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In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by…

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (original 1919; edition 2004)

by Marcel Proust

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2,488342,453 (4.36)1 / 34
Title:In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
Authors:Marcel Proust
Info:Viking Adult (2004), Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:prose fiction, Modernism

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In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel Proust (1919)


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English (27)  Swedish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All (34)
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It's still long, it still has some interminable sentences, I still struggle to keep up. But this is easier than Volume 1 so I have high hopes for The Guermantes Way (Vol 3) ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Dense, and I’m glad I’m done with it. I would say it’s over-rated but to be fair, I think it’s in the eye of the beholder. In literature there is a spectrum of writing styles, ranging from those concentrate on action or which are full of passion at one extreme, and those that are more elegant in form at the other. Proust, Henry James, and Nabokov would all be in the latter category. There are people who clearly adore this sort of thing, and for them the book (and the series to which it belongs) is properly rated as a classic. And while I do want a lot more out of a book than “all plot”, something which becomes like a movie in print, it’s taken to such an extreme here that I would never recommend this book, despite its place in the history of literature, and despite the occasional nuggets of gold one mines out of Proust’s long passages.

Proust does not show what's happening with dialog, he tells, and tells in a verbose way. You will find yourself mired in page after page of tedious descriptions of French social order or on some other tangent, with long parentheses-ridden sentences, wishing he would get on with it. Yes, he may be catching all sorts of subtleties in what he’s trying so very hard to explain, but in leaving no stone unturned, he becomes too much of a chore to read.

There were some points when I thought ah, here we go, we’re settled in now, and this at last is the reason people love this guy. At the end of part one, and the beginning of part two, when he gets into the trials and tribulations of love, and in the fleeting nature of things, such as seeing and passing by the young girl at a train station, he was at his best for me. The scene where his doctor advises him to have ‘a little too much beer or brandy, so as to be in the state he called euphoria’, to have him calm down before his rail journey (much to his grandmother’s consternation), is excellent, as the state of the narrator is told masterfully through the reactions of those around him.

Unfortunately these types of moments are not sustained. Just as the narrator’s reaction to La Berma, an actress who is revered, is to his disappointment lukewarm, and he is constantly searching for signs of genius in her when all of the other actresses seem to be superior, I find this is my reaction to Proust, years after having read the first volume. I feel a bit like an infidel giving him such a low rating, but I don’t think this book holds up, and I wonder whether glowing reviews are a function of his reputation, and the feat one feels for having slogged through and finished this book.

On being cruel to family, and the ones you love:
“But my grandmother, noticing that I looked put out, said that, if the taking of the photograph was bothersome to me, she would not go ahead with it. I did not want her to abandon the idea, told her I had no objection, and let her titivate herself. But I thought it was pretty clever and superior of me to say a few hurtful and sarcastic words to her, so as to neutralize the pleasure she seemed to look forward to from being photographed; and though I was obliged to see her magnificent hat, at least I managed to banish from her face the signs of a joy that I ought to have been happy to share with her, but which, as so often happens while those whom we love best are still alive, can strike us a mere irritant, a mark of something silly and small-minded, rather than the precious revelation of the happiness we long to give them.”

On flirtation, and wow on the ‘shed my pleasure’ bit:
“As I came close to Gilberte, who was leaning back in her chair, telling me to take the letter but not handing it to me, I felt so attracted by her body that I said:
‘You try to stop me from getting it and we’ll see who wins.’
She held it behind her back, and I put my hands behind her neck, lifting the long plaits which hung on her shoulders, either because it was a hairstyle that suited her age, or because her mother wanted her to appear younger than she was, so as not to age too rapidly herself; and in that strained posture, we tussled with each other. I kept trying to draw her closer to me; she kept resisting. Flushed with the effort, her cheeks were as red and round as cherries; she laughed as though I were tickling her. I had her pinned between my legs as though she were the bole of a little tree I was trying to climb. In the middle of all my exertions, without my breathing being quickened much more than it already was by muscular exercise and the heat of the playful moment, like a few drops of sweat produced by the effort, I shed my pleasure, before I even had time to be aware of the nature of it, and managed to snatch the letter away from her. Gilberte said in a friendly tone:
‘If you like, we could wrestle a bit more.’”

On love:
“Peace of mind is foreign to love, since each new fulfillment one attains is never anything but a new starting point for the desire to go beyond it.”

