Swann’s Way: First Impressions

9780099362210Proust. 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 green tea lamington or coconut and pandan ice-cream kind of girl. Madeleines just seem 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.

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11 thoughts on “Swann’s Way: First Impressions

  1. tuesday in silhouette,

    I’m glad you find this a delicious read. For you, it’s madeleines, for me, it’s the hawthorns. I went to Google right after reading Proust’s descriptions of them to see if there’s any in my zone. Also, I never thought Proust’s ‘novel’ would be ‘sappy and sentimental’, rather, I’d always thought it would be too philosophical and theoretical to have any taste. Who knows it’s so entertaining and fascinating. Have you read the whole book of Vol. 1: Swann’s Way? Or just Part 1 Combray? Our next posting for Parts 2 (Swann in Love) and 3 (Names and Places) will be May 15.

    Again, thanks for reading along with me. (I’ve just ordered Vol. 2 which I think I’d like to read some day, but who knows when that will be.)

    1. Arti, for me I suppose I was more interested in madeleines because I’d never really been into them before. Chinese people love hawthorns (they sell them as street food/snacks on giant skewers), so while I was on exchange there I had them all the time ;) I’ve only read Part 1 Combray! Hopefully I don’t lose motivation before I reach the end…

  2. Isn’t it breathtaking? This reminds me I need to read the last volume. The last! Don’t know why I stopped there, but excited to start now. You should definitely read the whole thing, it just gets better. Missed you! xx

    1. Claire!! It’s so good to hear from you again, I really missed you too :)
      And I’m seriously so impressed that you made it so far. To be honest, I haven’t even managed to finish Swann’s Way yet and I’m already feeling overwhelmed…
      But I guess I’ll have to keep going, since you say it just gets better!

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