“Swann in Love” is this Volume’s savior. It was the only portion of Swann’s Way which I found at all meaningful or enjoyable. Character development occurred, there was emotion and conflict, and the relationships between those characters who I feel will play important roles again in the future Volumes begin to be established. There is an interesting relationship between our young narrator and his mother – disturbing, really, and no resolution was brought to bear, but it does intrigue the reader and one begins to wonder what is in store for this family in future Volumes (if they even appear – perhaps each Volume follows the lives of completely separate people?). The language is quite beautiful and this translation, in particular, I think is well wrought (I am referring to the Penguin Classics edition, 2004, translated by Lydia Davis).
There seems to be no point. This could be intentional, or it could be because, technically, I am still at the very beginning of the novel (being in Volume 1 of 7); still, this novel standing alone, as many other reviews claim it can, just does not work for me. The first and third parts, particularly, are incredibly disjointed and meandering. As a reader more familiar with and privy to linear thought, I found Proust’s flashbacks within flashbacks and ambiguous narrators distracting and hard to follow. While the middle part obviously stood apart, and was quite beautiful in many ways, I feel it overshadowed the two parts between which it is sandwiched, and left me wondering why the other parts were necessary. My only conclusion – and it is a hopeful one- is that the young narrator, who we stroll along with in parts one and two, is ultimately going to be the “main character” but that “Swann in Love” was a necessary prelude or prequel to the story about to unfold.
Final Verdict: 3.0 out of 5.0
The novel’s language is beautiful and its characters quite interesting, yet I was disappointed in it overall. Perhaps I need to read In Search of Lost Time in its entirety to truly appreciate it for the complete work it is. By itself, Swann’s Way was, for me, a wandering, flowery traipse through the lives of many French people who are not at all appealing or interesting. The two or three characters I could potentially champion tended to be spineless and weak (particularly the men) or deliberately vile and duplicitous (typically the women). Proust does create an interesting dynamic between men and women, but the stroll seems to be toward no end, with no purpose. If this is the point (as I wonder can only be surmised after reading all 7 volumes) then, it is unfortunate for me. Perhaps I am too much of a modern “Western” reader, but I believe novels should have a goal and a purpose, other than just to show for the sake of showing.
Published by Penguin Classics, 2004
Source: Owned Copy