On love unrequited:
“With a woman who does not love us, as with someone who has died, the knowledge that there is nothing left to hope for does not prevent us from going on waiting. One lives in a state of alertness, eyes and ears open; a mother whose son has gone on a dangerous sea voyage always has the feeling, even when she has long known for certain that he has perished, that he is just about to come through the door, saved by a miracle, unscathed.”

On love’s settings:
“I rang the ‘lift’, to go up to the room Albertine had taken, which overlooked the valley. The slightest motions, the mere act of sitting down on the little seat inside the elevator, were full of sweetness, because they were in direct touch with my heart; in the cables that hauled the lift upward, and in the few stairs still to be climbed, I saw nothing but the workings of my joy and the steps toward it, materialized. In the corridor, I was only a few paces away from the bedroom inside which lay the precious substance of her pink body – the room which, however delightful the acts to take place in it, would go on being its unchanging self, would continue to seem, for the eyes of any unsuspecting passerby, identical to all the other rooms, which is the way things have of becoming the stubbornly unconfessing witnesses, the conscientious confidants, the inviolable trustees of our pleasure.”

On snobbery, loved this one:
“Whenever the notary’s wife and the good lady of the First President saw her at mealtimes in the dining room, they would hold up their eyeglasses and give her a good, long, insolent stare, with such an air of punctilious distaste and misgiving that she might have been a dish of pompous name and dubious appearance which, after subjecting it to a rigorous inspection, one waves away with a distant gesture and a grimace of disgust.”

On women (or chasing women); this one brought a smile:
“…I was on an errand with a friend of my father’s when from the carriage I caught sight of a woman walking away into the dark: the thought struck me that it was absurd to forfeit, for a reason of mere propriety, a share of happiness in this life, it being no doubt the only one we are to have, and so I jumped out without as much as a by-your-leave, ran after the intriguing creature, lost her at a crossing of two streets, saw her again on another street, and eventually ran her to ground under a lamppost, where I found I was out of breath and face-to-face with the aging Mme Verdurin, whom I usually avoided like the plague, and who now cried in delight and surprise, ‘Oh, how nice of you to chase after me just to say good evening!’”

On youth:
“One lives among monsters and gods, a stranger to peace of mind. There is scarcely a single one of our acts from that time which we would not prefer to abolish later on. But all we should lament is the loss of the spontaneity that urged them upon us. In later life, we see things with a more practical eye, one we share with the rest of society; but adolescence was the only time we ever learned anything.”

I loved these little snippets, reflecting the times:
“In those days, in that part of Paris, which was seen as rather remote (indeed, the whole city was darker then than nowadays, none of the streets, even in the center of town, being lit by electricity, and very few of the houses), lamps glowing inside a drawing room on a ground floor or a mezzanine, which was where Mme Swann’s receiving rooms were, could light up the street and draw the glance of passerby, who saw in these illuminations a manifest but veiled relation to the handsome horses and carriages waiting outside the front doors.”

And this one, imagining a ‘phototelephone’, a device which will create an image of the person speaking from the sound of their voice, as opposed to transmitting video:
“…her voice was like the one that it is said will be part of the phototelephone of the future: the sound of it gave a vivid picture of her.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Jan 4, 2016 |
Once again a long, slow read where the plot is minimal, and the philosophical digressions and minutiae of everyday life for the narrator are the key. It has moments of profundity, moments of comedy, but the main thrust of this volume is the narrator's growing interest in girls and particularly Albertine.

If I carry on at this rate I will complete all 7 books in about 2020. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Oct 10, 2015 |
While I enjoyed Marcel Proust's "In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower," which is the second book in his series "In Search of Lost Time," it definitely wasn't as astounding as the first book.

In this volume, our narrator focuses on his first loves -- cutting things off with Gilberte and moving on to his infatuation with Albertine. Most of the novel takes place in the seaside resort of Balbec.

As in the first novel, there are plenty of gorgeous passages to savor. But Proust's general wordiness bothered me more this time around. Something about the voice didn't quite fit with the recollections as well as it did in the first volume. Still, there are plenty of snatches of brilliance along the way.

