Proust's Way

Proust's Way : A Field Guide to "In Search of Lost Time"

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For many years, Roger Shattuck has been mesmerised by one write. First came "Proust's Binoculars", a short, brilliant study published in 1964. Then came "Marcel Proust", commissioned by Frank Kermode for the Modern Masters series, which won the National Book Ward in 1974. A series of essays, lectures and reviews followed. Now, like Richard Ellmann, whose constant outpourings on Joyce resulted in his triumphant biography "James Joyce", Roger Shattuck has revisited his earlier writings and musings on Proust, and used them as a springboard to write a new and definitive work. Devoting particular attention to Proust's masterpiece "In Search of Lost Time", Shattuck laments his subject's defencelessness against zealous editors, praises some translations, examines Proust's place on the path of aesthetic decadence blazed by Baudelaire and Wilde, and presents him as a novelist whose philosophical gifts were matched by his irrepressible comic sense. This book is the culmination of a lifetime of scholarship; it should delight and enthral readers, and serve as the next generation's guide to more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 128 x 198 x 15mm | 212g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140294988
  • 9780140294989

Table of contents

Introduction - a sense of life. Part 1 The work and its author: obstacles and inducements; the life of an "enfant nerveux"; an overdetermined universe. Part 2 How to read a Roman-fleuve: practical matters; the elements of the story; the plot; verisimilitude and homosexuality. Part 3 The comic vision: four scenes; a matter of temperament - the opening stumble; the uses of the comic. Part 4 Proust's complaint: false scents; from places to people - the "infirmity in my nature"; soul error; the paradox of consciousness. Part 5 Proust's binoculars - memory and recognition: optics and vision; happiness and memory; recognitions. Part 6 Art and idolatry: art; idolatry. Part 7 The structure of sheer length: finding a form; lost and found. Part 8 Continuing disputes: too much of Proust?; the challenge of translation; filming the unfilmable; time and space; intelligence versus sensibility - Proust's wager and "experimental faith". Part 9 Reading for your life: CODA - Proust's "mysterious laws of thought"; more

Review Text

The celebrated literary scholar (Candor and Perversion: Literature, Education, and the Arts, 1999, etc.) and authority on Proust guides readers through one of the most complex works in literary history.Shattuck acknowledges that the lengthy, labyrinthine Search `looked at first like a conspiracy against readers.` But he has identified in the 2,000-page novel a variety of useful signposts. First, he establishes that knowing Prousts biography is essential; then he moves into a chapter (`How to Read a Roman-Fleuve`) that could just as well have been titled `Proust for Dummies.` (In a footnote he urges readers familiar with the novel to skip this chapter.) Employing a variety of charts and summaries, Shattuck makes visible the hidden chassis of the novel (settings, characters, plot). Next he provides an analysis of Prousts humor (the novel, Shattuck asserts, is `overlaid with amusing scenes and details). Following are discussions of Prousts `optical images` (a subject Shattuck explores further in an appendix), `literary aesthetic,` and the overall plan of the novel. In a chapter called `Continuing Disputes,` Shattuck takes aim at his academic foes and delivers salvos of criticism about editions and translationssurely a satisfying enterprise for Shattuck but less so for his nonacademic audience. Ending the principal portion of the book is an interesting discussion of the value of literature; Shattuck argues persuasively that literature is a `virtual experience` that offers `a formative or preparatory role in training our sensibilities.` Among his many provocative observations is that Search resembles A Thousand and One Nights more than any other literary work. In a striking `Coda,` the author elucidates Prousts theory of thought by employing a dialogue among persons planning a radio broadcast about Proust.Although Shattuck occasionally leaves us to converse with (or assail) more erudite companions, he nonetheless remains a peerless guide to this most intricate of creations. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Author information

Roger Shattuck taught for many years at Boston University, and now lives in Vermont, He is the author, most recently, of Candor and more