Marcel Proust
Modern Library, New York, 2003; originally published in 1913 in French, English
ISBN: 9780812969641

For an authoritative English-language edition, D. J. Enright has revised the late Terence Kilmartin’s acclaimed reworking of C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s translation to take into account the new definitive French editions of A la recherche du temps perdu (the final volume of these new editions was published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade in 1989).

Also see Remembrance of Things Past and The Guermantes Way.

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Thomas Girst

Between the ages of 14 and 16, reading Proust was my greatest reading experience ever. I wanted to hold off until retirement to reread In Search of Lost Time but am rereading this 4,000-plus-page novel now. Proust gave his life to his writing and in the end had to leave his greatest achievement unfinished after working on it daily for over a decade, barely leaving his room—or bed, for that matter. There are those who have read him and those who haven’t. Just as an orchestra may play Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor in front thousands of spellbound listeners in a huge concert hall, or just as every single feeling everyone on earth has had, or will be experiencing, is already contained within the lines of Shakespeare, so Proust’s magnum opus and the tremendous scope of thought that went into it constitute an almost otherworldly, beautiful reminder that humankind’s existence on this planet is not entirely in vain. Radiant intelligence, intellect, and an inspiring vision transmitted through literature are able to reinforce our fleeting trust in the true achievements of our species.

Though the original book was published in many subsequent parts by Gallimard in Paris, with its standard, forever unequaled typographic cover design, the 1979 German edition I am currently rereading is lovely to hold and look at as it is so poetically basic. Its design (the title appears only on the spine—horizontally, as Theodor W. Adorno preferred) harks back to that of the 18th and 19th centuries and thus ever so subtly underlines Proust’s absolute timelessness. There are entire books written on Proust and painting and how much the visual world meant to him and what a keen observer he was. I would recommend to anyone to start off with Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)—because he will, forever.

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