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Books 232-233: Time Regained and Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time

Book 232: In Search of Lost Time Vol 6: Time Regained.
Author: Marcel Proust, 1927. Translated from the French by Andreas Mayor and Terence Kilmartin; revised by D J Enright.
Genre: Modern Classic. Literary. Comedy of Manners. GLBT.
Other Details: 2000 Vintage Proust Edition. Paperback. 693 pages.

'Time Regained' begins in the bleak and uncertain years of World War I. Years later, after the war's end, Proust's narrator returns to Paris and reflects on time, reality, jealousy, artistic creation, and the raw material of literature - his past life. This edition includes the indispensable 'A Guide to Proust', compiled by Terence Kilmartin and revised by Joanna Kilmartin. - synopsis from Vintage Books website.

This novel was published five years after Proust's death and as with The Captive and The Fugitive lacked the tight editing of the earlier volumes. Yet I found this a deeply moving final volume given its meditations upon art and literature, ageing, death and the coming together of the Narrator's thoughts on the nature of Time, which forms the overall theme. As he writes near the end about his book: "I thought more modestly of my book and it would be inaccurate even to say that I thought of those who would read it as "my" readers. For it seemed to me that they would not be "my" readers but the readers of their own lives, my book being merely a sort of magnifying glass... it would be my book, but with its help I would furnish them with the means of reading what lay within themselves." This certainly proved true for me, especially the themes of the final volume.

So much of the earlier volumes of the novel seemed to exist out of time yet here having the Great War featuring in the opening pages it felt as if reality had suddenly impinged upon the privileged existence of the characters. Here was the end of La Belle Epoque. Still with the end of the war life in Parisian high society continued as it ever had with people rising, falling and rising again on Fortune's wheel. The final set piece of the novel is another great party where most of the surviving characters appear once more.

On finishing this book I feel as if I should present myself with a custom t-shirt with the caption 'I finished Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time!'. Overall this well deserved its classic status and I am so glad that I took up the challenge to read it. It was a challenging work given its style and yet ultimately a deeply rewarding one. The Guide to Proust that takes up the final 220 pages wasn't very reader friendly and so I didn't access it, preferring the Patrick Alexander reader's guide detailed below. On a final note I did love the flower-themed covers of my Vintage Classics editions.

Book 233: Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time: A Reader's Guide to The Remembrance of Things Past.
Author: Patrick Alexander, 2007.
Genre: Literary Studies.
Other Details: Paperback. 385 pages.

An accessible, irreverent guide to one of the most admired—and entertaining—novels of the past century. There is no other guide like this; a user-friendly and enticing entry into the marvellously enjoyable world of Proust. At seven volumes, three thousand pages, and more than four hundred characters, as well as a towering reputation as a literary classic, Proust’s novel can seem daunting. But though begun a century ago, in 1909, it is in fact as engaging and relevant to our times as ever. Patrick Alexander is passionate about Proust’s genius and appeal—he calls the work “outrageously bawdy and extremely funny”—and in his guide he makes it more accessible to the general reader through detailed plot summaries, historical and cultural background, a guide to the fifty most important characters, maps, family trees, illustrations, and a brief biography of Proust. Essential for readers and book groups currently reading Proust and who want help keeping track of the huge cast and intricate plot, this Reader’s Guide is also a wonderful introduction for students and new readers and a memory-refresher for long-time fans. - synopsis from US publisher's website.

This has proved an invaluable companion to my reading of Marcel Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time' from March onward. I was especially grateful for his 'Who's Who in Proust' to assist me in keeping track of the many characters as well as to appreciate its themes. I was quite disciplined in not reading ahead in the detailed summaries of each volume and read them after I'd completed the book.

Patrick Alexander's web page on 'The Guide'.
Tags: literary, literature history, modern classic, period fiction (20th century), translation, war
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