This volume convinced me I need to stretch out my reading to one book every three months or so... (I had originally hoped to read all seven volumes this year.) It took nearly a month to read this one and it made me look forward to reading something a little less challenging! ( )
  amerynth | Apr 11, 2015 |
(There are no "spoilers," I promise.)

Madame Swann at Home

a new Swann; a new Cottard — "fashions change, being themselves begotten of the desire for change" — the Marquis de Norpois — Berma in Phèdre — "the cruel anxiety of the seeker after truth" — "But when one believes in the reality of things, making them visible by artificial means is not quite the same as feeling that they are close at hand" — the literary life; the value of shares — Françoise; Michelangelo — King Theodosius — Mme. Swann's salon — "archduchess or prostitute" — Bergotte's aesthetic influence — "In theory one is aware that the earth revolves, but in practice one does not perceive it, the ground upon which one treads seems not to move, and one can rest assured. So it is with Time in one's life." — Françoise's aspic — new year; new friendship with Gilberte — "Our desires cut across one another, and in this confused existence it is rare for happiness to coincide with the desire that clamoured for it" — the beloved's face — water-closets; fevers — "And we realised that this imbecile was a great physician" — "I asked myself whether there was not an existence altogether different from the one I knew, in direct contradiction to it, but itself the real one" — chez Swann — gâteaux; livres — appropriated mannerisms and expressions — Mme. Swann's "day" — Albertine: "She's certain to be dreadfully 'fast' when she's older, but meanwhile she's an odd fish" — "like a kaleidoscope which is every now and then given a turn, society arranges successively in different orders elements which one would have supposed immutable, and composes a new pattern" — confusing royalties — the Cottards and the Bontemps — love; fear — "in the company of orchids, roses and violets" — "that anxiety ... which destroys in us, in the presence of the person we love, the sensation of loving" — Vinteuil's "little phrase" — "And we shall love it longer than the rest because we have taken longer to get to love it" — art and posterity — Mme. Blatin and the Singhalese — objects; meanings; souls — the Zoological Gardens — Princess Mathilde — "as though [English] had been a secret language known to our two selves alone" — Odette's Anglomania — Bergotte's name (and nose); the Narrator's name — carnations in buttonholes — Bergottism — genius; mirrors; power — on Berma's Phèdre — "A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it" — "a prophetic warning" of "the danger of that kind of love" — Gilberte as a composite Mélusine — "a single intelligence of which everyone is a co-tenant" —"Nine tenths of the ills from which intelligent people suffer spring from their intellect" — brothels and Jews and "Rachel when from the Lord" — "our memory does not as a rule present things to us in their chronological sequence" — "There can be no peace of mind in love, since what one has obtained is never anything but a new starting-point for further desires" — unknown languages; sealed fortresses — contradictory severance letters — the third Gilberte — Mme Swann's flowers — five-o'clock tea — "Dear Mme Verdurin is not always very kind about other people's flowers" — electricity; telephones — "When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves" — renunciation — "regret, like desire, seeks not to analyse but to gratify itself" — when what is "smart" becomes what is "trashy" — the charm of a Botticelli — the colors of Mme Swann's at-home dresses — 10,000 francs — two strollers in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées — "the healing effect of isolation" — interpreting dreams — "The person whom we love is to be recognised only by the intensity of the pain that we suffer" — letters; lies; the past tense — Mme Swann's parasol

