Cover image for Swann's way
Swann's way
Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Du côté de chez Swann. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 468 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



Both a psychological self-portrait and a profound meditation upon the artistic process, Proust's seven-part masterpiece "In Search of Lost Time" changed the course of 20th-century literature. "Swann's Way, " the first volume, introduces the novel's major themes and the narrator, a sensitive man drawn in his youth to fashionable society. Its focus then shifts to Charles Swann, a wealthy connoisseur who moves in high-society circles in nineteenth-century Paris and a victim of an agonizing romance. This masterly evocation of French society and its rendering of a search for a transcendental reality independent of time, ranks as a landmark of world literature. Unabridged reprint of the classic 1922 edition.

Author Notes

Proust is one of the seminal figures in modern literature, matched only in stature by Joyce, Woolf, Mann and Kafka. By the last decade of the 19th century, the charming and ambitious Proust, born into a wealthy bourgeois family, was already a famous Paris socialite who attended the most fashionable salons of the day. The death of his parents in the early years of the 20th century, coupled with his own increasingly ill health, made of Proust a recluse who confined himself to his cork-lined bedroom on the Boulevard Haussmann. There he concentrated on the composition of his great masterpiece, Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27). In recent years, it was discovered that he had already prepared a first draft of the work in the 1890s in Jean Santeuil, which was only published posthumously in 1952.

Remembrance of Things Past resists summary. Seeming at turns to be fiction, autobiography, and essay, Remembrance is a vast meditation on the relationship between time, memory, and art. In it the narrator, who bears the same first name as the author, attempts to reconstruct his life from early childhood to middle age. In the process, he surveys French society at the turn of the century and describes the eventual decline of the aristocracy in the face of the rising middle class. The process of reconstruction of Marcel's past life is made possible by the psychological device of involuntary memory; according to this theory, all of our past lies hidden within us only to be rediscovered and brought to the surface by some unexpected sense perception. In the final volume of the work, the narrator, who has succeeded in recapturing his past, resolves to preserve it through the Work of Art, his novel.

