My name is Kerry Postle and I studied A la Recherche du Temps Perdu at university many years ago. I would go so far as to say that I loved it then, thought that I knew it in depth, and, as with all favourite books, I’ve been carrying a torch for it ever since. That was why I was a little reticent to start reading it again. Would I remember it? Would it disappoint? Would I still love it after all these years? The answers to these three questions are sort of, certainly not, and yes, but in ways that I would never have imagined.
This blog is a record (albeit haphazard) of my reading of Proust as an older reader with time on her hands, reading it for pleasure rather than for an exam. As such it’s developed into a rambling, leisurely look at his writing, read in very manageable but hugely rewarding chunks of just 50 pages at a time. And it has been, and continues to be, an unexpected delight, more full of wit and mischievous humour than I ever remember having noticed before.
At the time of starting this blog our small but perfectly formed book group has swelled its numbers to a very respectable 5. We started off with just two members, myself and Kate. Then Theresa came along to the second meeting, to be followed by Jane shortly afterwards. After a good few months, and a fair number of 50 page chunks, Helen started coming too, hopefully showing that it’s never too late to join (A la Recherche is so densely woven, each section relating to the whole, that it’s surprisingly easy to understand what’s gone before).
We read A la Recherche in French and English, discussing each 50 pages in English. Initially, the Proust virgins among us were a little scared, worried they wouldn’t be able to understand the writing. Friends who pulled faces, raised eyebrows, sometimes overly impressed but more often inappropriately appalled, made our members’ concerns all the greater. But then we started to read it, and (after paddling frantically through the difficult and stormy start), we soon got used to the long sentences and were all struck by how very funny Proust is. Yes, the writing is beautiful, complex, intellectual, challenging, packed with cultural references, but there’s not been a 50 page section that hasn’t had us chortling away at his naughtiness. Nothing and no one is exempt. Not even, or perhaps, especially, the narrator himself. So please do read along with us if you want to and share in the fun as we’re having such a great time … reading Proust.