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Days of Reading – Marcel Proust

30 Jul

Books!In these inspiring essays about why we read, Proust explores all the pleasures and trials that we take from books, as well as explaining the beauty of Ruskin and his work, and the joys of losing yourself in literature as a child.

Part of the challenge with Proust is finding plenty of time in which to become intimately involved with his approach to writing.  This is my first reading experience of P. and his style is impressively immersive and made me feel nostalgic for places  and a time I have never experienced.

Plenty of essays ramble on but P. prefers clear concise language whilst being able to digress at will, yet each meandering discovery the reader makes always – eventually – comes back to the original point but makes one feel richer for the detour.

It’s a joy to read, although it is understandable that Proust splits readers due to his technique.  This reader had to change his mindset and learn to soak up the ambience of the prose, rather than feeling I was getting somewhere with plot or idea like I usually would.  In that regard the first few pages were a grind but realising that the author was going to take his time puts the reader either resigns the reader to a long haul or to the appreciation of a slow meditation of life.

The book opens with an essay on John Ruskin’s contribution to the understanding and appreciation of art and architecture, especially inspired by Christianity.  How art in general echoes its greatness (when it is) through the centuries and reaches to us emotionally, each example studied is a communing with antiquity.  It’s a study of us as well as a celebration of what we can achieve through our own creativity.

The essays on childhood memories and in particular of reading books when the mind is still open to the most innocent wonder and imagination is gloriously evocative writing.  Proust appreciates how rereading books brings forth a tangible memory of his formative years, he mirrors the echoing of art down the ages with thoughts, of ideas from our past that define modern life; not to mention timeless characters, books and the universal joy for all seasons and people.

For as long as reading is for us the instigator whose magic keys have opened the door to those dwelling places deep within us that we would not have known how to enter, its role in our lives is salutary.

Although apt to digress and with a sentence structure more eclectic but less confused than some of Dickens’ choicest pieces, so why make time for Proust when it is already in short supply with and book recommendations become more numerous by the day?  The cogitation the reader is immersed in, is a vicarious living through the author and as an experience, it was something I hadn’t experienced to such a thorough level before.  The above quote I have given speaks for itself in terms of quality and was one of many that I could have chosen to more than adequately illustrate the point.

Like all of the Penguin Great Ideas series it offers no introduction or notes(other than those written by the author, already included in the text), it is a cheap taster of some simply wonderful writing and although Proust won’t be to everyone’s taste, this short introduction won’t set you back much and will give you an insight into the kind of mind you will hopefully take the pleasure of exploring more thoroughly in the future.

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27 Comments

Posted by on 30/07/2016 in Architecture, Art, Autobiography, Essays, History, Life

 

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27 responses to “Days of Reading – Marcel Proust

  1. cricketmuse

    30/07/2016 at 13:33

    Proust is one of those “I should read” authors. And now I have more reason to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 13:40

      I have always been a little wary due to the nature of his books but I found it well worth it and will be adding more of his books to my wish list. I’m glad this snippet gave me confidence to dabble and see what he was about.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. Letizia

    30/07/2016 at 15:07

    This is a delightful book , I agree. I love when he reminisces about his childhood. I wonder if something is lost in translation as his prose is beautiful in French.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      30/07/2016 at 15:18

      It may have something to do with my frame of mind, I usually fly about doing things and it is a considerable challenge sometimes to just take my time with something, rather than feel I have gotten through plot. I will work on it and then pick up another of his works and do it properly.

      Like

       
  3. Liz Dexter

    30/07/2016 at 16:02

    Looks like it’s a very pretty book, too …

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/07/2016 at 14:47

      A lot of effort has gone into the covers for the whole series.

      Like

       
  4. anna amundsen

    30/07/2016 at 22:03

    Proust can be pretty demanding, requiring patience and time – dedication really, but what one gets it worth the investment.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/07/2016 at 14:54

      That’s the problem, with so many books to read and so much rushing about in the world, it’s a challenge to get into a mind set in which to filly appreciate the man.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  5. clarepooley33

    31/07/2016 at 02:01

    I think this is another book for my must read list. Thank-you for the review Ste. I have found these Penguin taster books really invaluable.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      31/07/2016 at 15:00

      They are a wonderful series, I own 13 of them now, the hunt is on for the rest, it is wonderful to find something fascinating in every single entry into the series, no matter how varied the content.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  6. shoshibookblog

    31/07/2016 at 14:43

    I was given this lovely book as a present a while back – this has been a good reminder to finally look inside!

    Like

     
  7. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    01/08/2016 at 00:42

    Honestly, I never ‘dared’ to read Proust. But, I will…some day.

    Like

     
  8. shadowoperator

    01/08/2016 at 13:47

    I am glad to read of another work by Proust, but I felt it took enough intestinal fortitude to get all the way through “Remembrance of Things Past” (as it used to be translated–now it has been given a title which some folks feel more appropriate, something like “To the Search for Lost Time” or something like that. Myself, I prefer the older title, since though it is not as literal a translation, it rather more captures the spirit of the work). I’m glad for you that you like Proust, but except for key moments which I can celebrate from his big work, I found him to be an effete and intolerable windbag. Sorry for the difference of opinion, maybe I would like the work you are actually writing about. He is a key literary figure, after all!

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    • Ste J

      01/08/2016 at 15:24

      He is a unique voice and there were moments when I did want him to get to the point, I found that once I understood how he wrote, I only read it when I was in the mood. I am not sure how well I would do with reading Rememberance of Things Past, perhaps if I have a long trip planned or something.

      Like

       
  9. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    01/08/2016 at 15:01

    Ah Proust…Ste J I thank you for reading the literary works that I will probably never read. ❤ 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      01/08/2016 at 15:17

      Well this one was just over a hundred pages, as a short taster it is well worth a look and there are a few essays so it’s a lot less daunting than his epic works.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. Liz

    02/08/2016 at 08:29

    oooh – I was so delighted to see that you have tackled Proust! He is in my ‘must read’ list, and you have reminded me about how much I want to take him on too, thank you.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      02/08/2016 at 13:03

      I am happy to perform my public service of chief book encourager!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Asha Seth

    04/08/2016 at 15:47

    I like the quote you’ve shared
    For as long as reading is for us the instigator whose magic keys have opened the door to those dwelling places deep within us that we would not have known how to enter, its role in our lives is salutary.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      04/08/2016 at 21:28

      It was one of a few but I preferred to save the majority for you to discover yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Sarah

    07/08/2016 at 10:42

    I’ve read the first two books of ISOLT and won’t lie, Proust takes some adjusting to. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult, but due to the meandering sentences, it benefits from being read slowly. Like you say, that’s a tough call when you have book recommendations coming out of your ears and time is short, but Proust is definitely worth it. There is so much in there to brood over and the prose is sublime. It’d be my desert island book, without a doubt. If the Penguin mini gives you a taste for more then that’s got to be a good thing!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      10/08/2016 at 18:07

      Hopping over to your blog has been the main source of my Proust interest for a while, I had thought about it before but what can I say women and books, the best and worst influences (but not necessarily in that order).

      Like

       

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