Bucket's Reviews > Proust's Way: A Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time

Proust's Way by Roger Shattuck
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Jun 16, 12

bookshelves: books-about-books, non-fiction, reviewed, lit-crit
Read from June 11 to 16, 2012

This is literary criticism and reflection that serves as both introduction and academic study of In Search of Lost Time. It begins with an introduction to Proust and his biography, as well as a description of when, how, and why he wrote the novel and the way it evolved over his life. Shattuck then moves into how to read the novel and what to look for and then has 5-6 chapters that dive into critique and reflection - these are ordered to be increasingly more complex and deeper dives into the novel.

I picked this up in hopes of putting my reading of Proust over the past 6 months to good use - I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the novel I've really been enjoying without diving into endless and overwhelming academic writing that I don't have the time and mental energy to take on - in other words, I wanted a deep dive without having to become a scholar, and Shattuck absolutely fit the bill. He brought the themes of In Search of Lost Time to life for me and his love for the novel and deep respect for Proust is very clear.

For memory's sake, I'm including here the tidbits I took away that I want to save as part of my reflections on In Search of Lost Time.

The novel is about Marcel (the narrator, not the author), after a long life of distractions and failures, discovering that he can reach a goal he gave up long ago.

The novel has two "I's" (young Marcel, and the narrator) and both appear throughout the novel, waxing and waning, and providing a duplicity of vision for the reader (the same way that our two eyes with their slightly different locations on our face work together to give what we see depth).

The moment Marcel achieves what he wants most, he can't enjoy it because the experience itself clouds his mind. Later, Shattuck seems to say that this has to do with memory and the more we focus consciously on creating a memory the less real and visceral that memory will be. It is involuntary memory (like what returns with the madeleine and at the end of the novel) that is the most potent. What we recall most vividly is what we had previously forgotten because we haven't wrung all the strength out of it.

"The Search turns out to be a metamorphosis that permits a self-recognition."

Art is not superior to experience - it serves experience. It brings out the reality that we would never see or experience otherwise.

The ending of the novel is the beginning in reverse - at first there is the consciousness moving from the swirl of sleep to the clarity of waking, then there is the vivid awareness of the present when Marcel receives a kiss from his mother, then the madeleine incident which unblocks everything. In the end, there is a series of moments that bring clarity (echoing the madeleine), then everything falls apart in confusion as he recognizes no one in the party, then the sight of Mlle de Saint-Loup brings Marcel and the narrator together in a new swirl - one that Marcel can write down at last.

"To read genuine literature is to accumulate within oneself a fund of possible experiences against which to achieve an occasionally intensified sense of what one is doing, to recognize that one is alive in a particular way." The young look forward to life through literature and the old look back at life through it.
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06/11/2012 page 91
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message 1: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie The young look forward to life through literature and the old look back at life through it. I must say this is just a fantastic statement Bucket and I want to add it as a quote...though I don't know if you are an author...your whole review is great actually and I certainly will get my hands on this book. I still need to finish off Proust!


Bucket I'm no author but you can certainly quote it! I will add that it's at least somewhat a paraphrase of Roger Shattuck who got the idea from Proust. In other words, not my original thinking whatsoever. :)


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