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Sodom and Gomorrah (1922)

by Marcel Proust

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: In Search of Lost Time (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,326325,285 (4.34)91
Since the original, prewar translation there has been no completely new rendering of the French original into English. This translation brings to the fore a more sharply engaged, comic and lucid Proust. IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME is one of the greatest, most enjoyable reading experiences in any language. As the great story unfolds from its magical opening scenes to its devastating end, it is the Penguin Proust that makes Proust accessible to a new generation. Each book is translated by a different, superb translator working under the general editorship of Professor Christopher Prendergast.… (more)
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» See also 91 mentions

English (26)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
I finished Volume 4 of Proust a few days ago (Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright translation, Modern Library edition), and thought I’d put a few thoughts down in a review. This is my first review of any Proust volume. It feels somewhat awkward to be reviewing one volume, since it’s really just one chunk of a bigger novel. This will be more a set of observations and complaints that apply to the full work (so far).

Sodom is volume 4 out of 7 of ISOLT. That is, it is the center of the set. As such there is a certain psychological satisfaction that comes from completing it: “I’ve read more that half of Proust!”, along with the confidence that I will complete the whole work.

The book of course is great - five stars. But after four long volumes, I mainly want to write down my complaints. And my main complaint is about the narrator.

The narrator (we can also call him Marcel) is a severely underdeveloped character. Despite living inside his head for a couple of thousand pages (so far), he remains a cipher. What is his personality? If you met him at one of these dinner parties he loves to describe, how would he strike you? Is he extroverted, a joke-teller or raconteur? Or a serious conversationalist, getting into long detailed discussions on esoteric or artistic topics? Or a quiet introvert, mainly sitting quietly, listening to others? He must be a likeable person, judging by the way so many hosts and hostesses try to invite him. But why? We don’t know, although there are occasional circumstantial clues in the form of comments from the people around him.

Yes, he sometimes describes, in loving detail, the fine shading around certain emotional experiences, such as his mourning loss of his grandmother. But his thoughts, his internal monologues, are left out. How does he think about his life, his goals, his problems, and his plans?

Let’s take one glaring example. During Sodom, we learn that Albertine is being considered as a marriage candidate for him, at least in the eyes of others. Is he considering marrying her? Is he spending a lot of time thinking about whether to marry her? How does he approach the possibility? Does he mentally weigh up the pros and cons? Is he trying to visualize married life with her, to picture her as his wife, possibly even as the mother of his children? Does he compare her against other single women he knows, or against the wives of friends and relatives? He must be going through such thoughts and mental exercises while at Balbec during the course of the book, but all this is left out of the book.

Proust doesn’t share these key internal moments, to the reader’s great frustration,, and as a result it becomes hard to identify with the narrator, or to like him very much. So when Marcel behaves poorly to others - especially to Albertine - we end up rather disliking him, while she, Albertine, gets our sympathy.

And this lack of characterization of the narrator - who is the main character after all - is all the more ironic given the novel’s reputation as an introspective, interior-oriented novel. It’s not at all. It does share, at great length, Marcel’s acute perceptions of the world around him, and especially his delving into the thoughts and motivations of the people he encounters. But it doesn’t share the stream of thoughts of the narrator, as do other modernists such as Joyce and Woolf, or even the great nineteenth century novelists. This creates distance between the reader and the main character, instead of the identification that would lead us, the reader, to root for him, or even sympathize with him very much.

Now more than halfway through ISOLT, I’m not sure I can even identify what the protagonist’s main problem is - what is he trying to solve, or to achieve? What is he searching or struggling for? Where is the main tension or dilemma of the novel? I don’t see it yet, and that concerns me.

For the record, I still love the book, from the texture of the prose to the long unexpected digressions. I just wish I could know Marcel better. Let’s see if this issue gets resolved - or exasperated - in the upcoming volumes. ( )
  viscount | Jan 4, 2021 |
הרביעי הלך בקלות ( )
  amoskovacs | Dec 25, 2020 |
This was a really good one. My dude sure had some shit to work out
  theodoram | Apr 7, 2020 |
Loved. Plan to reread and reread again. Need some time to digest, so I can write something more thoughtful. ( )
  Robert_Musil | Dec 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (43 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proust, Marcelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berges, ConsueloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cornips, ThérèseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enright, D. J.Translation revisionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, TerenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raboni, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott Moncrieff, C. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturrock, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuomikoski, InkeriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallquist, GunnelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Since the original, prewar translation there has been no completely new rendering of the French original into English. This translation brings to the fore a more sharply engaged, comic and lucid Proust. IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME is one of the greatest, most enjoyable reading experiences in any language. As the great story unfolds from its magical opening scenes to its devastating end, it is the Penguin Proust that makes Proust accessible to a new generation. Each book is translated by a different, superb translator working under the general editorship of Professor Christopher Prendergast.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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