Friday, March 1, 2013
This picture, The Grove, was completed by Vincent van Gogh in 1890. Marcel Proust was nineteen years old (he was about eighteen years van Gogh's junior). I'm reading the second volume of In Search of Lost Time; it has the title of Within a Budding Grove, so this painting seemed fitting (even though the book wasn't published until 1919 and the "budding grove" has to do with adolescent females, not trees).
I've been thinking so much about this book -- the whole thing, not just the individual volumes. When I added In Search of Lost Time to my reading list I had no idea of reading the whole thing -- I really just wanted to read the first volume so that I could say I'd read Proust. But, of course, I liked it in a strange and inexplicable way. Picking up the second volume I realize that this isn't a series. It's literally one long book, divided into separate volumes. It almost feels like he ended Swann's Way in the middle of a paragraph and picked it right up in Within a Budding Grove. Fortunately there has not been too much time lapsed, so I was able to pick this right up from where I'd stopped -- but I really think I almost need to read the whole thing before I go on to something else.
This is quite a commitment. All six books total over 4200 pages. Can you imagine, though, writing a novel that's over 4200 pages in length? Since making up my various reading lists, however, I approach books quite differently than I did before. I don't feel any pressure to finish anything -- only to read, to absorb, to enjoy, to inhabit. I don't care if it takes me nine months to read Proust -- it will be a remarkable nine months.