“..only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance”
– Marcel Proust: ‘Swann’s Way’ (Du côte de chez Swann)
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I gave up making New Year resolutions a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean I am without ambition.
One of my ambitions for 2020 is to re-read Marcel Proust’s monumental work, most commonly known in English as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’. The more literal translation of its actual French title, ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’ would be ‘In Search of Lost Time’, but the translation by F Scott Moncrieff that I read first time around – mostly on my daily bus commute to Edinburgh back in the early eighties – is the one that I’m reading this time too.
At over 3000 pages, deciding to read Proust (especially for a second time) can certainly be counted as a challenge. Many have tried, I know, and abandoned the attempt at a very early stage, commonly claiming that it was ‘too boring’. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but I never found it tedious, even if – or should that be ‘because’? – page-long paragraphs and sinuous sentence constructions require the reader’s close attention at all times.
You certainly couldn’t be expected to read it at a single sitting, and I’ve set my ambition no higher than ten pages a day, or thereabouts. This has three consequences: firstly, it’s doable (or ought to be); secondly, it ought to mean that I don’t lose the plot (as it were); and thirdly it should take the greater part of the calendar year.
And that made me think about One-Liner Wednesday. I’m sure that there’ll be sufficient things worth sharing in Proust to come up with a quotable one-liner once a week – especially when the first of them, above, just – in my opinion – hits the nail right on the head.
For me, ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ is one of those books.