À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu is a Septology by Marcel Proust with the first part being Du Côté De Chez Swann which itself has 4 parts- Combray I, Combray II, and Noms De Pays: Le Nom which features both the famous Madeline incident and a self contained novella, Un Amour De Swann that features the romance of Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy.
If you read it in order it can easily seem an “endless collection of memories and philosophizing or melancholic episodes” and can be quite a chore, especially in the original French (didn’t really like The Forsyte Saga either) but the Madeline incident is one of the cultural touchstones that you need to know to appear educated. It turns out this nostalgic rambling is precipitated by the sight of a Madeline, basically a small sponge cake in the shape of a scallop. What makes it a work of art is the attention to detail and the philosophizing which is considered profound.
But Wait! There’s More!
It is certainly long. The initial part is generally considered 4 novels worth of content so- 4. The next part was À L’ombre Des Jeunes Filles En Fleurs, that’s 5. The 3rd part overall but the 6th and 7th in our count is Le Côté De Guermantes I and Le Côté De Guermantes I. Likewise Sodome et Gomorrhe, Part 4, is 2 books- Sodome Et Gomorrhe I and Sodome Et Gomorrhe II, Books 8 and 9. Parts 5 and 6 are collectively known as Le Roman d’Albertine but are universally counted separately, Part 5 (Book 10) is La Prisonnière and Part 6 (Book 11) is La Fugitive. The final volume (Part 7, Book 11), <(Le Temps Retrouvé, was written at the same time as Du Côté De Chez Swann but updated as additional material was added.
What? This isn’t the All England Summarizing Proust Competition?
Our boys are back in town having been away during a week when much happened. They certainly had plenty of time to do something special. Let’s see what made the cut shall we?
Was that memorable? I’m hungry. Think I’ll find me a cookie.