He died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Relax: it's fantastic. There's no question that Davis's American English is thinner and more literal than C.K. Scott Montcrieff's archaically inflected turns of phrase and idioms, at least as revised by Terence Kilmartin and later by D.J. Enright. The removal of some of the familiar layers of the past in this all-new translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned: the colors seem sharper and momentarily disorienting. Yet many readers will find it exhilarating, allowing the text to shed slight airs that were not quite Proust's and making many of the jokes much more immediate (as when he implies that sense-organ atrophy in the bourgeois is a defense mechanism and the result of hardening unarticulated feelings). As accomplished translator and novelist Davis (The End of the Story) notes in her foreword, she has followed Proust's sentence structure as closely as possible "in its every aspect," including punctuation, word order and word choice. To take just one case, where Montcrieff/Kilmartin describe Mlle. Vinteuil finding it pleasant to metaphorically "sojourn" in sadism, Davis has the much more definitive "emigrate." Proust's psychological inquiry generally feels much sharper, giving a much more palpable sense of Freud and Bergson-and of the young Marcel's willful (if not malefic) manipulations of those around him. For first-timers who don't have French and are allergic to the slightest whiff of euphemism, this is the best means for traveling the way by Swann's. BOMC, Reader's Subscription and Insightout Book Club; 4-city translator tour. (Sept. 15) Forecast: Look for a fall blitz of Proustiana, reviving everything from the Montcrieff to Alain de Bouton's How Proust Can Change Your Life. Copyright restrictions will keep the last three of the six planned volumes out of American editions until 2019, 2020 and 2022, respectively, but devoted readers will seek them out via British booksellers-and have probably already begun to do so, since they were published there last year. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is a new recording of C.K. Scott Moncrieff's translation of the first book in Proust's early 20th-century, seven-volume French classic Remembrance of Things Past (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu). Read today mostly by students, it is a careful and deliberate examination of human feelings and interactions. Narrator Neville Jason has a beautiful voice, but his pace is extremely slow, even when compared with that of the far-from-speedy John Rowe (17 CDs vs. nine CDs), who voiced the older BBC production. This is a major disadvantage when listening to such a long text. VERDICT While an audiobook of this work will be enjoyed by lovers of European classics and should be part of all academic and large public library collections, if there is a choice, the faster Rowe recording is preferred.-I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Elizabeth Dalton's Introduction to Swann's Way   Swann's Way is a novel of the rediscovery of experience through memory, of desire and disillusionment, and of the development of an artistic vocation. In its best-known scene, perhaps the most celebrated in modern literature, the narrator tastes the madeleine, the little cake dipped in tea that opens the magical gates of time and memory. A beautiful and fascinating novel in itself, Swann's Way is also the introduction to the great seven-part work Remembrance of Things Past , which is a kind of paradise of the novel, one of the greatest works of fiction of the twentieth century. The French title of the larger work, À la recherche du temps perdu , actually means "In Search of Lost Time," suggesting, as the English title does not, the narrator's mental and moral activity in search of the meaning of his experience in time. As Swann's Way begins, the narrator, a man apparently in early middle age, describes sleepless nights and fragmentary dreams in which bits of his past drift through his consciousness. Amid memories of illness, of lonely nights in strange rooms, of illusory loves, he wakes in darkness, no longer sure where or even who he is. Frightened and disoriented, he is rescued by another kind of memory, "like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being," the "involuntary memory" lodged in the body that will eventually give him access to a forgotten past. In recalling the various scenes of his life, his thoughts return again and again to the village of Combray, where he spent childhood vacations with his family. In these memories, he finds the deepest layer of his "mental soil," the very source of his being.             As the seven novels are actually all parts of one longer novel, broken somewhat arbitrarily into volumes by the requirements of publication, so Swann's Way is also made up of parts. The first two could stand alone, although juxtaposed in one volume they illuminate each other. The first section, "Combray," is concerned with the narrator's childhood world, whose characters and events are the source of everything to follow, and with the powerful experience of memory that revives this forgotten past. The second section, "Swann in Love," set in Paris about ten years before "Combray," is the account of a love affair of Charles Swann, an important figure in the narrator's childhood, whose experience prefigures his own later life. In the third section, "Place-Names: The Name," which moves forward in time to a point slightly later than the Combray years, the narrator reflects on the idealized and unreal essences contained in the names of places, develops an adolescent passion for Swann's daughter, and says a premature good-bye to the world of his youth--premature because he will reenter that world in subsequent volumes.             The structure of Swann's Way is obviously not that of the classical nineteenth-century novel, which generally follows the chronological order of the events of a plot. In Proust's novel, however, blocks of writing are juxtaposed, added on, loosely connected, forming a chain of episodes and reflections related in an intuitive and subjective rather than a logical or chronological mode. This structure emerged from Proust's struggle to find a form for his work, a new and personal kind of novel that could combine fiction, autobiography, and reflections on art and society. The form of "Combray" in particular is based on Proust's distinctive way of writing about different experiences in nearly self-contained sections linked by association rather than along a single line of narrative. The second section, "Swann innnnnnnnnnnnnn Love," does follow a single narrative line, but the force that drives it is neither chronology nor plot, but the demonic energy of erotic obsession.             The novel's structure has been compared to that of a musical composition, held together by recurring motifs of theme and imagery. Another analogy, to some form of vegetation, is suggested by the gardens and flowers that bloom profusely throughout "Combray" and find their way into the other sections as well. The lush, tangled narrative lines, with their buried horizontal connections that disappear for a time and then reappear, are like the roots of plants running underground.             In the classical Aristotelian structure of Western drama and fiction, incidents are organized in a plot that accumulates tension, leading to a climactic resolution. But in Proust's novel, episodes are added on without adding up, without ever achieving a totalizing structure of meaning, what the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in his semiotic study Proust and Signs , calls "the pseudo-unity of the Logos" (p.111; see "For Further Reading"). If the classical structure is envisioned as pyramidal, building up to a final revelation of meaning, Proust's structure looks more like a web, with incidents all on the same plane. Or perhaps the structure is like that of a labyrinth, the maze of experience in a world without final meaning. Indeed, the topography of Combray and its surroundings forms a kind of labyrinth, with its two meandering paths, Swann's way and the Guermantes' way, that lead the narrator along the paths of experience--nature, sex, snobbery, hypocrisy, and so on--without ever connecting with each other or reaching their mysterious end points.             The structure of the novel also evokes an image of the labyrinth of consciousness, which is explored in a style almost as complex and ramified as the mind itself. In Swann's Way there is a passage describing the phrases of Chopin, "those long-necked, sinuous creatures, . . . so free, so flexible, so tactile, which begin by seeking their ultimate resting-place somewhere beyond and far wide of the direction in which they started, the point which one might have expected them to reach, phrases which divert themselves in . . . fantastic bypaths," but which always find their way back to their appointed conclusions. In an essay on Proust in Études de style , the critic Leo Spitzer has pointed out that this passage could apply as well to Proust's own sentences, those extraordinarily strong and flexible instruments for the representation of mental life in all its layered complexity.             Although it goes further than its predecessors, Proust's rigorous and nuanced dissection of the psyche is rooted in a rich strain of psychological analysis in French literature--the self-examination of Montaigne's essays, Racine's probing of the passions, the painful self-revelations of Baudelaire--as well as in a French tradition of revealing autobiography, including Rousseau's Confessions and Chateaubriand's Mémoires d'outre-tombe ( Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb ). The dark and obsessional quality of sexual passion and the strange juxtaposition of elements in the souls of Proust's characters--the mixture of timidity and sadism in Mlle Vinteuil, for instance--suggests his affinity for Dostoevsky. But his main source was his understanding of himself. Like Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams , Proust analyzes above all his own psychic life. Excerpted from Swann's Way by Marcel Proust All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.