Day One: Swann's Way, pp. 1-10

From "For a long time, I went to bed ..." to "... revealing no disturbance at this transvertebration."  

The narrator reflects on sleeping and waking, and the momentary dislocations of time and space that occur when he does so.

A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and worlds. He consults them instinctively as he wakes and reads in a second the point on the earth he occupies, the time that has elapsed before his waking; but their ranks can be mixed up, broken.
His mind "hesitat[es] on the thresholds of times and shapes" as it surveys other beds and other rooms before he settles in the one in which he currently exists. At Combray, his mother and grandmother had set up a magic lantern "to distract me on the evenings when they found me looking too unhappy," but the images it projected on the walls, curtains and doors "destroyed the familiarity which my bedroom had acquired for me and which, except for the torment of going to bed, had made it tolerable to me." But the element in the description that I relish most is the humor, the inflated vocabulary with which Proust undercuts the neurasthenia of the narrator:

The body of Golo himself, in its essence as supernatural as that of his steed, accommodated every material obstacle, every hindersome object that he encountered by taking it as his skeleton and absorbing it into himself, even the doorknob he immediately adapted to and floated invincibly over with his red robe or his pale face as noble and as melancholy as ever, but revealing no disturbance at this transvertebration.
Somehow, I had never thought of Proust as humorous, but this passage is like something out of Dickens.

1 comment:

Paul Machlis said...

Thank you so much for recording your progress through Proust. Your blog was very helpful to me as I worked through the seven volumes, especially when some time elapsed between volumes. Reading Proust was one of the great literary experiences of my life, and having your blog as a reading-companion made it all the better.