Proust was a genius. The intra- and inter- human workings that he describes are universal, and yet he presents them in such a way that they are inarguably sui generis and revelatory, offering each reader an intimate tête-à-tête. In other words he's constantly telling you things you know but didn't know you knew or things you know but could never articulate--even to yourself. If this sounds miraculous...good. It is. To be able to contemplate and savor feelings and ideas that may never have entered the conscious mind otherwise--what a gift. Accomplishing this a few times in a book reveals clever insight. Doing it dozens of times is Tolstoy. Writing a 3200-page book with this as your modus operandi is...genius.