Proust and Breakfast - Your Opinion Needed!

I got up early this morning to greet the day, but apparently it was too early.  First, I went to grab an ACE baguette from a local grocery store that normally carries them, but they weren't in yet.  Then I went to a coffee shop I frequent to pick up a copy of the Isthmus, which is supposed to have the schedule for the Wisconsin Film Festival in it today, but it hadn't been delivered yet.  I had been planning on having breakfast there, but I realized that I had also been planning on browsing the films while I was eating and didn't have a book or my laptop with me, so I got prematurely bored in the entryway and left.

So I'm at home now, having made myself the best vegetarian breakfast sandwich in the world, drinking coffee with honey and trying to kill time until the schedule is posted online.  It occurred to me that this might be as good a time as any to ponder an idea I had recently, that being trying to get myself to read all of Proust's masterpiece.  You know the one, the one that very few people seem to have read in their native language, much less another.  I have the books, all seven of them, thick paperbacks with small print.  The first pages, which are rife with talk about sleep and dreams, are difficult for me to read without nodding off.  I really think it's suggestion rather than boredom.

In any case, the main problem seems to be that it's necessary to keep up a certain pace while reading in order to have a running idea of what is going on in the story but at the same time to not move so quickly as to not catch and ponder the subtleties of the language.  The latter seems to already have a check in place against it, as Proust is really, really difficult to skim.  You can't glance at a paragraph and get a general idea, because there is no general idea.  Each sentence is an entity in itself and at the same time part of a logical progression.  If one link is removed, or if I'm lazy and try to skip over a difficult phrase, I'm completely lost.  I've read several novels in French on my own, only occasionally glancing at a dictionary, and I didn't skim them, either, but most of them have been fairly straightforward.

I'm considering tracking my progress on here, but I haven't figured out yet exactly how to do it in a way that works for me and that would make the subject matter itself entertaining enough to justify inflicting it on readers of this blog.  I don't have any interest in doing a gradual breakdown of the plot, which seems boring, pointless, and tantamount to providing free CliffsNotes, but it might be worth commenting on various aspects of it, maybe picking out single sentences and so forth.  I also don't know if I should set myself a goal.  20 pages a day?  The damned thing is so long that I'm certain my level of comprehension will improve along the way, which means I'll probably be able to cover more pages.

What do you guys think?  Is it worth it?


2 comments:

  1. An idea for your posts: how about the occasional, really interesting to you, sentence or phrase that offers some discussion about alternative translation. Don't know if that could be worth your while or pique your interest but it would interest me.

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    1. That's just the sort of thing I'm leaning toward at this point, except that I've resolved not to mar the experience by picking up any translations until I'm done with the entire thing. I think I've only seen the first page of the old Moncrieff English version. As a side note, I wonder if any single person will ever succeed in translating the whole thing during their lifetime.

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