Reading Proust is Like Driving a Car Without Brakes

Swann's Way

I’m still in the process of reading the most excellent Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I’m over halfway through.

I did not think I would, but I love it. I’m jealous of the translator (Lydia Davis) because she did such an excellent job. It must have taken a great amount of love for the story and the French language to be able to translate this book with such care.

The writing is simply beautiful. I say reading it is like driving a car with no brakes because I literally cannot stop. I got completely lost in the beautiful descriptions and the emotions that the narrator seems to draw from tiny, everyday details.

I’ll be honest when I say that I’ll probably have to read the book again to really nail down the action because the actual plot of the story tends to get bogged down in these little details. Even so, I feel that this book would definitely be worthwhile to read again.

I plan on reading the other books in the series (actually the whole thing is supposed to be one big, long novel); hopefully they’ve all been translated by the same woman.

While I was reading books like The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! (both by William Faulkner, and both inspired in part by Proust), I also got lost in the narrative style and the breathtaking imagery. Like I did when I had to read Faulkner’s books for class, I’m going to get through Proust without Spark Notes or anything of the like. I want to figure as much of it out for myself as I can; that’s the true joy of reading a literary work.

As another thought, I’d seriously give my right arm to be able to write like this (but then again, I wouldn’t be able to write!). It’s always how I’ve wanted to write – with beauty, conviction, confidence, authority, and great care for scenery and character.

I can only pray that God might bless me with even half one tenth of the talent Proust had.