Author: Marcel Proust, 1920/21. Translated from the French by Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin; revised by D J Enright, 1992.
Genre: Modern Classic. Literary. Comedy of Manners. Coming of Age.
Other Details: 2000 Vintage Proust Edition. Paperback. 706 pages.
In 'The Guermantes Way' Proust's narrator recalls his initiation into the dazzling world of Parisian high society. Looking back over his time in the glamorous salons of the aristocracy, he satirises this shallow world and his own youthful infatuation with it. His observations, and his experiences with his lover Albertine, also educate him in the volatile nature of desire as he walks the path towards adulthood. synopsis from Vintage website.
As I have observed in my previous reviews of Vols 1 and 2, this is a novel that demands a close reading due to Proust's style. Here the life of the French upper class of the period is closely observed by the narrator.
The focus of this volume is the Narrator's desire to meet the Duchess de Guermantes and when his family moves into a Paris apartment that is part of the Hotel de Guermantes, he begins to behave in a manner that today we would identify as that of a stalker. Eventually he secures an invitation to an afternoon party, which forms the first of two major set pieces of this volume. The party covers more than a hundred pages and describes the complex interactions of various characters. Later in the volume the Narrator is finally invited to a dinner party held by the Duchess and obtains his goal of crossing the threshold into the glamorous world of the Guermantes. However, the experience is very different to his expectations leading to disillusion, which is an ongoing theme in the novel.
Another focus in this volume is the Dreyfuss Affair and how it violently divided French society. Although I had some familiarity with it, I was grateful for my copy of Patrick Alexander's Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time: A Reader's Guide to The Remembrance of Things Past , which has a section on the Dreyfuss Affair as well as a 'Who's Who' that came in very handy given the number of characters present.
Over the months of reading Proust my admiration of his writing has increased and after struggling some at the start with his style I now can cope with his long run-on sentences and dense descriptions. I am pleased that I took up the challenge to read 'Remembrance' in 2013 as I doubt I would have done on it my own. Now after a late start I've finally caught up with the Goodreads group, allowing me to take part in their weekly discussions.