Reading Proust

One of my goals for 2017 is to read all of In Search of Lost Time (or, A Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Proust, he’s somewhat esoteric. But within literary circles, he’s a hero. I was startled, after learning how revered he is, to learn that his work is only in a handful of libraries in my system, and Barnes and Noble doesn’t carry him. Great but almost unknown. It sounded promising.

In Search of Lost Time is a 3,300 page novel “about nothing.” There is no plot to speak of, just the rambling of an author recalling his past life experiences and creating stories out of things he heard.

From the first page, I was enthralled. From the description above, the novel sounds like agony: like being stuck for a year with a professor who won’t stop veering off topic to talk about himself. All long books, all classics, despite being rife with essays, are about something… but this is not.  But Proust is not boring. Not to me. From the first description of not being able to sleep, his power of language, the way he sucked me into something so mundane and gave me goosebumps, held me. Either he captured the universal experience or he and I see the world on much the same plane, because I could feel my heart murmuring with every page, This man understands what it’s like to be alive. He notices. See, he notices, too.

I’ve found that it’s cathartic. Not being about anything, I’m able to process my own emotions instead of wading through someone else’s. I can see the lilies, feel my heart throb with the emotion once captured in a cup of tea, but I can walk through his world at my leisure and release my own emotions as I watch.

I am deeply enjoying the meander through humanity that is Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.


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