Top positive review
In Search of Lost Time: Vol. 1
Reviewed in India on 20 July 2020
I have set myself to one of the most ambitious reading adventures by daring to start reading Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’. Having read the first book, which was slow to begin with but gained pace as I braved myself through the first 200 pages, the novel is an absolute delight. With rich prose, beautifully observed passing episodes of life and its sharp yet elegant analyses, the first volume opens with the narrator’s childhood life in Combray and his obsession with his family friend, Swann’s mysterious love life. Keeping the critique of French high society at the forefront, Proust has made symbolic use of art, painting, music, literature, that were accessible to the elites to showcase what goes on in those little, private circles, evening gatherings where one’s admission and omission is ephemeral like their wealth and their materialist appreciation of culture. The unfolding of two romances, one of Swann and the other of the young narrator, explores masculine desires that are constantly at loggerheads with what is real and what is experienced of it as memory, as imagination. Proust’s careful understanding of jealousy, obsession, love, friendship, and self is something which has mesmerised me and made his inspection of the duality of memory and reality sublime. Proust’s imagination that ran pages after pages on sleep, religion, family, of a man’s obsession with a woman, of a lover’s obsession with a failing love and with it the losing self and the candour with which he has dealt with unabiding masculinity and queer sexuality in the later 19th century aristocratic France is indicative of his broad conception of the reality! The volumes following this are enormous in size but I will still try my best to read and continue for I cannot contain my admiration for Proust’s writing. Moncrieff’s translation offers the intensity which the story rightly deserves.