Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th century literature. Neville Jason’s widely praised 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.
Within a Budding Grove is the second of seven volumes. The young narrator, experiencing his youthful sexuality, falls under the spell of a group of adolescent girls, succumbs to the charms of the enchanting Gilberte, and visits a brothel where he meets Rachel. His impressions of life are also stimulated by the painter, Elstir, and his encounter with another girl, Albertine.
Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBook
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
My first recommendation when reading Proust is the reader MUST make sure they have a reliable bookmark, because when (not if, but when) you lose your place your faulty memory will not be able to remember exactly where you just were. One young nubile girl starts to blend into another young nubile girl who looks at this point a lot like her friend. One picked flower starts to smell like another from an earlier page; a page that seemed to exist a whole lifetime ago. One young man with mommy issues starts to look almost exactly like another young man with grand-mommy issues.
That being said, you don't read Proust for the lines. You read Proust for everything else. It is those moments between plot points where all the rich texture resides. There is something languorous about just simply letting Proust's prose wash over you ~~~ wave after wave. Suddenly, you really don't care if you've already read a certain page because you are content and you recognize that you will read it again in just a few pages anyway and it will be beautiful and true all over again.
Neville Jason's narration is a fantastic crutch. I use the narration to keep me paced as I read the text. I tried this approach first with Joyce and it worked so well I used it with Pynchon. The listening/reading approach is perfect for Proust.
Baron de Charlus
I have just listened to all seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time so these comments apply to the whole series.
Jason's narration of this poetic work is "sans pareil." He gives all the characters a distinctive voice making it much easier to follow.His pronunciation of the french names is impeccable.
His English pronunciation is almost as good. Given Jason's mid-Atlantic plummy accent and the work's preoccupation with the upper class, his pronunciation of (the unfortunately frequently recurring word) "analogous" is teeth grating. (Hint: it should be pronounced with a hard "g.")
Nevertheless, Bravo Neville! (and of course Proust)
I found myself mesmerized by this book. Proust is a master of describing the intimate details of his thinking. Very little happens in the book outwardly. Essentially the narrator tells of his summer in a town on the Norman coast. And the characters, including the narrator, aren't particularly admirable. But it's absolutely fascinating to listen to his riffs on a wide variety of subjects, from sexuality to arts and artists to creativity to memory. Very hard to describe, but it's like listening to someone describing the incredibly interesting things they see inside a microscope looking at human character. The reader is good. Definitely kept my interest alive.
"Humour and Psychology"
I can’t get enough of Proust, and thanks to this monumental feat of audio recording, I don’t have to. What makes him so wonderful is his wonderful sense of humour and acute sense for human psychology. Not psychology in some sort of distant, academic sense, but pragmatic, observational and projective, where he not only sees things around him and is able to analyze through them the human condition, but also the marvellous clear-sightedness where he’s able to write about “himself” (inasmuch as we want to see the narrator as the author, something this work effortlessly embraces) as the object of critique. His irony, sometimes near-impenetrable, encloses whole conversations, that only afterwards one realizes have been written down in jest.
The second part in the series, “Within a Budding Grove”, (again, this is Moncrieff’s title, the correct translation of the French “À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs” rather being “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower” – as a sidenote, it’s good to know since the theme is played upon in the book) is slightly more difficult to appreciate than the sublime first volume, “Swann’s Way”.
I say “more difficult to appreciate”, which one may interpret as a coward’s way of saying “bad”, simply because while it’s a brilliant work, Proustian all the way through, it’s a step down from the wonders of the first volume, and for that matter, from the following volume. The first part, “Around Mrs Swann” ("Autour de Mme Swann"), is wonderful, but I can’t relate much to the Balbec episode, that is, "Place Names: The Place" ("Noms de pays: Le pays"). Perhaps it’s because we already have the archetype of Albertine in Mrs Swann that much of it feels rather rehearsed.
Neville Jason continues to amaze. Someone somewhere (vague enough for you?) described Jason’s ability to make Proust’s often quite complex sentences clear with his articulation and pace. He’s such a joy to listen to, and I’m completely sold on the prospect of listening to his “War and Peace” whenever I finish “Time Regained”.
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