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Le côté de Guermantes (1920)

Tekijä: Marcel Proust

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

Sarjat: Kadonnutta aikaa etsimässä (3)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut / Maininnat
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Fiction. Literature. Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th-century literature. Neville Jason's unabridged recording of the work runs to 150 hours. The Guermantes Way is the third of seven volumes. The narrator penetrates the inner sanctum of Paris high society and falls in love with the fascinating Duchesse de Guermantes. Proust describes vividly the struggles for political, social and sexual supremacy played out beneath a veneer of elegant manners. He also finds himself pursued by the predatory Baron de Charlus. Based on the translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.… (lisätietoja)
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    Ukko Goriot (tekijä: Honoré de Balzac) (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: A different, earlier look at the Fauborge Saint-Germain.
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The twittering of the birds at daybreak sounded insipid to Francoise.

With this exquisite opening, Marcel Proust plunges us into the third volume of seven, Le Côté de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way), which seems to be the only one of the seven books that is consistently titled across all English translations. (My reviews of the first two books can be found here and here. The third volume of the book charts the early-twentysomething narrator as he makes his way further into the twisted depths of French society, and navigates a more complex world than that of his somewhat sheltered life previously seen at Combray and Balbec. The first two novels charted the narrator's childhood and adolescence, his first love, his first falling-out-of-love, his many anxieties, his desire to be a writer, and the agonisingly slow drift toward gaining a realistic sense of the world. The third novel seems primarily interested in two areas: the shattering of the narrator's illusions, and the superficial barriers that stand between humans in a society and their dreams. Yet, like the quote above, I occasionally wonder if the novel hasn't turned too far outward from the narrator at times, to the extent where his presence in some scenes barely justifies them.

Those years of my earliest childhood are no longer a part of myself; they are external to me; I can learn nothing of them save...from the accounts given me by other people.

One could perhaps divide the novel up into several parts, the first being the analysis of a new life at the Hotel de Guermantes. As we've seen in the previous volumes, the narrator has always defined places by their names, and the discovery that reality and image don't always match up is the first sign that his adult life will be one of disappointment (even if much of the disappointment seems to stem from his own neuroses!). As you'd expect, this new location allows for a number of appealing character sketches, from the class-consciousness of the 19th century theatre to a series of ultimately futile walks the narrator takes hoping to run into his latest crush, the (much-older) Duchess, and - most delightfully, as ever - that old faithful, Francoise. My favourite description of her still rings true today for the Francoises of the world: she'll never trust a doctor as long as she lives, but she'll believe any quack in the newspaper who claims to have the "ultimate cure". I must admit, I keep forgetting that the narrator is now in his twenties. A character with no job and a naive obsession with the aristocracy seems so juvenile in our modern age, that I have to remind myself every 100 pages that the narrator isn't still 12 years old! It speaks volumes about Marcel Proust's own childhood that the narrator's parents never pressure him to find employment, nor does he seem particularly concerned about his future. In fact, that's the key difference between Guermantes and the previous novels: the narrator spends two-thirds of the book happy.

If we were expected to love all the people we find attractive, life would be pretty ghastly, wouldn't it? - Rachel

Perhaps this contentment is a sign of the narrator reaching a certain age. With access to liquor, freedom of the reins, and women, he's forgetting his self obligation to write and find a place in the world. This superficial happiness is writ large in the design of the book, alternating passages of personal drama with lengthy social experiences that the narrator often finds stimulating but ultimately mediocre. Next, we're off to Doncieres, where Saint-Loup is stationed. It's here that the book starts to become a bit of a slog, with the narrator's obsession with the Duchess (that has seemingly blossomed into a romantic crush) occasioning multi-page discussions on the nature of sleep among other equally enlightening essays. Fin-de-siècle Paris is divided by talk of war, by crumbling notions of class, and by the lightning-rod Dreyfus Affair that assembles armies along lines of class and ethnicity, not to mention expecting people to actually take a stand on the morality of their country's policies, a problem we are still facing today. Many of these issues being now unknown to almost everyone of my generation, and discussed in such detail yet - often - without mentioning the specifics (since the book's original intended audience would have been well aware), the Doncieres sequence and its successor at Mme de Villeparisis' self-titled "salon" are perhaps the hardest treks yet for the Proustian newcomer.

