Swann’s Way

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Memory takes centre stage in this novel, which departs from the traditional Nineteenth Century novel in that the narrative does not follow one protagonist throughout. In ‘Swann’s Way’ the protagonist is Marcel, but Proust, a modernist writer uses ‘distancing’ to create “an art of multiplication with regard to the representation of person ... creating aesthetics of deception for the autobiographical novel.” (Nalbantian, 1997, p.63). Also Proust referred to his narrator as the one who says ‘I’ and who is not always me.”(ibid). Proust’s highly subjective approach to fiction suits his subject of memory recall and the author uses this extract to analysis the voluntary or consciousness and the involuntary or subconsciouses memories. Marcel discovers through experience that intellectualising does not allow memories to resurface but familiar daily domestic sensations do.

It is the “all powerful joy” and “exquisite pleasure” (p.58) of this subconscious memory recall which Proust is celebrating. The tone of the text is dreamlike and almost ecstatic, emphasising the spiritual aspect of memories. Proust uses lyrical words such as “fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s head” (p.58) which echoes “the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds,” (p.61). This imagery associates the madeleines with sensuality and the cakes evocatively recall sexual fantasies. The lyrical vocabulary attempts to persuade the reader that the subconscious and involuntary memory recall provides “the effect which loves has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself.” (p.58). Renza suggests that “memories [are] literally made new again by their introduction into the proleptic course of na...

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...1980, p.53) and an “autobiographical consciousness [which] is that consciousness which thinks about itself “(Ibid,p.49). Swann’s Way is partly autobiographical. Yet it is also a literary novel which reflects upon memory and “creates a metamorphical representation of universal truths” (Lee,2000,P.89), which the reader can share in, as such it transcends Proust’s lifetime and can be emphasised with today, which can be seen from its current popularity.

Proust’s text is one of “all-powerful joy” equating memories with happiness. He “manipulated the very genre of the autobiographical novel in order to convey his aesthetics regarding life and art.” (Nalbantian,1907.p.99). Deciding whether Swann’s Way is true or not is not as important as reading its evocative and beautiful language and feeling at one with Proust that memories are somehow more fulfilling than reality.

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