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Lost Time Thursday: Unknown Beloved

"Suddenly the sky was rent in two; between the Punch-and-Judy and the horses, against the opening horizon, I had just seen, like a miraculous sign, Mademoiselle's blue feather. And now Gilberte was running at full speed towards me, sparkling and rosy beneath a cap trimmed with fur, animated by the cold, her lateness, and the desire for a game; shortly before she reached me, she slid along the ice and, either to keep her balance, or because it appeared to her graceful, or else pretending that she was on skates, it was with outstretched arms that she smilingly advanced, as though to embrace me."
- Swann's Way, "Place Names - The Name," p. 566

Swann's Way is over and I miss it already, but in a way, it isn't going anywhere, -- not just because there are six(!) more hefty books in the novel/series still waiting to be read, but also because it's tattooed itself painlessly all over my own memory. It was an absolute joy to read from beginning to end, even if I felt compelled to roll my eyes a little at the narrator's dismay when the childhood park where he used to meet Gilberte turns out to show the same evidence of change as the rest of the world. Time, you charming sneak thief, what have you done? He professes not to believe that the cars of the present could ever have the magical significance of the carriages of his childhood, but of course by now the golden age of those cars has come and gone, and new things, mundane and ugly to us, are being haloed in youth's light even as Proust and I make dissatisfied faces at them. Time! What can you do, eh?

The final, much shorter chapter returns us to the first-person narrator (who is also technically the narrator of "Swann in Love," though it's not clear he's been born yet during the time it recounts) and Little Marcel's supersaturated inner life. First his parents plan a trip to Italy, and Little M. spends hours imagining himself surrounded by the cities whose names he has read in books, and actually breathing the air of Venice, the air that Venetian people breathe every day, instead of the ordinary air in his bedroom and garden! He works himself up to such a pitch of excitement that he develops a fever, and the trip has to be canceled. NO D: D: D:. I had no idea this was coming, though Little M.'s delicate health has been referenced already, and it was almost as much a blow to me as it was to poor little Marcel. I nearly started choking in the middle of my workplace. MARCEL I'M SO SORRY < / 3

Since he isn't going to Italy, and the doctor has declared the theater also too exciting (I am not at all convinced that this is sound medical science, but maybe? Our Little M. does get really excited really easily, but is CRUSHING HIS SOUL actually any better for his health?) Little M. has nothing to do but go to the park every day with Francoise, where he meets Gilberte and the mystery of other lives is rekindled in a new setting.

Overall: absolutely delightful, and impressively close to perfect for a book with 600 pages and not much plot. If you don't like following sensitive children around while they develop a bunch of misconceptions and attachments, you could even read "Swann in Love" as a self-contained novel, though I can't at all guarantee you won't want to push poor Swann out of a moving carriage. I haven't cringed and laughed so hard since Persuasion.

Now I have to order Volume 2, or else get it from the library -- unfortunately the local chain bookstore has an entire shelf of Jodi Picoult, but no Proust at all. I was planning to take Swann's Way to the used bookstore when I was finished, but I love it so much that I don't think I can.

Comments

evelyn_b
Mar. 10th, 2016 02:52 pm (UTC)
I KNOW. D: He was going to LITERALLY BE IN ITALY, like a character in a novel or something, and then suddenly the beautiful fiction of the future evaporated and was replaced with a boring old park he had been to before and boring old Françoise whom everyone already knows! SO PAINFUL. He wanted something too much and DESTROYED IT WITH LONGING, which I fear might become a running theme. :(

And yes, Little M. wastes no time getting just as worked up about whether he's going to see Gilberte at the park as he did about the stops on the trip he lost.

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