Reflections on Swann’s Way at 100

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A CENTURY has passed since the publication of Swann’s Way in 1913, the first seven volumes that comprise Marcel Proust’s magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time (also translated as Remembrance of Things Past). In 1913, the novel was rejected by several publishers, including the novelist–editor Andre Gide (1869–1951), who viewed it as too verbose, the scribblings of a dilettante and a dandy.

My first encounter with Swann’s Way occurred in the mid-1970s. My friend Sanford urged me to read the novel and raved about all things Proustian. When I looked at the thickness of just the first volume, I wondered how on earth I would ever get through all those pages. At the time, I was in my mid-twenties and my approach to life was one big rush. This book would definitely slow me down and get me to think. I wasn’t quite ready for it. But I did speed-read the first volume (in English translation) and got the gist of the storyline. I even managed to hold my own when it came to making the appropriate references as to the who, what, and where of the narrative at cocktail parties.

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