Thursday, June 22, 2006

Okay, I Got the Message

Sometimes I get the feeling that the universe is trying to tell me that I need to read a particular book or author. Currently I am being prompted to read Proust's In Search of Lost Time. So you don't think I am completely nuts (though you probably already do since I have admitted to hearing voices), I'll tell you why I think the universe wants me to read Proust. Several years ago I read Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life. A very good book which inspired me to read Swann's Way, the first volume in Search for Lost Time. I checked it out from the library in case I didn't like it so I wouldn't feel like I wasted my money. In spite of not giving it my full attention and taking two months to read it in small snips of time, I enjoyed it very much. I bought the second volume, Within a Budding Grove, fully intending to read it right away. But other books got in the way and I have yet to read it. Proust began moving closer to the front of my mind last year after I read a review of the new translation of Swann's Way and Within a Budding Grove which had been re-translated as In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, not quite as elegant but more correctly translated. I found myself fascinated by the argument over the translations. Which is better, an accurate translation of the words of Proust or an accurate translation of the style of Proust? I am left wondering, why can't we have both? But the mysteries and problems of translation are for another day. I want consistency of voice and the new translations are each done by a different person so I will not be reading them at least the first time through. Not long after that Bud at Chekov's Mistress posted about reading In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. And I decided that I needed to pick up the story again. But I didn't. I did not pay attention to the message that I was being given. Now I can't ignore it. In the last couple of weeks I have been given a copy of The Letters of Marcel Proust, have read a fantastic round-up of new Proust books in Bookforum (the article is not online, if you are interested in the titles, let me know), and just the other day was reminded of Proust in Oprah magazine's summer reading issue. Can the message be any clearer? So I am going to read Proust. There are several of you who have expressed interest in reading Proust as well so the question I have is, does anyone feel like joining me in this endeavor? We could have a Proust forum at MetaxuCafe, or do like the Middlemarch folks did and create a blog, or something else? I've got to make room in my reading calendar and am thinking of starting in on a re-read of Swann's Way about mid July, exact start date to be determined. Come on, read along. You know you want to. Update. I can't believe I totally forgot one of the other messages to read Proust--Virginia Woolf! From her diary, Volume 3, in reference to Mrs. Dalloway:

I wonder if this time I have achieved something? Well, nothing anyhow compared to Proust, in whom I am embedded now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out butterfly shades to the last grain. He is tough as catgut & as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me & make me out of temper with every sentence of my own.