Proust's classic novel Swann's Way is the first entry in his acclaimed series: Remembrance of Things Past, also known as In Search of Lost Time.
Originally written and published in 1909, this premier entry in Proust's series contains some of the finest prose fiction Proust ever authored. Although lengthy, no sacrifice is made with the signature style Proust had cultivated by the time he commenced Swann's Way - recollections are written relentlessly, of places, names, items and other such paraphernalia of life.
The narrator gradually builds up a plot surrounding his own life and activities. The titular character, Charles Swann is an associate of the narrator's family who receives particular interest in the story. The first scene recounts a dinner in which Swann was in attendance, noting his characteristics. By stages, a compelling story unfolds with Swann's affections for the former courtesan Odette de Crecy explored.
As compared with other, later, entries in the Remembrance series, Swann's Way is a much more standalone novel. It is the part most often published as a distinct work, and recommended as an introduction both to Proust's series and the rest of his writings. Artistically well-informed, Proust imbues this book with classical musical references that serve to enrich both the tone and plot.
This acclaimed translation from the original French is by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Since first appearing in the 1920s, it has served as a popular and abiding rendition responsible for elevating Proust's fame and reputation among English speaking audiences.
Relax: it's fantastic. There's no question that Davis's American English is thinner and more literal than C.K. Scott Montcrieff's archaically inflected turns of phrase and idioms, at least as revised by Terence Kilmartin and later by D.J. Enright. The removal of some of the familiar layers of the past in this all-new translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned: the colors seem sharper and momentarily disorienting. Yet many readers will find it exhilarating, allowing the text to shed slight airs that were not quite Proust's and making many of the jokes much more immediate (as when he implies that sense-organ atrophy in the bourgeois is a defense mechanism and the result of hardening unarticulated feelings). As accomplished translator and novelist Davis (The End of the Story) notes in her foreword, she has followed Proust's sentence structure as closely as possible "in its every aspect," including punctuation, word order and word choice. To take just one case, where Montcrieff/Kilmartin describe Mlle. Vinteuil finding it pleasant to metaphorically "sojourn" in sadism, Davis has the much more definitive "emigrate." Proust's psychological inquiry generally feels much sharper, giving a much more palpable sense of Freud and Bergson and of the young Marcel's willful (if not malefic) manipulations of those around him. For first-timers who don't have French and are allergic to the slightest whiff of euphemism, this is the best means for traveling the way by Swann's. BOMC, Reader's Subscription and Insightout Book Club; 4-city translator tour.