Our imagination ... like a barrel-organ out of order, which always plays some other tune than that shown on its card.

Of course, that's not to say these sections aren't full of delightful lines and deep character analysis. Saint-Loup's sexuality certainly comes in for some serious questioning, and the nature of platonic male friendship is well examined, as are those "third-tier" social groups at Mme de Villeparisis', with further cameos by well-known characters from the previous volumes, including Bloch, Legrandin, and the famed Odette de Crecy (hey, remember when she was all we could talk about?). The sense of this work as one giant tapestry is now becoming clear; it's fascinating to think how the books must have seemed to the contemporary Parisian, being published every couple of years and seeming, surely, much more free-form. Amongst all of this are brief trips into little worlds, such as the vicious wannabe actresses who attend shows just to shout unpleasant things at the up-and-coming star on the stage and ruin her career, or the return of the haughty prostitute Rachel (When-from-the-Lord) who perhaps signifies the narrator's descent into Sodom and Gomorrah, and who seems to be largely using poor Saint-Loup, but whom we also learn will one day become justifiably famous in her own right! The complexity of life in a society comes across well, although at the same time some of the morsels of plots (for example, Saint-Loup's potential engagement to a Mlle d'Ambresac) scamper by, leaving us only aware that they are seeds of something presumably larger in a later volume. If there's one problem with this novel, it's that - for the first time - things are really starting to feel like they're part of a larger whole. It's a worry that all serialised TV shows have to face at some point: learning to write both for the series and for the moment.

Why naturally, Madame, one cannot have... every form of mental derangement.
The most powerful and amusing section of the novel is at its centre, the illness of the narrator's grandmother. Not only does it open with a truly marvelous paean to the telephone, but the section features all of Proust's greatest strengths. There's a tremendous amount of satire in the gallery of grotesques who pass through as medical examiners, there are social mores picked apart when all strata of society pay their respects on the very ill old lady, and fantastic character analysis, particularly in the moments when - after his grandmother's stroke - the narrator is faced with an array of complicated social cues. Getting her home safely and in a dignified manner is paramount, but at the same time, he is learning to prioritise others over his own petty needs of the day, and he is also incredibly self-conscious about seeming to be caring without actually treating her like a child. It is a microcosmic view of the delicate balance life becomes as we gradually extend more connections out into the world. On top of this, the grand intermingling of the sublime and the ridiculous, as they stop at a public lavatory for his grandmother to be sick, while the narrator chats with the lavatory-keeper, a scruffy woman who rules the place with an iron fist. Trying to politely ignore the fact that your sick grandmother has been in the toilet for half an hour wouldn't feel out of place on Curb Your Enthusiasm. This sequence also perhaps provides us with a bunch of interesting historical information of the time. Grandmother's sisters send their condolences, but never does it seem that they are being petty; it's just that they are likely very old themselves, and the carriage ride would be inefficient, impractical, and possibly just result in more funerals.

Before I go on, I must echo something I said in the last review. I appreciate these attractive, well-typed Vintage editions, I really do. At the same time, there are endless cultural references and cultural implications that can barely, if at all, be appreciated by members of my generation. Footnotes are always a balance between providing "too much" and "too little", and I realise this is not a university annotated edition. Volume 6 of the Vintage editions contains the Guide to Proust which includes most of the necessary references and thematic catalogues, so please seek that out. Still, it is very confusing. For instance, as an opera buff, I can appreciate the cheeky satire of someone who claims to love Wagner, but unwittingly describes only the parts that are most accessible; or simply to know the names of Strauss, Auber, etc. For none of these passages to be annotated or at least briefly clarified in the footnotes makes embarking on the journey a challenge nevertheless, more than 90 years after the novel was first published. I try to read things from the point of view of someone less educated than myself, and I see only a murky morass of confusion.

The truth has no need to be uttered to be made apparent.

