In Search of Marcel Proust
W 2019



           Everyone knows that Proust is one of those literary mountains we want to climb, but do we have the stamina? We know it’s a semi autobiographical story of  childhood , youth and the  maturation of an artist --narrated as a recollection. One of the great literary evocations of love, desire and loss. Thus the title In Search of Lost Time .  But  in six  volumes: who has the time? Those long spiraling sentences  that feel like paragraphs!  The cast of hundreds! The dense cultural context of  belle epoque France!  Philosophical resonances on the nature of memory, the power of music and art, the paradoxes  of erotic desire! Nothing is linear, but thematically it is  seamlessly  orchestrated.

          We will read Swann’s Way  (which includes the childhood recollections of the village “Combray” and the portrait of the older family friend in “Swann in Love.”)  Swann’s Way works as overture to the multivolume whole, but it also stands alone. Reading takes some getting used to, but once you are hooked, it is addictive!



Weekly Topics

 Weekly Topics


1. Introduction: Proust’s World

2.  Introducing Combray, pp 1-65.  On Memory. Mother’s goodnight kiss      

3.  Combray Revealed, pp   65-123.  The Village, the Church, its Inhabitants

4.  The family circle:  Aunt Leonie, Francoise, Legrandin,pp 124-188

5.  Village Walks: the  Meseglise Way and the Guermantes’ Way,  pp 188-264

6   The Verdurins’ salon; Swann meets Odette,  pp 265-310

7.  Courtship and  consummation: pp  310-356

8.  Enter the rival, Fourcheville: pp 356-405

9.  Jealousy, quarrels, “love is an illness”  pp 405-457

10. Society party; the “belle monde”  pp 45-501

11. The end of the affair pp 502-543

12.  “Place names” p 545-606

13.  Proustian Themes: final questions, comments, discussions 




In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1: Swann’s Way.

First published in French in 1913.

Translation of Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright.  Based on the French Pleiade edition  of 1954-1989.  2003 Modern Library Paperbacks.


There is an Audible audio unabridged edition of this volume  read by John Roe


 Supplementary Bibliography


Roger Shattuck. Proust’s Way: a Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time

New York, 2000

Andre Aciman, The Proust Project . New York 2004

William  C Carter. Marcel Proust: a Life.  Yale,2000, 2013 (2nd edition)

Edmund White, Marcel Proust.  Penguin Lives, Viking 199

Celeste Albaret. Monsieur Proust. Trans Barbara Bray . NYR Books, 1976


Specialized Works  (this is a highly selective , partial and personal list)


Eric Karpeles,  Paintings in Proust.Thames and Hudson 2008

Arthjur D. Trottenberg. A Vision of Paris.  1963

Anka Muhlstein. Monsieur Proust’s Library.  Other Press, 2013

Bernard Strauss, The Maladies of Marcel Proust   1980

Phyllis Ross. The Year of   Reading Proust : A Memoir in Real Time

Lorenza Foschini.  Proust’s Overcoat. Trans Eric Karpeles. 2010

Caroline Weber, Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured     the Imagination of Fin-de-siecle Paris. Knopf 2018



The Visual Proust


Swann in Love.  Film starring Jeremy Irons

Le Temps Retrouve. Film by Raul Ruiz

The Fugitive.  (French film)


There is a German film, Celeste, which looks at Proust’s life from point of view of his devoted housekeeper

There is a French TV miniseries where narrator is played by a woman. 2011.

Stephene Heuet has done a graphic novel adaptation of Within a Budding Grove

Two short films and a CD by musicians Maria and Nathalie Milstein  reprise candidates for the musical Proust’s composerVinteiul and his “little phrase”