Amazing. Now that I've read three volumes of Proust, soon to start the fourth, I think this is his best overall.
Reading Proust is like a weird dreamy experience. In fact, I think its JUST like a dream. Stuff kinda happens, but in weird non-linear scenes that are pretty removed from time. Everything has this simple dullness of real life, but Proust reveals the ordinary to be so beautiful and detailed and delicate. It's really very unlike reading. There's a strange beauty that permeates the whole book. I think the best part was the first part, "Overture." The descriptions of waking up after falling asleep with a book, or having involuntary memories brought on by seemingly random and mundane stimuli, and how memories flourish in bursts and flashes and not linear stories.
The next part on Combray was really great as well. Why don't people believe me when I say Proust is funny? He's really funny! Each volume so far has had me laughing out loud at certain parts. People like Leonie are very funny. Of course other parts are boring-ish to read, but the beautiful prose keeps it from being an actual bore. I feel like the whole work pays off over time, you meet seemingly minor or unimportant characters throughout and then they come out as important later on, and you're like "THEY'RE A PROSTITUTE?!" or "THEY'RE GAY?!" - it's all the scandal one should expect from high brow french literature, or a tabloid magazine, whichever. It's amazing.
"Swann in Love" was a really great mini novella inside the book. But it felt kind of weird and jarring to all of a sudden move from Marcel's intimate memories to this third-person narrative that takes place before his birth. The portrait of love as this thing that is all consuming and like an illness, that it is spurred on by being spurned, that having is never as good as the illusion of wanting - so relatable (and depressing).
Amazing. Amazing. 5/5 read it, love it.