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The Tricks of Time: Are We who We Were?

Intimidation is not the only word that comes to mind when you have six (6) volumes in front of you.  After all, were this manga, it would be a mere afternoon's read.  That this set is highly regarded as a masterpiece in world literature is what prevented me from trying to read Marcel Proust's, In Search of Lost Time, all these years.

Thankfully, our local libraries now carry extensive graphic novels as this genre continues to grow and Stephane Heuet & Arthur Goldhammer's version has been a delight to read, giving a glimpse of what treasures are truly in store for those who carve out some time to read ... about the tricks that time plays on our memories. 

In the beginning, we find Combray having listless nights although he retires to bed early.  For whatever reason, he is trying to remember his past, but is unable to go beyond the moment he was a boy and his unhappiness at being left out of adult dinners and conversations.

Proust boy

One day though, the simplest event triggers his memory and thus begins his search down this long past that was fully his but has since been lost.  

Proust Madeleine

"Where might that powerful pleasure come from?  I felt that, while it was linked to the taste of the tea and the cake, it utterly transcended them and must have been of a different nature.  Clearly, the truth I was after was not the taste but in me.  The taste awakened it ... I was compelled to taste it again ten times over ... Would this memory, this moment of the past, rise to the surface of my conscious mind?"

Proust remembers

And so we are ushered into not just his personal story, but even those of the people around him. From what I've gathered, there are some 2,000 people recalled in this world and we are given detail and depth into their lives through their interactions, learning intimately about upper and upper middle class values, constraints and life in general in 19th century France and a glimpse of the working class through their lens.

In the same volume, he will use other devices to trigger memory.  One of the narrator's great heroes, the upper class Charles Swann which people love to speak ill of due to his lifestyle and choice of wife, has his memory aroused through music while the narrator will himself once again be entranced, but this time by the mere sound of names, whether people or places which give rise to fully formed memories. 

 Combray Paris Proust

Beautifully illustrated complete with a character guide in the back, I think I am ready to tackle the real thing.  If I am honest with myself though, I hope Huete and Goldhammer will continue to work on the rest of the volumes in the set.  

Proust Eulalie

Have you been working on anything creative lately?