Well, it is finished. After a 12-hour marathon yesterday, I completed the last volume of Á la recherche du temp perdu. I’m still a bit dazzled at the moment, not to mention more than a little exhausted. It may be some time before I can post anything resembling a debrief or final essay. For the moment, I will say that it was extremely rewarding, and that it is a profound work on every level — in its exquisite details, its discursive meanderings, its macrocosmic themes and ideas — which has changed, permanently, how I engage the world and myself.
Okay, so Pynchon’s newest is now listed at Amazon as having 1120 pages, rather than the 992 as previously reported. I finished MD. It was magnificent. Once Mason & Dixon begin the work of drawing the Line, the story takes several staggering turns, involving (among many other things) various nested fictions, not unlike The Saragossa Manuscript. There has only been a handful of books that, when I finish them, I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to start over again from the beginning.
I finished V. It is the 20th century in microcosm. People are on obsessive quests for something they don’t understand, and which may be nonexistent; who believe their personal meaning-making can somehow illuminate the wider, meaningless universe – indeed, that simply because they make a connection between two things, they come to think that the connection exists empirically. The Authorities (governments, churches, corporations, aka “Them”) who are obsessed with the clean, the polar, the binary, the unhuman: plastics, robotics; who praise the individual, then crush it.
So. The Proust has stalled. This is okay with me; I need time to digest all that has happened. I reached the end of Vol 3 at the end of January, and decided to take a few weeks off. I read Moby-Dick for what I think was the fifth time; then I finished The Master and Margarita, which had been an xmas present; then I drowsed thru Don Quixote; I put that down midway through while upstate last month, where I bought and read the incandescent Ginger Man by JP Donleavy.
I finished The Guermantes Way a few days ago, after roughly ten weeks of reading. In Search of Lost Time is divided into seven parts, but because Parts 5 and 6 are fairly short, they are bound together. So in reaching the end of Volume 3, I think of myself as half way through. It is appropriate, therefore, that I take a moment and reflect on the book so far.
In the last week or so, I advanced to Volume 2 of In Search of Lost Time. So far, we have returned to the youthful narrator’s perspective, and we are hearing about his naïve love for Swann’s daughter, Gilberte. We are also gaining more insights into Swann’s obsessive and disastrous affair with Odette, and we understand a little better how they came to be married, despite Swann having arrived at the sobering realization, at the end of Swann in Love, that Odette really just isn’t his type.
Mere pages away from the end of Swann’s Way — so close in fact that I don’t know if I should even haul it to work or not; I could finish it on the ride in this morning, and I hate lugging dead books with me. Volume 2 is somewhat larger, so I sure as heck don’t want to drag them both. Ah, the quandaries of a reader. But more about the book itself:
I have at long last taken the Proust plunge. I began the Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation about six years ago, but stalled out. I tried picking it up again this spring, and faltered once again. Then, on a whim a month or so ago, I poked around online trying to tease out what had always struck me as its bewildering history of translations in English. I found that there are essentially only two.