Anyhow, the second half of the novel is harder to read no matter which way you slice it. Much of the good stuff is parceled out to presumably be picked up again in Volume IV. That creep Charlus keeps trying to hit on the oblivious narrator (at one point taking a drunken cab-boy home for what I can only assume is not milk and cookies); Saint-Loup keeps proving his friendship in decidedly adorable ways; Albertine, now older and more actively flirtatious, tries to get back into the narrator's life but chooses the worst time; and threats of war bite at the edges of French society. The narrator himself remains perhaps a little too oblivious, both to Albertine's feelings and to Charlus'... ways, but I'm trying not to read it from a purely 2015 perspective, so perhaps this is more acceptable for action taking place in around 1895. The narrator genuinely seems to think that he has some kind of Socratic mentor relationship with the older man. As for Albertine, well, despite the narrator spending countless hours pondering women, he doesn't really have a grasp of what a relationship is like just yet. (The most heartbreaking line in the novel is when the narrator speaks briefly of Mme de Stermaria, a minor but momentary figure in his heart: It was not she that I loved, but it might well have been. Just perfectly upsetting!)

The set-piece of the book, however, is that which everyone talks about when discussing The Guermantes Way, a social dinner at the home of the Duchess de Guermantes. Amongst the endless battering of social commentary, the narrator begins to properly see through many of these allegedly highly-valuable people. Many of them have horrible tastes, either because they choose what they believe is the most acceptable thing to like, or because they believe themselves to be tastemakers and in fact they're already 30 years behind the curve. Adorably, the narrator begins to suspect they're being daffy for his sake, because they can't discuss real things with a strange young man at the table - surely it can't just be because they are actually daffy! If there's one part of the Search thus far that could use some editing, it is surely this. By the time the narrator is detailing the minutest differences between the Guermantes and their lesser relatives, one wonders how much more of French society we can possibly imbibe. It's perfectly clear that Proust is showing us this superficiality precisely to make that point: the Duchess makes an (admittedly mildly amusing) pun about "Teaser Augustus" that has everyone in stitches for days, and it's becoming clear the narrator is never going to discover his creative muse, nor his sense of an individual personality, until he can see through these empty lives. At the same time, one begins to wonder if even the great novelist's senses for lengthy sentences may have been wrong on occasion.

Our social existence, like an artist's studio, is filled with abandoned sketches...

Of course, who am I to disparage Marcel Proust in any way? The Guermantes Way is still stuffed full of everything that makes him such a rich and rewarding writer. His acute psychological descriptions, from the Princess down to the lavatory keeper, never cease to fascinate. I particularly enjoy his description of hearing from a noblewoman about what is happening in her life during a "visit", comparing it to a letter by Pliny: it's not really addressed to you, it has been written merely for show. He describes the old-fashioned speech of Mme de Guermantes as resisting the "composite patchwork of modern speech". The book is deliciously written from Proust's haunting description of the fog on the night before the ill-fated date with Mme de Stermaria to the mocking of those literary coteries "where everyone has the same way of pronouncing, enunciating and, thus, of thinking". (There are TV programs and books that could learn from this lesson today.)

Before I finish, I should briefly plug the wonderful book [b:Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time|3753149|Paintings in Proust A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time|Eric Karpeles|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1348882774s/3753149.jpg|3797011], which contains reproductions of almost all the art mentioned in the Search, an invaluable resource to help the reader interpret the references and world of the narrator's Paris.

The novel ends with a particularly strong sequence that is deeply reminiscent of the earlier novels in its pointful (and pointed) atmosphere and analysis. After escaping from the Belle Epoque dinner, and briefly displaying his manly arrogance for a very-turned-on-but-twisted Charlus, the narrator finds himself visiting the Duc and Duchess. They are a fascinating couple, not perhaps as psychologically nuanced as Odette and Swann, but perhaps more likable. Nevertheless, the arrival of Swann brings some bad news which the pair treat with a cruel politeness. It really is the ultimate indicator of the barbarism of "polite society" and so perfectly depicted by Proust. It feels as if every page of The Guermantes Way has been leading up to the point where the narrator is able to witness a conversation between three people, accurately gauge each individual's part in it, and emerge with a much more graphic understanding of how society plays a role in that conversation, and how each person fails to properly "get" the others.

