Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th century literature. Neville Jason’s widely praised 39 CD abridged version has rightly become an audiobook landmark and now, upon numerous requests, he is recording the whole work unabridged which, when complete, will run for some 140 hours.
Sodom and Gomorrah is the fourth of seven volumes. Accidentally witnessing an encounter between the Baron de Charlus and the tailor Jupien, the narrator’s eyes are opened to a world hidden from him until now; he suspects that Albertine is attracted to her own sex.
Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBooks
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
Reviewing 'Sodom and Gomorrah' puts me in an awkward spot. What are the risks of looking back obliquely on Proust's fourth volume of 'In Search of Lost Time' (ISOLT)? Will any indirect reference to Proust's army of inverts turn me into a pillar of salt? Will I disquiet my friends and my family with funky quotes from Proust's salon-centric novel?
It is hard to grab this one volume and grade or inspect it separate from the previous three, and seems premature to attempt to capture the full body of ISOLT before finishing the next three. Still, having read/listened 2700+ pages /102 hours of Proust now, I can still feel confident in saying that the guy is brilliant, weird, distressing, mesmerizing, queer, petulant, boring, beautiful, raving, labyrinthine, decadent, lyrical, perverse, funky, banal, and that is just a sampling of my feelings about Proust on just one of his d@mned pages.
But this is a novel that once started, must be finished. It is also a novel that needs to be eaten in discrete and slow chunks. I'm not sure it is possible to eat an entire wheel of Leerdammer by oneself, or to drink an entire hogshead of wine, or to read Proust's ISOLT all the way through. It is brilliant, but needs to be consumed in small graceful quantities, preferably with your pinky sticking out.
Yes. The narration is excellent in every respect, which is a considerable achievement given the novel. Neville Jason renders the very long sentences comprehensible, does different characters without overdoing the distinctions, and transmits the writing beautifully, which can only be so if he understood himself - again no mean feat
There's no need to review Proust.
No one has read this work in one sitting.
I have much less difficulty in reading this work via audiobook than by sight.
Without the audiobook, I would never have attempted to read the book, and even if I did, I couldn't have brought as much to it as the narrator. Few realize how funny as well as insightful it is.
Charlus is both the figure of fun as well as a historical anomoly and Neville Jason milks him for all he's worth--and more.
Listening to Jason is like rejoining an old friend over a glass of brandy after a wonderful dinner. The stories, the digressions, all are first rate.
At 24+ hours, it's too much. I listen during my commute and the time in the car flies by.
For those who have only heard of, wondered about, and might be intimidated by the heft and the reputation of the novel, this are the best way to go. The insights into human nature are timeless. The abridged versions are worthless, since plot is the least of the charms.
Rare for audio books, I can say categorically that I enjoy listening to this book better than reading it myself. I read the first three volumes of this series ("In Search of Lost Time", also called "Remebrance of Things Past") and found it tough going. Neville Jason transmits Proust's complex sentence structure with seeming effortlessness. He does a good job of changing voices in a way that brings out the personality of characters in the novel, especially for male characters.
Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" is a rewarding series for those who stick with it. (My book club is taking 2-3 years reading all 7 volumes.) Proust is like a neuroscientist, getting inside the head of his characters, especially the narrator, who resembles Marcel Proust himself. If you're looking for an action-filled page-turner, this book is not for you (even in audio form), but if you are looking for a thoughtful book with an interesting take on human nature, Proust has something significant to offer. Remember, this is volume 4. Reading or listening to the previous three volumes is a must before starting this one.
"Change of direction and tone"
I read the first hundred pages in Mallorca in August 2014 and again set aside until re-visiting the same spot again at the end of October 2014. The fourth volume seems to be the spot where others have stumbled. I found that the answer to this one is to fill a few days with the very best that life has to offer - in my case a full cooked breakfast, beautiful sunshine in the best October temperatures in Mallorca in thirty years, sea swimming every day, good coffee and an afternoon ice=cream, grilled king prawns, simply fried mackerel and an entrecôte to round things off. In this context the extended reading marathons just topped up the feeling of good living that I managed to engender all week.
I have to say that the Charlus and Jupien encounter was a jarring counterpoint to what has gone before - but only insofar as the judgmental solemnising that is set down after the event rings with an out of place hypocrisy. The unwritten Gomorrhe of Albertine’s adventures were all the more enjoyable for Proust’s lightness of touch and certainly, when Charlus rejoined the happy social band and took up the baton of conversation and counterpoint, I was the happiest camper on the sunbed.
I decided that complementary good living is the only way to get through the final two volumes and so will postpone my next adventure in Proust until I can re-assume the posture - February 2015 and looking forward to Tenerife already!
I love Proust.
Around ten years ago I started reading ”Time" from the beginning, as fervently as I had ever read anything. But I remember that when I reached what really is the fifth volume in Proust after a few months I ran out of steam and never recovered to finish the project.
I started listening to the unabridged audiobook versions last autumn just as fervently for three months. And again I somehow hit the rocks with this volume. Perhaps I was just so saturated with Proust I couldn’t take it any more.
Unsurprisingly surprisingly, this is my least favourite volume so far, yet such a statement should be placed in its proper context, that is, taking into account that Proust even at his "worst" is as good as literature gets. Not that "Sodom and Gomorrah" isn’t psychologically masterful, and not that the language isn’t as beautiful as ever. Not that the themes of homosexuality and being Dreyfusard or anti-Dreyfusard wouldn’t be expertly conducted, both the kind of social taboos to make one lose all standing in society. This all Proust uses to great effect in exploring what I perceive to be at the core of his grand work: identity not as something that is, in the objective sense of the word, but rather as perceived and interpreted. Perceived in the sense that not only are we given an identity in our social sphere, we also assume one for different contexts. Interpreted in the sense that what we take on is a character, a role that abides to certain norms, often unsaid, but which, when broken, become apparent as reasons of disdain.
Yet somehow, despite its wonderful treasures, it just doesn’t connect with me. I think it’s because I was coming from a very intensive Proustian period and it was just too much, especially since ”The Guermantes Way” is, so far, my favourite volume, as perfect as a book can be, and I’m more than willing to return to this when I finally finish the series (at this writing I’m two-thirds through ”The Captive”).
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