By Sharon Girard
“For a long time I used to go to bed early.” Thus begins the 4,000 plus page masterpiece In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Some readers are lost after 50 pages. Others, bewildered and perhaps bothered, soldier on through to the end; they find themselves so thoroughly bewitched that they are compelled to return—to begin the whole novel again from page one. The work is called a “novel.” True, it is a kind of a novel; it has plot and characters. However, with its reflections on art, its capture of the social and political kaleidoscope, its hothouse of transgression and, most of all, its journey through inner landscapes, it actually is a vast epic that breaks the boundaries of categories and labels. Readers become hooked by the outrageous comedy, irony and love—now confused, now of pristine clarity, now philosophical, now knifelike and edgy, now rapturous. Rereading Proust can be a lifetime pleasure. Readers become as addicted to the work as its narrator is to his quest for knowledge in love, art and society, and for learning the truth through memory and metaphor.
But, it’s a hard book. Marcelle Clements of NYU advises the beginner in her article “How to Read a Hard Book” that, “Many readers never get past the first 50 pages. They drift away…But you can’t understand the beginning…if you haven’t read the end.” Her ultimate counsel to the beginner: read quickly; don’t get derailed by a puzzle or discouraged in thickets that you don’t yet understand. You will. If you stick with it, there are life-changing rewards in store for you. The Proust Center, dedicated to the celebration and study of the life, times and work of Marcel Proust, has found a home at the historical Jefferson Market Library. The author himself would easily have expatiated for 100 pages on the architecture and the secrets embedded in its walls and stained glass windows.
Throughout the year, the Center will sponsor Proust-related events including lectures, musical performance, reading groups and celebrations. The first event takes place on Wednesday July 11, 2018—one day after Proust’s 147th birthday. Expect toasts at this inaugural and celebratory event.
2018 Center events:
- July 11th: Open House celebrating The Proust Center and Proust’s 147th birthday, with Marcelle Clements speaking on “Four Writing Lessons from Marcel Proust.”
- August 8th: Proust at the Movies: Documentary, “Marcel Proust: A Writer’s Life.”
- September 12th: The Dedication of The Boni Salon, with Anka Muhlstein.
- October 10th: Caroline Weber’s new book “Proust’s Duchess” (Discussion and book signing.)
- December 12th: Concert “Music Regained,” with soprano Kate Hurney.
All events are free but registration is required to guarantee a seat. Register online or in person.
In person: Jefferson Market Library—625 Ave of the Americas @ 10th St., 2nd floor.
All events are scheduled for 6-7:30 pm. After check-in of registrants, unclaimed seats will be released to people waiting.