarrassed to say that in 20 some years I have not gone on to volume two, In Search Of Lost Time, Vol 2: Within a Budding Grove: Within a Budding Grove Vol 2 (Vintage Classics), but with its recent purchase I should be able to make amends. Of the versions of this work extant, I'd strongly recommend the Vintage International, with the evocative cover that recalls the better aspects of summer in the Third Republic. And by all means, and not by chance, what better place to read this work, and recall one's own childhood than a summer visit to La Beauce? 5-stars plus.
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on 29 August 2010
I embarked on Proust's 6 volume epic as a result of a casual comment by someone that "you know you're middle aged when you realise that you'll never read the whole of In Search of Lost Time". I'm only 34 but decided I'd better start early as it was going to be a hard slog but I was pleasantly surprised by this first book.

The Way by Swann's is made up of 2 chapters, one about the narrators early life in his family's country home and one about the torturous love affair between Charles Swann and Odette de Crecy. Initially you do have to adjust to Proust's rhythm and the meandering nature of his writing. Both subjects are dealt with in minute detail which takes some getting used to especially if you read this coming off the back of a modern novel. Despite it's slow pace, once I got used to it, I did find it quite a page turner. The affair between Swann and Odette particulary was written in such a beautiful way that anyone who's ever been in love (or lust) couldn't fail to recognise the situation.

Obviously I have only read this translation by Lydia Davis so I can't say if it's better or worse than others but I found it flowed well which is all you can really ask of a translation I suppose. So all in all despite it's worthy materpiece reputation, I didn't find it a particularly hard read and testament to that fact is that I bought the next book straight away and am currently reading No. 5.

One point though, as I think other reviewer's have said, you do have to read them in order as basically it's one big novel about a boy's journey into adulthood.
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on 8 November 2016
The book itself is a wonderful, endlessly rewarding read, but the Penguin edition is printed on such cheap, low grade paper that print from the previous page is discernible as a grey ghostly presence throughout. A mean disservice to a profound work of art.
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on 14 March 2016
Reading this book could be a very large undertaking as you are committing to read all six volumes. I have never got through all six but have read the first half of this volume repeatedly. The first half deals with Proust's childhood memories of holidays in Combray and is extremely evocative, dealing with family relationships, nature and the goings on in a small town. The second half "Swann in Love" is the about a love affair and cosmopolitan dinner parties, which I found far less interesting. I would recommend this book for the first half alone.

It is worth knowing that Proust's books are a bit like French films. Not much happens, but they are beautifully produced. This helps as you will often find yourself halfway through a mammoth sentence, having forgotten how you got there. The idea is to let the words flow on and not go back and reread. You will seldom miss an important part of the plot, but will maintain rhythm and flow of the book.
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on 18 October 2016
pretentious nonsense, does not come up for air and lives in a world of the rich and privileged
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on 9 September 2016
very good
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