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Originally published in two parts, the third part of Proust's mammoth work is equally gigantic in its audiobook form (it's 28 hours long). Yet whereas I found the second part, "Within a Budding Grove", a step down in form, this is as brilliant as they come.
Two things stand out. Firstly, The first part of the volume includes not only remarkably penetrating wit, which Proust has in abundance, but also the most devastasting tableau of sickness, withering and death. His wrenching clear-sightedness and the ability to verbalize borders on medically objective descriptiveness at times, and passionately emotional at others.
Secondly, Monsieur de Charlus. He is a fantastically written character, a monomaniac of epic proportions with paroxysms of repressed aggression that transcend even Ahab's biblical ravings.
I think it was Nabokov who described Proust's chief d'oeuvre as "fantasy" (again, I think he preferred to the first half of the seven-part work), a definition befitting Proust's fantastical sense of reality, not only his own but that of his contemporaries and characters. What makes Proust so wonderful a teacher of human character is his ability to see beyond this reality and reach to the conditional, the possible, as well as the impossible; imagined conversations that we project onto characters, conversations that never took place that still define social relations. In short, all the stuff human culpability in falsely attributing characteristics to other people based on misinterpretation, it's all here.
Proust doesn't give any answers, that's for sure, but he's the most acutely clear-sighted observer of our condition in Western literature since Shakespeare has offered. Okay, fine praise and just the kind of name-dropping and hyperbole that says absolutely nothing other than emphasizing my enthusiasm for Proust. But I can't help it, the familiar memes that we recycle over and over again are the only things in my disposal that I can throw at you. I'll stop raving now and instead go listen the next volume, "Sodom and Gomorrah".
[I finished listening to this in early September but only had time to post this review now]
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Proust - coy, anxious, detached, waspish, flirtatious, prolix, detached, judgemental, effete, offhand, dreamy ... Audible have found the perfect narrator to capture that proustian voice and I'm looking forward to the full 150 hours of wandering sentences and tragic crushes. Having never managed to finish RTP on paper, having it as an audiobook fills up the next year very nicely for me.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Where does The Guermantes Way rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This is the best of the series of seven books now known as Proust's "In Search of Lost Time." Unfortunately, only five of the seven volumes have beed recorded on NAXOS in an unabridged form. The series will be completed soon, I imagine, but the main frustration altogether resides in the sad fact that after all is completed, it will be of an outdated translation by Scott Moncrieff which, however excellent and widely celebrated, is inferior in some ways to the brand new translations published in England by PENGUIN BOOKS (General Editor Christopher Pendergast) and which, because of a US Random House copyright, are NOT FOR SALE [at least the last four volumes are not] in the United States. One has to explore various Internet bookstores to find them in this country. Furthermore, the audiobook is the UNCORRECTED C.K. Scott Moncrieff version which was famously brought up to date several years ago. Sigh! So, as good as this recording is, MR NEVILLE JASON is exhausting himself on outdated material -- 2,500,000 words of it before he is finished. One notes that the first audiobook in the series is called THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST for which the newer translation is given as IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. Right away the reader sees the problem. However, this book -- THE GUERMANTES WAY -- is wonderful to listen to, and some generation (my grandmother's perhaps) was delighted with this translation which -- indeed -- was the only one in English and made the book famous in the English speaking world.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Guermantes Way?
The book is packed with memorable incidents. The "classy" party scenes, of course, are always to be looked forward to since Proust's commentary is hilariously satirical. Most people do not realize that Proust can be very, very funny -- and in a very cutting manner as well.
Have you listened to any of Neville Jason’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
This man is SUPERB -- and he makes everything totally comprehensible. Long Proustian sentences I cannot figure out when reading them on paper come over with total clarity and sense.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Yes. I am 71 years old and am thrilled to be reading this masterpiece at long last. I am glad I skipped it in my 20s and 30s, however; it's far too cynical in its world views. Nothing is as it seems at first! I would have been disillusioned for my entire life! Proust turns the world upside down. And did I say there's an awful lot of sex in it? Nobody warned me about that.
Any additional comments?
I am delighted with the recording -- but sorry the newer translations will likely not be recorded in my lifetime. Proust is easier to listen to than to read, so the audiobook is a blessing. I did, by the way, order the new print translations from England and have had fun comparing them with this one.
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
In 'The Guermantes Way', Proust pushes several social forces together. He examines the cult of aristocracy, meditates on the role of the military in French society, examines French antisemitism through the Dreyfus affair, French art, and the banal conversations and selfish superficiality that permeate throughout the drawing rooms of the upperclass denizens of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Three times in the novel (the death of the Narrator's grandmother, the illness of of Amanien d"Osmond, and the announcement by Swann to Mme de Guermantes and the Duc that he is dying) Proust shows how the French aristocracy are concerned more with the shallow requirements of society (shoes, promptness, etc) than real human compassion for the dying.
This third volume of Proust's epic 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu', carries the reader deeper into Proust's analysis of memory, society, language, and art.
16 of 18 people found this review helpful