No one could likely value the pen and paper that I had handy more than myself after I began to turn the pages of ‘Swann’s Way’, the opening segment of Marcel Proust’s epic unless they had attempted to read it themselves. These scribbling tools I always have nearby in case of sudden literary inspiration, but more often to make note of things needed from the mall or the grocery store that might otherwise be forgotten. In this case, not many pages into part 1, I decided to jot down the numerous words I didn’t recognize or understand in order to find their meanings at my leisure.
I didn’t bother with the assorted and unfamiliar botanical or floral names I encountered, let alone the various art oriented references that act as a motif throughout the piece, but confined myself to more general words that might actually be used aloud when one wished perhaps to appear more intellectual than one actually was. Aphasiac, catechumen, crepuscular, integument, matutinal, neurasthenic, peripatetic, preterition and unctuous are a few actual examples. Such research is best done in batches, since in looking up each of these odd words in a dictionary or online, one loses one’s place on a page which may contain the continuation of a paragraph begun the page before and that continues on to the next, compelling one to retrace his or her ‘steps’ by going back to the beginning of a sentence that inexplicably could easily be or at least seem several times as long as this one, each time, just to put the newly deciphered word into context in an effort to glean the most precise meaning of the thought the author wished to convey.
I’ll read the whole tale. That much is a given, though I think it may be best done in batches as well and I may read something a little lighter and completely different next before continuing to plumb the depths of Proust’s unrestrained narrative.
*Wikipedia lists the total number of pages as 4215 with a word count of 1,267,069.