Author: Marcel Proust
Translator: Hee-Young Kim
Publisher: Min Eum Sa
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|>>>This book is written in Korean only.|
|Vol.1: Swann's Way (1)
Vol.2: Swann's Way (2)
Vol.3: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (1)
Vol.4: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (2)
Vol.5: The Guermantes Way (1)
Vol.6: The Guermantes Way (2)
About This Book
In Search of Lost Time, by French writer Marcel Proust, originally published
between 1913 and 1927, is considered to be one of the major works of literature
of any period.
Early in the first volume, the narrator's memories of childhood are triggered by his tasting a petite madeleine (a type of small sponge cake) dipped in tea. This is probably the novel's best-known scene, explored at great length by critics, and petite madeleine or madeleine has since taken on a metaphorical usage in daily language.
The story is about how the story came to be written. That is to say, young Marcel dreams of being a writer — he is so sickly that he is not pushed to seek any kind of career, let alone strenuous work — but finds himself wallowing in distractions, such as social life, pursuing women, etc. His process of maturation takes him through highs and lows as he tries with various degrees of effort to complete something publishable, yearning of following in the footsteps of his idol, the novelist Bergotte.
Proust loved the works of John Ruskin and translated them into French, which was a major influence on his style. He also claimed that Á la recherche du temps perdu was his attempt at writing a French incarnation of The Thousand and One Nights.
The novel shows how we alienate ourselves from ourselves through distractions, and also, in memorable passages involving a telephone or an airplane, reflects on the changes wrought by the advent of new technology.
Proust, who wrote contemporaneously with Sigmund Freud, propounds a theory of personality and psychology which privileges memory, and the formative experiences of childhood. Dr. Howard Hertz of Pasadena City College has compared this with the work of the Freudian theorist Melanie Klein. The role of memory is central, hence the famous episode with the madeleines in the first book. Proust seems to say that what we are is our memories. Part of the process of distracting ourselves is distancing ourselves from our memories, as a defence mechanism to evade pain and unhappiness. When the narrator's grandmother dies, her death agony is depicted as her seeming to fall apart, and particularly, her memories seem to flow out of her, she loses contact with her memory. In the last novel (Time Regained), a flashback similar to the madeleines episode is the beginning of the resolution of the story — Proust's trademark, a profound sensory experience of memory, triggered especially by smells, but also by sights or sounds, which transports the narrator back to an earlier time in his life.
A large part of the novel has to do with the nature of art. The greatest moment of the novel is the death of the author Bergotte, who collapses after visiting a museum exhibition of Vermeer. In the museum, the writer takes up a whole page describing a tiny patch of yellow in the middle of the painting, which is a daub of paint that represents a stone wall, a tiny detail in the middle of the beautiful painting View of Delft. Proust sets forth a democratic theory of art, where we all are capable of producing art: the key is to take the experiences of life and perform work upon them, to transform them artistically, in a way that shows understanding and maturity. Compare with Freud's theory of dreams, and "dream-work" — that some trauma in life is transformed by the mechanism of dream-work into the fantastical imagery which we see in sleep. Music is also discussed at great length. Morel, the violinist, is examined to give one example of a certain type of "artistic" character. The artistic value of Wagner's music is also debated.
Starting in The Guermantes Way, homosexuality is a major theme in the book. There are several homosexual characters, and Proust uses this to examine the issues of deviance within society and the exhaustive pursuit of sex as a distracting influence in life.
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