Remembrance Of Things Past 2008 discussion

Favorite 'Swann's Way' Quotes

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This isn't necessarily my favorite quote but I enjoyed it because it reflects some of Proust's humor. It's also a clear expression of human nature - probably the clearest I've yet seen of Proust. Oh, if he were only this clear with everything else.

This scene takes place right after Marcel and his umbrella have taken a walk in the rain without his parents. It's stopped raining and he's filled with joy at the beauty of the countryside.

"...And, seeing upon the water, where it reflected the wall, a pallid smile responding to the smiling sky, I cried aloud in my enthusiasm, brandishing my furled umbrella: 'Damn, damn, damn, damn!' But at that same time I felt that I was duty bound not to content myself with these unilluminating words, but to endeavor to see more clearly into the source of my enjoyment.

And it was at that moment, too -- thanks to a peasant who went past, apparently in a bad enough humour already, but more so when he nearly received my umbrella in his face, and who replied without any cordiality to my 'Fine day, what! good to be out walking!' that I learned that identical emotions, do not spring up in the hearts of all men simultaneously, by a pre-established order. Later on I discovered that, whenever I had read for too long and was in a mood for conversation, the friend to whom I would be burning to say something would at that moment have finished indulging himself in the delights of conversation, and wanted nothing now but to be left to read undisturbed. And if I had been thinking with affection of my parents, and forming the most sensible and proper plans for giving them pleasure, they would have been using the same interval of time to discover some misdeed that I had already forgotten, and would begin to scold me severely, just as I flung myself upon them with a kiss."

message 2: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Part of what I like about this book is when Proust describes what it can feel like to fall in love or have another intense emotional experience. Those are some of the passages that seem most realistic to me, and which I think but few male writers could even attempt to express, let alone do this as well as Proust does. Here's a good sample from Swann's Way:

"But in this strange phase of love the personality of another person becomes so enlarged, so deepened, that the curiosity which he now felt stirring inside him with regard to the details of a woman's daily life, was the same thirst for knowledge with which he once studied history. And all manner of actions which from hitherto he would have recoiled in shame.....seemed to him now to be precisely on a level with the deciphering of manuscripts, the weighing of evidence, the interpretation of old monuments - so many different methods of scientific investigation with a genuine intellectual value and legitimately employable in the search for truth."

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, good one, Patrick!

message 4: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) This quote made me laugh out loud:
"As she was entirely uneducated, and was afraid of making mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, she used to purposely to speak in an indistinct and garbling manner, thinking that if she should make a slip it would be so buried in the surrounding confusion that no one could be certain whether she had actually made it or not; with the result her talk was a sort of continuous, blurred expectoration, out of which would emerge, at rare intervals, the few sounds and syllables of which she felt sure."

message 5: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Here's an interesting one:

"Like many other men, Swann had a naturally lazy mind and lacked imagination. He knew perfectly well as a general truth that human life is full of contrasts, but in the case of each individual human being he imagined all that part of his or her life with which he was not familiar as being identical with the part which he was. He imagined what was kep secret from him in the light of what was revealed."

A classic Proust insight. I think he captures the typical assumptions we make about our acquaintances quite succinctly here. I imagine this passage may have been a tough one to translate, though.

message 6: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) I liked that quote too, Patrick. Some of the things he wrote reminded me of the process of reading, with characters in novels being overly simplified as opposed to "real" people. I would definitely put Proust in the post-modern category. This book seems to be as much about the process of experiencing art as anything else.

message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara This book seems to be as much about the process of experiencing art as anything else.

I absolutely agree. And, I don't think life usually doesn't lives up to art for M.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Patrick: excellent quote!

message 9: by Marsha (new)

Marsha "Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them."

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice one, Marsha. It says so much about how we restrict our lives simply by our preconceptions of what it should be. Imagine how different our lives could be if we allowed ourselves some flexibility, and perhaps hope that it could be different.

message 11: by Marsha (new)

Marsha That is what struck me- it expresses the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy- written around the same time as Freud. I'll be interested to see where this goes. It's always fascinating to me when I see how ideas change as they are recycled- or rather how they don't really change. We should make history and philosophy more of a focus of study.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)


I'm going to have to look this up but somewhere I read something about how much of what Proust wrote reflected Freud's theories, despite not having met the man or even read his work (?). Interesting that Proust's "amateur" observations of human behavior could reflect so much of Freud's scientific studies.

message 13: by Marsha (new)

Marsha CBT came much later- but from what I've seen so far- it looks like Freud and Proust could have easily spent years together. :)

message 14: by Marsha (new)

Marsha I'm not that far yet... I just got to the part where the narrator's Daddy sends lovely and delightful momma to spend the night in the kiddo's room. So much for Daddy's participation in the perfect Oedipal complex mess going on here. :)

Chad- you may have been talking about Freud's theory of the unconscious. Freud and Proust were contemporaries- and they started publishing around the same time. Freud was forming his theories (in Vienna?) in the 1880's to 1900ish- and publishing during that time, but theories were getting out and starting to take hold around 1900-1910. That is my vague recollection.

message 15: by Marsha (new)

Marsha "For even if we have the sensation of being always enveloped in, surrounded by our own soul; still it does not seem a fixed and immovable prison; rather we do seem to be borne away with it, and perpetually struggling to transcend it, to break out into the world, with a perpetual disagreement as we hear endlessly all around us that unvarying sound which is not an echo from without, but the resonance of a vibration from within."


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

See, this is the kind of Proust quote (and there are so many) that makes we wonder why everyone doesn't love Proust!

message 17: by Shan (new)

Shan | 15 comments Marsha, along the same theme -

" is only with the passions of others that we are ever really familiar, and what we come to discover about our own can only be learned from them. Upon ourselves they react only indirectly, through our imagination, which substitutes for our primary motives other, auxiliary motives, less stark and therefore more seemly." (pg 126)

I wrote this in my little notebook when I first read it. Now it seems in keeping with the Freudian link you brought up.

Shan (taking a break midway through the new Stephen King to return to the calmer waters of Proust - and by the way, the new King is also about memory...)

message 18: by Marsha (new)

Marsha Yes Shan- he seems to be talking about projection there- very Freudian- and one of Freud's ideas that has indeed withstood the test of time.

I'm thinkin' this Proust is a pretty smart guy. :)

I'll be vacationing with King next soon too- Lisey's Story though.

message 19: by Marsha (new)

Marsha I'm taking a vacation too. I've given myself the year to read these. I finished Swann's Way and was a bit underwhelmed, actually. I'm encouraged by comments I've read here that Swann's Way is the most overwritten and the rest of the books are much less so.

The toughest part for me is that I really don't like that sniveling narrator OR Swann OR Odette, or even the much-exalted mother. But I suppose it's compelling in the way that seeing what will happen next to someone like Lindsey Lohan or Amy Winehouse is. A little like a 200 year old version of the human train-wreck.

message 20: by Marsha (new)

Marsha Swann is actually the one I see as ridiculously self-destructive.

message 21: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) It is really weird reading a book you like when you find the characters somewhat annoying and/or morally repulsive.

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