Summarize Proust

I stumbled upon this attempt to summarize Proust here:

Monty Python of course have a famous sketch about this:

The premise of the sketch is that it is absurd to summarize Proust, either in a swimsuit or in evening dress. This isn’t because he is unsummarizable (sorry for making up my own words) but more because the whole point of Proust is taken to be the long sentences, the fact that it is so bloody long. ‘Proustian’ has popularly come to mean ‘long and circumlocatory’ rather than ‘vivid and intricate’ which would be closer to my idea of the concept. A sort of forensic lyricality. In the popular imagination, though, Proust = long and therefore summary = silly. The sketch is very funny though.

One summary of Proust that always makes me laugh is Max Untold, quoted by Walter Benjamin in his essay ‘The Image of Proust’:

Proust managed to make the pointless story interesting. He says: ‘Imagine, dear reader, yesterday I was dunking a cookie in my tea when it occurred to me that as a child I spent some time in the country.’ For this he used eighty pages…

(Walter Benjamin, ‘The Image of Proust’ in Illuminations, Pimlico 1999, p. 200)

Anyway, it’s now a hundred years since Proust began to write his work. You can celebrate by following a Proust course on Twitter at the moment – Proust 101. Or you could, you know, read the book.


2 thoughts on “Summarize Proust

  1. Johanna…
    I love your work on Proust over at BookDrum. Friends have urged me to make a book there, but I’m already deep into the creation of a reference blog as background for a Proust reading group that I lead See us over here! (me, 2nd from left, with the hardcover). I must say, it’s such enormous fun! And a great way to learn. Anyway, thought you — of all people — would appreciate this. Renée


    1. Thanks, Renée. If you’re on Facebook, you and your reading group can ‘like’ my Proust profile (hint, hint… it isn’t getting much love, for some reason).

      A Proust reading group is a brilliant idea, and the work you have done on your blog is simply stunning. I should crack on with the other volumes really!


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