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Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

There have been many admirers of Marcel Proust.  Professor Wisman quotes two:

A famous writer, Virginia Woolf:

“My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp.”

And a famous jurist, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer:

“It’s all there in Proust—all mankind! Not only all the different character types, but also every emotion, every imaginable situation. Proust is a universal author: he can touch anyone, for different reasons; each of us can find some piece of himself in Proust, at different ages. What is most extraordinary about Proust is his ability to capture the subtlest nuances of human emotions, the slightest variations of the mind and the soul. To me, Proust is the Shakespeare of the inner world.”

Are you ready to read Proust?

If so, Josette proposes that we read and discuss the first volume of Proust’s seven novels called collectively in English Remembrance of Things Past.  This volume is called Swan’s WayIt is quite long and is divided into three parts that can be read almost independently.

We will read the first part of this volume called “Combray”.

There have been a number of English translations.  The very first one done by Scott Moncrieff is the one that we would use, but you could also use Moncrieff’s translation revised by Terence Killmartin.

The second meeting, on April 21, will focus on “Swann in Love”. “Swann in Love” is quite often read on its own, that is you don’t have to have read “Combray” before.  But Josette recommends that you read Book 1 part 1 before…

During the third meeting, on May 19 we will finish discussing Swann in Love. Since Proust is a thinker as well as a wonderful stylist, Josette would like you to select a passage that you think shows these talents and read it to the group.  We will also discuss Place-Names: The Name which is the (short) last part of volume 1 of Remenbrance of Things Past. Josette will also share a special video she made.

Josette A Wisman, Ph.D. taught French literature and civilization at American University for 36 years.  Her field of inquiry was the Middle Ages, but she taught courses on all genres and periods of French Literature.  Her research has appeared in American and foreign-published books and journals.

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