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Living and Dying with Marcel Proust

by Christopher Prendergast

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511497,808 (4.3)None
"Living and Dying with Marcel Proust is the result of a lifetime's reading of, reflection on, and love for Proust's masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. Christopher Prendergast, one of the world's foremost literary scholars, and general editor of the most recent translation of la recherche du temps perdu, has produced a highly entertaining book that takes in such disparate Proustian obsessions as insomnia, food and digestion, colour, addiction, memory, breath and breathing, breasts, snobbism, music, and humor. Living and Dying with Marcel Proust will surely become the companion for all future readers either about to reembark on Proust's three-million-word journey or setting out for the first time."--Publisher's website.… (more)
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Living and Dying with Marcel Proust by Christopher Prendergast is a wonderful dive into some of the themes and obsessions that run through In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu). This work fits nicely between the more academic analyses and the more popular ones.

I will initially question part of the book description, namely that this is a good book for those "just setting out for the first time" reading Proust. I think it is a great companion book for those who have read In Search of Lost Time but I am less certain that it would be all that helpful for a first time reader. My main reason is that Proust's masterpiece really needs to be experienced on one's own before trying to tie different parts of it together thematically. This is my opinion and I may well be wrong. But the first time I read all of In Search of Lost Time (though at the time, the mid-80s, it was translated as Remembrance of Things Past) I found myself getting lost in thought almost every time I put it down, so my connections were largely personal. I might not have those personal connections had I used a companion book that pointed out themes and ideas that run through it.

While most people have read at least one or two of the volumes, often taught as standalone novels even though they aren't, many people have shied away from reading the entire work. This is quite understandable, especially if it isn't being read as part of (or in at least one case I know of, the entirety of) a course. While my next comment might seem to contradict my previous one, I think reading Prendergast before deciding whether to read Proust might be beneficial.

Even with all of the scholarship I've read and used on À la recherche du temps perdu I think this short volume might be my favorite. For readers who have read through Proust several times this new book reminds you of things you have either forgotten or overlooked and, more importantly, it reminds you of why you return to it again and again. I don't know whether I will read it again, without intending to I have read it at some point during every decade from the 1980s through the 2010s. My reading habits now are quite different, but I do have most of the decade left to decide, and if anyone else writes another book of this caliber it will probably push me to reread it again.

I would highly recommend this to readers familiar with À la recherche du temps perdu but who might prefer to read about it now rather than reread it. This would also be a great book for someone about to embark on their second trip through the work, it will help remind you of where you'll be going while not beating any single topic to death. If you haven't read Proust and are considering it, this will offer some idea of the enjoyment one gets from it though it will give away some aspects of the book.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jun 8, 2022 |
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"Living and Dying with Marcel Proust is the result of a lifetime's reading of, reflection on, and love for Proust's masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. Christopher Prendergast, one of the world's foremost literary scholars, and general editor of the most recent translation of la recherche du temps perdu, has produced a highly entertaining book that takes in such disparate Proustian obsessions as insomnia, food and digestion, colour, addiction, memory, breath and breathing, breasts, snobbism, music, and humor. Living and Dying with Marcel Proust will surely become the companion for all future readers either about to reembark on Proust's three-million-word journey or setting out for the first time."--Publisher's website.

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