“Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is inexistent; but, if so, we feel that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, must be nothing either. We shall perish, but we have as hostages these divine captives who will follow and share our fate. And death in their company is somehow less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less probable. ”
― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (In Search of Lost Time vol.1)
In Search of Lost Time, his magnum opus is a daunting 3000+ pages with dense, synesthetic prose. I particularly love the way he describes day-to-day insignificant activities with such subtle eloquence that they are imbibed with new significance all of a sudden. The prose is exquisite and dense, and sometimes gets lost in itself but I think there is a certain beauty to it. One needs to sit and read this book at leisure with a certain amount of good-natured patience to fully savor his writing.
Proust describes two kinds of love: that of a child’s and that of an adult’s. He takes each to its extremity and shows us how love can alter people, and itself with time. Another very unique characteristic of Proust is his ability to describe things with the maturity of an adult and emotions that are exclusive to the innocence of children who have not been completely exposed to the world just yet. He masterfully brings out the slightest nuances and flavors of feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
To me, his dreamy prose and his acute perspectives make him the intermediate between French Realism of Zola, Flaubert and Balzac, and Surrealism of Breton, Aragon, and Gide. Sometimes I see him become as great and esoteric as Mallarme. This book has been a mesmeric reading experience for me.
If you have a long break, and you don’t want to go out but spend time with yourself, this is the book to read. Find that cozy corner in your house and sit with your favorite beverage and snacks. You might want to keep a pencil or notepad and pen at hand, to mark or note down those beautiful sentences that you’d love to read later.