Swann's Way is Marcel Proust's literary masterpiece and is part of the multivolume novel Remembrance of Things Past.
In Swann's Way, the author recalls the youth of Charles Swann in the French town of Combray. Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing and at times comic portrait of French society at the close of the19th century and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love.
This is now the entire audiobook, not in two parts.
©2008 Marcel Proust (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Proust's writing is perfect and John Rowe's delivery is perfect. settle into Swann's Way (Pt. 1 and Pt 2) as though you were settling into a huge comfy chair with all the time in the world stretched out before you and you will NEVER regret the time spent listening to this version of volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. to the contrary. you will quickly purchase the other volumes, cancel all appointments, turn off the phone, give up on facebook, and listen with awe and keen interest to John Rowe read Marcel Proust. what more could a book and an audiobook deliver?! the time is most definitely not lost. ohmygoodness.
Having lost my energy to read Proust a couple of times in the past I am thrilled to have discovered the audible version. The narrator is superb, weaving those amazingly long sentences into a web that mesmerizes the listener while subtly clarifying meaning. What a pleasure this is! Thank you Audible.
One of the things I love about audiobooks is listening to them as I walk. I think this audiobook is perfectly suited to walking, as Proust is often describing his thoughts as he walks. I have downloaded other versions of Swan's way, but this one is the best. The narrator is a little fast sometimes, however given the length - this is not much of a problem. Overall, this is highly recommended and I have totally enjoyed it!
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
How can I write a review of Proust’s seminal work without sounding like some kind of blabbering idiot? This is one of the most profound books in all of literature. My goal this year was to read 80 books but I could spend an entire year reading, rereading and pondering between the covers of just this one masterpiece. Of this the Publisher’s Summary: “In this first part, Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing, and, at times, comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century, and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love.” That’s almost as bad as anything I could write. The book was at times about a profound vision of obsessive love to be sure but it was so much more. About French society at the close of the 19th century? Maybe; I wouldn’t know; I hardly noticed. For me, the book stood out for its words, the use of words, the language, the prose itself. That was the layer I got stuck in and never seemed to have emerged from. The words were often melodious; sentences were fraught with musicality. Though nothing exactly like a poem, the words did flow in a rhythm but more like that of the ocean’s rise and fall, a natural ebb and flow, not like that of the forced meter of a poem.
Within the chapters, one could contemplate or meditate for extended periods of time on singular sentences. And what sentences some of them were. Some were the longest I have ever encountered in any book but they always made sense and always stood perfectly as they were. And no, Sister Mary (grammar school English composition teacher), they were never run-on sentences. The author never takes such license. The description of a meditation only begins to purport Proust’s familiar visions rooted in the here and now. These seemingly endless sentences had the effect of drawing me in to the fathomless depths of the space between two breaths.
Obviously, it was, at least for me, not a book to be taken lightly or read nonchalantly. It was a book that at times required a certain dedication to and enthusiasm for to read. This is not a book for everyone but one that everyone interested in great literature should at least attempt. Had it not been summer and my workload less than strenuous, I might not have appreciated this book as much as I did. For me, I had to pay attention but when I did, it was a trip into my mind that only a few authors have had the ability to take me on.
Having read and now listened to this volume, I found the experiences to be quite different and each with its own merit. With a book in hand, I could more easily reread passages. With an audiobook, it sometimes felt like I could more easily internalize and be transported by both author and narrator. The narrator, in this case John Rowe, was nothing shy of outstanding in his delivery. I am so glad that he is available for the remainder of the series.
In the interest of time and space and because I could never do justice in a review to the writing’s of this master, the following is an excerpt from perhaps the most often quoted part of the book on remembering the taste of a pastry and tea. The rest of the passage can be found here:
“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?
I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, then a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself. The drink has called it into being, but does not know it, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a progressive diminution of strength, the same message which I cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call it forth again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.”
I like nice books, feel-good books. Please help me to find as many of those as possible. Also hooked on Louise Penny right now!
Swann's Way is my favorite part of this great work and I will never get enaugh of it.
It's a major revelation to discover Proust and there is so much of him! I must say though that I might have missed him if it weren't for audiobooks. The book is a bit overwhelming so it's lovely to be intoduced to the work by having it read for you.
I have listened to the abridged version of Remembrance of Things Past for years now; I always have some part of it in my iPod. I didn't know how I would like it with another narrator but John Rowe's reading suits the story very well.
Just look at the cover; isn't it wonderful to have the oppertunity to jump it to this picture and wallow in it?
Yes. The language is so rich, the ideas so prescient, the characters so vibrant, I am already listening to passages over again.
It's fascinating to see where John Rowe places his emphases, his pauses, his intonation, without over milking the text. A truly impressive reading.
World Champion Parallel Parker
The wording on this is unclear. This is Part 1, which, when you download it, has Part 1 and Part 2. However, there is a Part 2, which also has Part 1 and Part 2 (and costs more money). I bought the first and was surprised when the book seemed to end in mid-sentence (as if you could tell with Proust). I see now there there is another version including the whole book for half the price. I don't know whether this one is better, but the narrator is good, so perhaps it is.
