by Marcel Proust
Category: Fiction / Autobiography
615 pages; ISBN: 0-375-75154-8
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Swann's Way is a classic that has gained somewhat of a mixed reputation. On the one hand, it is revered as the first volume of Marcel Proust's magnum opus, "In Search of Lost Time", or formerly translated from the French "A la Recherche Du Temps Perdu" as "Rememberace of Things Past". It is hailed as one of the first, and most invigorating breaths of modernism, having broken from the stylistic tendencies that were the norm at that time, but, it is aslo reviled as being overly long, boring, and tedious. It is this reviewers opinion, that whatever effort and concentration may be necessary to complete Swann's Way, and presumably the rest of the novel, are well worth it, for Proust's vision is one who's power can only be demonstrated in the most round about of methods.
The theme of the novel is time, and the nature in which it both passes and at the same time remains untouched and accessable, if we only have the means to conjure it up. Proust advocated that those means often, if not always, came from the most unexpected places; a taste, a smell, or a sound. Proust's great discovery was that through the senses one had the ability to relive great parts of one's life that had previously been forgotten of abandoned to the ravages of time. It is reliving his own life, in the most intricate and lush detail that Proust attempts through his art, albeit with various editorial discretions. Swann's way begins with a passage of great beauty, dealing with the mudane topic of falling asleep, but lending it such a magical quality as to take away the breath of the reader. It continues to deal with the narrator's childhood experiences in the semi-fictional vacation town of Combray, as well as the love life of M. Charles Swann, a friend of the family. It is through Proust's unequaled description of such topics as the beauty of nature, the emotions of a very sensitive young boy, the jealousy's of love, and ranging even so far as to give a stunning analysis of the effects of music, that the book wields it's enormous clout. The reader cannot but help to detect the underlying depth that lies behind his own life, and to appreciate an existence that he had perhaps never before encountered. To see the world, however superficial it may seem, through the eyes of Marcel Proust, is an experience that is more that worth the effort.