Place-Names: The Place

"It is our noticing them that puts things in a room, our growing used to them that takes them away again and clears a space for us" — three knocks on the adjoining wall — habit; new bedrooms; lofty ceilings — "it is the light that displaces and situates the undulations of the sea" — the guests at the Grand Hotel — Mme de Villeparisis, "the most powerful of fairies" — Françoise's friends —"those peculiar places, railway stations... those marvellous places, railway stations" — "those who love and those who enjoy are not always the same" — "the enraptured traveller Ruskin speaks of" — reading Mme de Sévigné on the train — a milk-girl, beauty, and happiness — Balbec Church and the Virgin of the Porch — the Grand Hotel — "the horror of my own nonentity" — the Princesse de Luxembourg and a loaf of rye bread — "a carriage which reeked of harlot a mile away" — carriage rides; young girls in flower —"our desire for people ... is the only kind that leads to anxiety" — three trees — Chateaubriand on moonlight's melancholy — "a creature of habit" — Saint-Loup — "adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything" — a Jewish colony — Bloch contre Ruskin; the "lighft-boy" — human kindness; defects — "we ought at least, from prudence, never to speak of ourselves, because that is a subject on which we may be sure that other people's views are never in accordance with our own" — Baron de Charlus's gaze; a memory of Tansonville — the Guermantes: "in that family they change their names as often as their shirts" — Charlus's "obsession with virility"; an awkward tea — "A photograph acquires something of the dignity which it ordinarily lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of reality and shows us things that no longer exist" — the Baron; a book of Bergotte's; the narrator's bedroom — "in the state of mind in which we 'observe' we are a long way below the level to which we rise when we create" — dinner at the Blochs — Saint-Loup's mistress — "the wall which remained silent" — "I was going through one of those phases of youth ... in which at all times and in all places ... we desire, we seek, we see Beauty" — "the little band" of jeunes filles — "a girl with brilliant, laughing eyes and plump, matte cheeks" — "To strip our pleasures of imagination is to reduce them to their own dimensions, that is to say to nothing" — "a mirage of desire" — "aristocracy is a relative thing" — the name Simonet — seascapes; sunsets; Whistler's Harmony in Grey and Pink — Dreyfus; a change of season; Rivebelle — "Perhaps some of the greatest masterpieces were written while yawning" — too much port; music; seductiveness — "two separate bouquets that had exchanged a few of their flowers" — love; inebriation — "we say that we often see animals in our dreams, but we forget that almost always we are ourselves animals therein" — sleep; waking; "the shipwreck of my nervous storms" — Elstir, the famous painter — "The most exclusive love for a person is always a love for something else" — Elstir's studio; art fostering immortality — the blurred boundaries between sky and sea, land and sea — "If a little day-dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time" — the name Albertine — ambiguous gender; Elstir's portrait of Miss Sacripant — "The particulars of life do not matter to the artist; they merely provide him with the opportunity to lay bare his genius" — states of consciousness; the evolutions of those whom we love — multiple Albertines — "We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves" — railway stations; invitations; letters; "the profundities of 'still life'" — "Pleasure ... is like photography" — meeting Albertine — a beauty mark: fluid then fixed — Octave; the Mlles d'Ambresac; Andrée; Gisèle; Rosemonde — "it was their flowering-time" — successive loves and their similarities — women's fashion — the Creuniers cliffs; picnicking — "Loving helps us to discern, to discriminate" — girls' voices — "The individual is steeped in something more general than himself" — je t'aime — Gisèle's letter from Sophocles to Racine — "every fresh glimpse is a sort of rectification, which brings us back to what we in fact saw" — a game of ferret; hands; hawthorn — "the selfish angle which is that of love" — "the photo-telephone of the future: the visual image ... clearly outlined in the sound" — bedrooms; an urge to kiss; the ringing of bells — Albertine in society: "killing several birds with one stone" — "Oh, you men!" — interchangeability — "when studying faces, we do indeed measure them, but as painters, not surveyors" — multiple selves; darkened rooms; departure ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proust, Marcelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beretta Anguissola, AlbertoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Maria, LucianoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enright, D.J.Translation revisionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galateria, DariaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, TerenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raboni, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salinas, PedroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott Moncrieff, C. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Meine Mutter hatte, als davon die Rede war, zum erstenmal Monsieur de Norpois zu uns zum Abendessen zu bitten, ihr Bedauern ausgedrückt, daß Professor Cottard auf Reisen sei und daß sie den Verkehr mit Swann ihrerseits abgebrochen habe, denn beide hätten zweifellos den ehemaligen Botschafter interessiert
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039075, Paperback)

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower is Proust’s spectacular dissection of male and female adolescence, charged with the narrator’s memories of Paris and the Normandy seaside. At the heart of the story lie his relationships with his grandmother and with the Swann family. As a meditation on different forms of love, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower has no equal. Here, Proust introduces some of his greatest comic inventions, from the magnificently dull M. de Norpois to the enchanting Robert de Saint-Loup. It is memorable as well for the first appearance of the two figures who for better or worse are to dominate the narrator’s life—the Baron de Charlus and the mysterious Albertine.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:40 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A definitive new translation of the second volume of In Search of Lost Time captures the intricacies and challenges of male and female adolescence and awakening love, based on the narrator's reminiscences about Paris and the Normandy coast.

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