I like history and biography, novels too. I do have a thing for zombie books as well. I need crappy thrillers now and then.
Yeah, it's long. But I go back when I drift off during a sentence or paragraph. Nobody creates a whole life like and universe like Proust. Great narration. I'm wondering if I should try the Neville Jason narration for other books, but I'm reluctant because John Rowe is so good. Recommendation to those who have second thoughts about starting Proust: Jump in. No harm in listening to other books while you do this one. Let the whole series take you a year or two or three. It's your life, let it be your pace.
I have at least two copies of Remembrance of Things Past in my library. Some day, some day I was to read it. I have listened to this first section of Swann's Way, and now onto the 2nd "half." The author's insight is fascinating. There are moments that are positively electric, yet nothing is "happening." I cannot imagine a better performance.
I find that I have to take breaks and turn to other books after several hours (days) of listening. To think, I might have missed this classic.
Emmanuel Levinas called Proust "a psychologist of the infinitesimal." The concrete images Proust crafts with infinite details and patience in his novel are not so much based on the visual experience as they are on the marvel of imagination rooted in the memory. Proust presents an incontrovertible case of imagination and memory for philosophers to examine. The fact that his descriptions are fictional matters not, because the novel stems from the experience he remembers and imagines. However, he is not interested in reproducing his experiences in modified and refined depictions. He is after something else. He is after the truth of the lost time which his mind cannot resurrect in "the storehouse of memory" (as Augustine puts it), as if the mind is in control of resurrecting and suppressing it, but which arises by itself on its own by a chance encounter with an object or memory that summons up the whole past or the whole bygone city. It is not I but something other than I that calls up the past in memory. It is something external to the I that calls up the past. The past belongs to something exterior to the mind, something beyond the domain of my intellectual power. He says: "It is a waste of effort for us to try to summon it [the past], all the exertions of intelligence are useless. The past is hidden outside the realm of our intelligence and beyond its reach, in some material object (in the sensation that this material object would give us) which we do not suspect. It depends on chance whether we encounter this object before we die, or do not encounter it" (46).
As a case in point, Proust offers the following description of a cup of tea his mother offered in one cold winter day with "one of those squat, plump cakes called petites madeleines" (47). He continues: "But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening in me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me... by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not in me, it was me" (47). He continues: "Where could it have come to me from - this powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected to the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it went infinitely far beyond it, could not be of the same nature. Where did it come from? What did it mean? How could I grasp it? [...] It is clear that the truth I am seeking is not in the drink, but in me" (47). But is it up to me to recall the past, as if the past is entirely in my command? Do I re-create the past by my sheer will of imagination? No so, according to Proust. For he says: "It is up to my mind to find the truth. But how? What grave uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is also the obscure country where it must seek and where all its baggage will be nothing to it. Not only that: create. It is face to face with something that does not yet exist and that only it can accomplish, then bring into its light" (48).
The past that confronts him, occasioned by the taste of the tea mixed with petites madeleines, is quite strange, is something he must create as if it is totally new to him. It is the other. The past comes to him as the other, occasioned by the chance encounter with a cup of tea his mother offered with petites madeleines. His mother's madeleines brings forth another one he had in the past, dipped in the "infusion of tea or lime-blossom," offered by Aunt Leonie in one Sunday morning before the Mass at Combray (49).
The entire bygone past emerges out of the cup of tea as in the Japanese game of colored pieces of papers dipped in a bowl of water transforming themselves into different shapes of imagination: "As soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine dipped in lime-blossom tea that my aunt used to give me..., immediately the old grey house on the street, where her bedroom was, came like a stage-set to attach itself to the little wing opening on to the garden that had been built for my parents behind it...; and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square, where they sent me before lunch, the streets where I went to do errands, the paths we took if the weather was fine. And as in the game in which the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper until then indistinct, which, the moment they are immersed in it, stretch and shape themselves, colour and differentiate, become flowers, houses, human figures, firm and recognizable, so now all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann's park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne, and the good people of the village and their little dwellings and the church and all of Combray and its surroundings, all of this which is assuming form and substance, emerged, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea" (50).
The medeleines with tea his mother offered brings to his mind or to his memory the same he tasted when Aunt Leonie offered with tea in Combray, but this happens not as a result of an active work of association that his memory or mind makes. The mind does not create the link. It is the thing itself (felt in sensation) that creates the link beyond the power of the mind. For the link is created only when the mind is purged of all its baggage and its will power, only when the mind "create[s] an empty space" (48).
