Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust, French novelist, critic, essayist and a philosopher in his own right.
You know when it’s time, you know when it’s that one moment which is going to change your life, your way of thinking, that one moment, when it has come — either creates you or devastates you, ravages your very existence and corrodes over your sensibilities leaving the carcass of what could have been. Proust has been that to me. I knew it the second held his masterpiece that this book is going to live within me.
What’s life? Why am I even here? What’s the purpose my existence serves? Am I to others or unto myself? There are thousands of questions that plagues us and yet we drudge along like an automaton in a routine of the routine itself. Lest the semblance of sanity, that thin thread will snap into million shards of glass called dreams.
In Search of Lost Time, À la recherche du temps perdu, was published in seven parts. It’s considered as the greatest and largest work of western literary canon. I read nominally about Proust during my graduation years. It took me another two years while pursuing my masters degree to pick up Proust, for he is no easy subject and not an ordinary one either. What he wrote about is something we all as readers and writers, those sensitive centipede of this orb have gone through at one time or the other, that angst to answer all that makes us and why.
The major themes of his novel are—social world, love, time and memories, and above all art— how art defies all and sublimates the very existence of human life. Art alleviates and exults the human life.
Time and memory plays an important role into narrator’s life. Not only the novel is about bourgeois Parisian life and the literary scene of then France. His discontentment and disillusionment which is famously called “ the Proustian conquest,” to figure himself out vis à vis society and his inward journey to find art as an elixir to one’s living. His careful analysis of the human condition as Joseph Conrad puts it “Proust’s work . . . is great art based on analysis. I don’t think there is in all creative literature an example of the power of analysis such as this.”
Swann’s Way, although the beginning of Proust’s literary masterpiece seemed to me the swan song of the very artist Marcel Proust, confined to his bed during last leg of his life, those three years spent in completing this novel.
“The thirst for something other than what we have…to bring something new, even if it is worse, some emotion, some sorrow; when our sensibility, which happiness has silenced like an idle harp, wants to resonate under some hand, even a rough one, and even if it might be broken by it.”
Even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people.”