Monday, September 04, 2006

Swann's Way post I

At last I have set off on the journey to read Remembrance of Things Past and I have to admit to being excited to tackle one of the classics by an author that so far has not been one of the many catalogued in my little book of books

Bullet points for pages 1 - 80

* The narrator is talking about events in the past when he was a child and his family included not just his mother and father but also his grandparents and a couple of grand aunts

* The family seems to have one regular visitor – Swann – who is the son of a decreased friend of the grandfather and he seems simple enough and the family, particularly the grand-aunt believes he is rather quiet

* But Swann is leading a double life and is quite a social mover and shaker and after leaving their house he often sets out to mix with some of the most famous and wealthy people in society

* The narrator recalls how much a goodnight kiss from his mother meant to him and how he once waited for her to go to bed before asking her for one that had been deprived earlier because Swann was staying to dinner

* He tries to bring out a memory of the past, when he had a cup of tea and a cake with his mother, and strains his memory to recreate the same sensations he felt years before

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection (pg50)

* The second chapter starts to focus in on the village of Combray and the places - his aunt's house, the church and the streets - as well as some of the people who lived there. You are introduced to some of the quirks of the town via his bed-ridden aunt who insists on getting the gossip

The rich description is not just confined to places and people but also to mood and it is easy to imagine yourself as a child in the winter pulling up the bedclothes to keep warm while the adults speak to each other downstairs. his uses of th senses adds to the dream like quality with the smells he evokes another element that few writers have taken advantage of as much as Proust.

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