In Search of Lost Time 3-15-2022

Swann’s Way is the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. Swann’s Way has three parts: Combray (which has sections 1 and 2); Swann in Love; and Place-Names: The Name. I recently finished Swann in Love. It could be a stand alone novel at 203 pages in length. This section focuses on Swann thinking or convincing himself that he is falling in love with Odette, who sleeps around with men, women, and in orgies, who is not attractive or intelligent, who lacks class, but is very well dressed. Swann in Love ends: “he [Swann] exclaimed to himself: ‘To think that I wasted years of my life, that I wanted to die, that I felt my deepest love, for a woman who did not appeal to me, who was not my type!” It’s a sad realization to have, but it’s good to have. As Swann’s Way ends, I feel relieved for him because he is finally over his delusion, jealousy, and obsessiveness. Good for you, Swann.

The final part of Swann’s Way is Place-Names: The Name. This begins with the narrator writing about his nameless self again and his “nights of insomina” (399). It recalls the ten-page opening of the volume. When I read it, I think, “Oh, yeah. There was another story about the narrator.” At first, the transition does not make sense. It’s like the initial story was interrupted for 203 pages to learn about Swann and his idea of love and falling in love. Place-Names: The Name begins by exploring how the name of a thing is “absorbed forever [in] the image” (403) of the thing or place. It then briefly explores semiotics by showing connections between a word, a sound, and the imagination. And then I meet Gilberte, the daughter of M. Swann and his wife, Odette. Oh my. The reminder. Earlier in the volume, I knew this but forgot. Swann did not get over Odette. That’s even sadder than the end of Swann’s Way. Gilberte is also the girl whose name the narrator mispronounced when he met her in the Combray section and whose eyes he changed color via his imagination. And now this section begins to make sense. The narrator told us about Swann so a parallel could be seen with the narrator. The narrator has similar love delusions as Swann. The narrator, in fact, creates two Gilbertes. One is the Gilberte in the waking world, who does not love him just as Odette did not love Swann, and the other is the one in the narrator’s imagination. The one he created he expects to write him a letter when she is gone. The created one is not like the real one who is dismissive and who is mainly concerned with herself. I mean dig this scene:

On one of those sunny days that had not fulfilled my hopes, I did not have the courage to hide my disappointment from Gilberte.

“I had so many things to ask you,” I [the narrator] said to her. “I thought that today was going to mean such a lot to our friendship. And as soon as you get here, you have to leave again! Try to come early tomorrow, so I can finally talk to you.”

Her face shone and she was jumping with joy as she answered me:

“Tomorrow, you may depend upon it, my dear friend, I won’t be coming at all! I’ve got a big tea party; nor the day after tomorrow, either, I’m going to a friend’s house to watch the arrival of King Theodosius from her windows, it will be splendid, and then the day after we’re going to Michel Stogoff and then after that, Christmas will coming soon and the New Year’s holidays. Maybe they’ll take me to the Midi. How nice that would be! Though it will mean I won’t have a Christmas tree; anyway, if I stay in Paris, I won’t be coming here because I’ll be paying calls with Mama. Good-bye, there’s Papa, he’s calling me.” (424-5)

Whew. That’s devastating. Their relationship is clearly portrayed in this passage. He loves her, and she doesn’t really think much of him other than as a form of entertainment and as a person to play “prisoner’s base” with.

I thought, “Ok. He”ll learn from this and move on.” But no. He doesn’t learn. He imagines her writing him letters with remorse. He imagines a lot. He’ssimilar to Swann, and it’s sad. I hope he recovers. I have 15 more pages to read in Swann’s Way, and then I’ll be done with the volume. So I wait to see what happens. I may not find out until Thursday, because Wednesday is my 11-12 hour day of teaching, with a break towards the end where I can read or nap to rest up for my three-hour night course.


Exclamation Points:

As of page 429, I have encountered at least 67 exclamation points! That seems excessive, but Proust is excessive in describing and exploring except when it comes to food.


I was expecting there to be a lot of food and drink in this first volume of In Search of Lost Time, Swann’s Way. I circled every food and drink I encountered as I read. Below are the only food and drinks I noticed:

  • tea (p. 45). Without the tea, the following food may not have worked.
  • petites madeleines (p. 45). I like how this is the first food as it is the most important as it stimulates the narrator’s memory.
  • madeleine (p. 53)
  • chocolate custard (p. 73)
  • marzipan (p. 74)
  • tangerine (p. 74)
  • marzipan (p. 77)
  • tangerine (p. 77)
  • licorice water (p. 91)
  • vichy water (two times on p. 103)
  • vichy water (p. 109)
  • potatoes (p. 118)
  • béchamel sauce (p. 118)
  • mashed potatoes (p. 118)
  • casseroles (p. 123). I didn’t know they existed back then. I thought they were invented in the 1950s.
  • game (p. 123)
  • pastry (p. 123)
  • cream (p. 123)
  • peas (p. 123)
  • asparagus (p. 123)
  • vegetables (p. 123)
  • chickens (p. 124)
  • coffee (p. 124)
  • vichy water (p. 126)
  • orangeade (p. 220)
  • Japanese salad (p. 265). The narrator does not indicate what is in a Japanese salad, but it seem like a rare delicacy.
  • Japanese salad (p. 266)
  • orangeade (p. 310)
  • orangeade (p. 311)
  • fruit (p. 322)
  • orangeade (p. 391)
  • spice cake (p. 418). The translator’s note reads: The French pain d’éspices is define in dictionaries as “gingerbread.” But unlike gingerbread and our spice cake, it is a rather heavy and not very sweet breadlike cake made of rye flour, honey, sugar, and spices, including anise, and is mildly laxative. . . . Until the last parts, I was getting excited to make this on Tuesday bread-making day.
  • red barley sugar (p. 418)
  • plum (p. 418)

I still need some madeleines stat. I also want to try this recurring orangeade.

This list makes it seems like there is more food and drink than there is.


Words of the Day:

lorgnon (p. 330) — Eyeglasses with a handle. They were fashionable for the day. They are more for jewelry than for vision.

anfractuosity (p. 337) — Characterized by wingdings and turnings.

arcature (p. 337) — An arcade of small dimensions.

fabliau (p. 404) — The translator’s note reads: A short, usually comic, frankly coarse, and often cynical tale in verse popular in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Prophet’s constipation (p. 418) — I’m not sure what this is, but it is a reference to something Jewish, and Swann who is Jewish is suffering from this ailment.


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