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0455 | ISOLT III: The Guermantes Way | Marcel Proust

0455 | ISOLT III: The Guermantes Way | Marcel Proust post image

Context: Mrs Arukiyomi joined me in Saudi as I was reading this and we went to a clinic for her residency medical.

This was a book of two halves for me. The first half starts off with a relocation to Paris from the coast and the obsession with yet another female. After Gilberte in volume 1 and Albertine in volume 2, the narrator now pursues the Duchesse de Guermantes. I thought he’d grow out of this kind of compulsive behaviour by now but no, he’s at it again.

As this volume progresses, it becomes clear that it is not an obsession with the female form per se that has our narrator staking out this woman in all weathers. Rather it is a combination of her sex and the fact that she is, as far as he’s concerned when the volume opens, one step down from divinity due to her social rank.

But, cleverly (although very laboriously for me) the true nature of the Guermantes set and their ilk are revealed as little more than a facade of social obligation. By the end of the volume, although the narrator has managed to inveigle his way into the set himself, he is entirely

disenchanted with the lot of them. This disenchantment is the result of a 400-page dinner party, during which, one by one those he admires reveal enough of their true natures to his piercing observation that he sees through them all.

That’s the half of the novel I found hardest coming, as it did so, after a first half with some notable events including the loss of a close member of the family in quite a moving rendition of grief.

So, I’ll consider the latter half a literary necessity. I can see how it verges on satire as the narrator gradually reveals the sham society that the so-called elite revel in. This is where, for me, Proust’s verbosity made for turgid prose. I know, shoot me on sight for saying so, but I honestly wish he’d just get to the point sometimes. Oh, and if you tackle this and the next volume, do make sure you read up on the Dreyfuss affair or you won’t have a clue what they’re all talking about.

Over halfway and glad it’s all downhill from here…


The twittering of birds at daybreak sounded insipid to Francoise.


“the image that other people form of our actions and behaviour is no more like that which we form of them ourselves, than is like an original drawing a spoiled copy in which, at one point, for a black line, we find an empty gap, and for a blank space an unaccountable contour.”

“this strange print which seems to us to have so little resemblance to ourselves bears sometimes the same stamp of truth, scarcely flattering, indeed, but profound and useful”

“medicine being a compendium of the successive and contradictory mistakes of medical practioners, when we summon the wisestof them to our aid, the chances are that we may be relying on a scientific truth the error of which will be recognised in a few years’ time. So that to believe in medicine would be the height of folly, if not to believe in it were not greater folly still”

“our social existence is, like an artist’s studio, filled with abandoned sketches in which we have fancied for a moment that we could set down in permanent form our need of a great love, but it did not occur to me that sometimes, if the sketch be not too old, it may happen that we return to it and make of it a work wholly different, and possibly more important than what we had originally planned.”

“The need to speak prevents one not merely from listening but from seeing things”


This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

PROGRESS guermantesp

As Proust intended this to be a single novel, I won’t be rating In Search of Lost Time until the final volume


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