Only then, the lost past returns like "the murmur of the distance traversed" (48): "I go back in my thoughts to the moment when I took the first spoonful of tea. I find the same state, without any new clarity. I ask my mind to make another effort, to bring back once more the sensation that is slipping away. And, so that nothing may break the thrust with which it will try to grasp it again. I remove every obstacle, every foreign idea, I protect my ears and my attention from the noises in the next room. But feeling my mind grow tired without succeeding, I now force it to accept the very distraction I was denying it, to think of something else, to recuperate before a supreme attempt. Then for a second time I create an empty space before it, I confront it again with the still recent taste of that first mouthful and I feel something quiver in me, shift, try to rise, something that seems to have been unanchored at a great depth; I do not know what it is, but it comes up slowly; I feel the resistance and I hear the murmur of the distances traversed" (48).
The past resurfaces like a stranger in the memory. This appearance is not a result of the Socratic mimesis, where what is recalled is familiar to the mind that recollects it; or a result of the memory retained in the present moment of consciousness, as in Husserl; or a result of the memory that lacks existence before its existence is regained in "the storehouse of memory," as in Augustine. The past that appears again in "the immense edifice of memory" is quite strange to me who encounters it. It is like a dead soul returning to an objection of my possession, as in the Celtic belief Proust cites (46): "But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory" (49). What arises in "the immense edifice of memory" is quite other worldly like a cadaver of the departed, as is brilliantly described in Blonchot's The Space of Literature in drastic contrast to the death affirmed in dasein's resolute march towards it, as in Heidegger.
The past thus re-emerged is not a living past, like a tradition held fast by daily practice or like a well trodden pathway maintained by travelers. It is the past that has been lost forever, something that no recollection can bring back to life. Proust's memorializes the bygone past like we do with the dead. The past is forever gone. We remember in the sadness of knowing that it could never return and come alive again.
Memory, for Proust, is not a "storehouse" from which the mind pulls what it wills. The "immense edifice of memory" in Proust in contrast is like a strange landscape in which the mind enters without the familiarity of associations and habits. It is strange because it is bygone, dead. Levinas notes this strange otherness in the memories Proust recalls: "The result is something unique in Proust, something unprecedented in literature. His analysis... merely translate that strangeness between self and self which is the spout of the soul" (Proper Name, 102). As in memory in Proust, the soul or psyche in Levinas is the otherness within the self, the self that responds to that which is beyond, to the other.
The following depiction of the glory of Mme Swann in stark contrast of the modern women's style of clothes illustrates this melancholy of having lost the bygone past forever, like death of the Gods: "The idea of perfection which at that time I had carried inside me I had conferred upon the height of a victoria, upon the slenderness of those horses, as furious and light as wasps, their eyes bloodshot like the cruel steed of Diomedes, which now, filled as I was with a desire to see again what I had once loved, as ardent as the desire that had driven me down these same paths many years before, I wanted to see before my eyes again at the moment when Mme Swann's enormous coachman, watched over by a little groom as fat as a fist and as childlike as Saint George, tried to control hose wings of steel as they thrashed about quivering with fear. Alas, now there were only automobiles driven by mustached mechanics with tall footmen by their sides. I wanted to hold in front of the eyes of my body, so as to know if they were as charming as they appeared in the eyes of my memory, women's little hats so low they seemed to be simple crowns. All the hats were now immense, covered with fruits and flowers and varieties of birds. In place of the lovely dresses in which Mme Swann looked like a queen, I now saw Greco-Saxon tunics with Tanagra folds, and sometimes in the style of the Directoire, made of liberty-silk chiffons sprinkled with flowers like wallpaper.... [....] But when a belief disappears, there survives it - more and more vigorously so as to mask the absence of the power we have lost to give reality to new things - a fetishistic attachment to the old things which our belief once animated, as if it were in them and not in us that the divine resided and as if our present lack of belief had a contingent cause, the death of the Gods" (427). The past is no longer alive in the memory. It is recalled as a memory of the dead not in the liturgy of worship and veneration but in the desolation of the death of God.
I only listened to one part of this - the story of Swann falling in love with Odette de Crecy - which was absolutely brilliant. I have to be honest - I ditched it after that - life's too short, etc etc.
It's so well written and observed.
No, but I would. He's very good.
Yes! Swann is unlikeable but you can't help but pity him when he gets a taste of his own medicine.
"Attraction despite no action"
This has often been called the greatest book ever written. There is a play on words because it is indeed great – Part 2 alone makes War and Peace look like a pamphlet. I read only the first book of the first tome – Swann’s Way. But it is great literature even in translation.
Where else can an author spend most of the first hundred pages on the thoughts of a boy deciding whether or not to get out of bed? Where else can an entire chapter be dedicated to the author’s recollection of a single type of flower?
Proust’s imagery and imagination are simply beyond equal. His evocation (for example) of flowers, smells, sights, village people, emotions from (his) childhood are fascinatingly real and engrossing. His eye for detail is matched only by his command of language which paints vast landscapes and microscopic grains of pollen with equal panache.
There is almost no plot, yet the characters are fascinating and the book is compelling because one is allowed to observe a great master at work.
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