Swann’s Way: First Impressions
Proust. How I adore thee. I was timid when I started out, afraid that I might dislike you – and your intimidating chunky several-volumed “novel”. But only a few pages in, I fell prey to the magic you weave in Swann’s Way. I even succumbed to the temptation of madeleines. I don’t normally bake things like madeleines; in the kitchen I’m more of a papaya salad or Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork belly kind of girl. Or a green tea creme brulee, or coconut cheesecake kind of girl, if you want to talk desserts. Madeleines just seemed so prim and plain.
How wrong I was to have neglected madeleines, and how wrong I was to have been intimidated by Proust. Swann’s Way is definitely a little nuttier than I expected. It’s every bit as meandering and off-tangent and wildly dreamy as I thought it would be, but there’s an irony; a real barbed wire sharp edge to Proust’s voice underneath all the musings. And oh God, how the musings go on. I’m just about nearing the end of Combray, the first section, and if I try to recollect what I’ve been reading about, it’s just really hard – to remember exactly what went on. There is no (detectable) solid form to this thing. And the characters, they’re so bizarre. The world they inhabit is like a madhouse, as much a work of surrealism and farce as The Master and Margarita in a way. The characters just don’t make sense; in real life, they’d be absolute caricatures of themselves, but they just work. They’re utterly believable and loveable.
Do I love it? Yes. Is it crazy? Completely. He’s just nuts. Am I going to read the next one? Probably! Why? Because it’s not sappy and sentimental, as you would assume from a mere ‘summary’ of the plot of this book – if one can even presume to summarize this baggy, loose-ended monster of a novel. There’s more to Proust that meets the eye, and I’m determined to get to the bottom of it all. Swann’s Way is really only the tip of the iceberg. Next up: Within a Budding Grove.