Friday, May 16, 2008


I started reading Swann's Way in the translation by Lydia Davis a couple of months ago, and am meandering very slowly through it. Part of the reason for my slowness is because there is only one volume that is translated by Davis, and I fear that the other volumes will be...not necessarily inferior, but just different in tone. And so far, I am enjoying her translation very much.

I am now in the section dealing explicitly with Swann, and I feel rather bereft at leaving Combray behind. Even though the pace picks up in the portion dealing with Swann's love life, the slow and meditative texture of Combray, that feeling of Proust shifting through every little piece of memory, is not as present in the Swann in Love section. Even though the movement through the Combray section seems natural enough, in retrospect, one marvels at the amount of art and precision that went into weaving memories and intersecting lives through two different walking paths through Combray.

I was particularly moved by the story of the bourgeois piano teacher whose greatest pride was his daughter only to pretend that she wasn't holding lesbian intrigues, what was then considered a moral failing, and even more moved by the daughter trying to believe in her depraved nature as she recognized the grief she had brought to her father. It points to one of Proust's greatnesses, his gentleness in pinpointing a person's foibles, the sexual failings that are so human in each of us. While the piano teacher's daughter has a specific failing relating to gender orientation, yet, in the nature of desire, passion, and a very specifically sexual desire, her failure is part of a larger tapestry of human flaws that are revealed in the way each character construes their sexual desire for the other, the one.

No comments: