Frankie's Reviews > Finding Time Again

Finding Time Again by Marcel Proust
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Sep 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: french
Read from November 14 to December 07, 2011

The remarkable thing about the series, looking back, is that Proust embeds his memory into the reader so comprehensively. You find yourself remembering details in a haze, as if they were your own. The inclusion of detached details and impressions with often no immediate significance, unpleasant as it may first seem, builds a web of connections later on. Despite what you think, memories related with such realism and complexity don't fade.

The lack of involvement on Marcel's part in the concerns of the war mirror his indifference to society and his various friends' marriages. His spectator role is for me the most tragic element of the book, as in the previous volumes he became more and more involved in the action of the story, whereas this volume has him backing into the shadows again. There are still bright spots here that make this final installment worthy – his discovery of Jupien's brothel and Charlus' sadomasochistic orgies, the pre-Guermantes Mme. Verdurin and her entertaining bitterness, the butler and Francoise's Punch and Judy dialogues.

This volume seems to cover more time than the others, though the principal leap involves the first World War. The bal des tetes or as I would call it the "funeral march" takes up the final half. It's disturbing to see the surviving characters old and teetering at the grave, but the balance of the author's epiphanic resurrection dispels the gloom.

At any rate, it's apparent that this final volume, posthumously published, was poorly proofed and incomplete. There are confusions in dialogue and digression that can't be helped. For instance, several times the Duchesse de Guermantes in dailogue suddenly became Gilberte or the Princesse. In a way, though, it falls in with the bewildering amnesia-like theme of the event. It also doesn't help that the UK printing of these last few volumes often omits speech marks in dialogue. Printing errors abound, which is more proof of the limited readership of these final volumes than anything else.

The author's last lucid explanation of memory as a series of threads with unseen ends is braced by his quote from Victor Hugo, which has a great deal to do with Proust's approach to memory:
How little time is needed for everything to change
Nature with skies serene, how you forget!
And how in your metamorphoses you break
The mysterious threads in which our hearts are bound!

In the final words, the author wishes the longevity of his work to be at least 100 years. It's almost so, and deserves to always be read.
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