Did I love the book? Perhaps not love. But its tremendous descriptions of an entire society captured my heart and my imagination, and make me particularly eager to follow on to Sodom and Gomorrah. The whole book, with its analysis of this culture, reminded me of the concept of elegant decay and, while much is left unexplained at this juncture, it is clear that everything is intentional. Proust's endless, cascading sentences are of a whole with his fragmented character portraits. Like the young narrator himself, delicate but brilliant. While this book wasn't always easy to get through, it was buoyed by the strength of the Search overall, and the knowledge that we are now halfway through the series, and all of the pieces of the puzzle of the narrator's life are coming into view. Onward and upward!

You'll bury us all! - Duc de Guermantes ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
Having spent a great deal of time and energy to get "entree" to the Parisian upper class, the narrator realises that they are, by and large, like everybody else, except richer, and more inclined to snobbery.
My advice to the narrator: now that M. de Charlus has shown his true colours, keep well away. ( )
  buttsy1 | Mar 6, 2024 |
Whee!! Oh Lord.
  RachelGMB | Dec 27, 2023 |
What a combination of beautiful scenes, near slapstick comedy, sharp social and political insight and too often endlessly boring accounts of upper class conversations. The section describing his grandmother's death is incredibly moving, the most lovely writing in the three volumes I've read so far. His detailed descriptions of the salon is worthy of any ethnographer using the participant observation method of research. In fact, while I was working my way through the famous dinner at the Guermantes' I kept thinking of Proust as a sociologist as opposed to novelist, though the two professions are quite complementary so maybe he can wear both hats. After a bit of a well-earned break I will most definitely be forging on to volume 4. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
As Proust's narrator grows up his narrative becomes drier and less whimsical. There is a larger focus on French society and the titles within it. We move beyond intimate portraits of individuals, but Proust is careful to let his narrator grow through the people he meets and the obsessions he develops. TI was struck by the genius of lines well delivered. For example, "Perhaps another winter would level her with the dust" (p 275). In the end I found myself asking, how do you cope with a love that is held only by the games one plays? Is this a form of emotional hostage-taking? What will become of one so enamored with another? ( )
  SeriousGrace | Feb 20, 2023 |
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» Lisää muita tekijöitä (143 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Proust, Marcelensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Anguissola Beretta, AlbertoAvustajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Bonfantini, MarioKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Bongiovanni Bertini, MariolinaToimittajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Cornips, ThérèseKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
De Maria, LucianoToimittajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Enright, D.J.Toimittajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Kilmartin, TerenceKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Raboni, GiovanniKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Salinas, PedroKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Scott Moncrieff, C. K.Kääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Treharne, MarkKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Vallquist, GunnelKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
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Katso lisäohjeita Common Knowledge -sivuilta (englanniksi).
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Hay una nota del traductor, Carlos Manzano, que dice así:

Dedico este trabajo a la memoria de los grandes estilistas clásico-barrocos contemporáneos -Henry James, André Breton, Giorgio Bassani, Evelyn Vaugh, E.M.Cioran y Malcolm Lowry, con la traducción de cuyas obras llevo muchos años deleitándome.
Omistuskirjoitus
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A León Daudet
Al autor de Le Voyage de Shakespeare, Le Partage de l'enfant, L'Astre Noir, Fantômes et vivants, Le Monde des images y de tantas obras maestras.
Al amigo incomparable en prueba agradecimiento y admiración.
Ensimmäiset sanat
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The twittering of the birds at daybreak sounded insipid to Françoise.
El piar matinal de los pájaros parecía insípido a Francoise.
Sitaatit
Viimeiset sanat
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

Fiction. Literature. Remembrance of Things Past is one of the monuments of 20th-century literature. Neville Jason's unabridged recording of the work runs to 150 hours. The Guermantes Way is the third of seven volumes. The narrator penetrates the inner sanctum of Paris high society and falls in love with the fascinating Duchesse de Guermantes. Proust describes vividly the struggles for political, social and sexual supremacy played out beneath a veneer of elegant manners. He also finds himself pursued by the predatory Baron de Charlus. Based on the translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

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