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10) [In Search of Lost Time #4] Sodom and Gomorrah, by Marcel Proust

I'm more than half way through the seven-volume epic now, and sufficiently engaged to be sure that I will indeed finish it in due course. Sodom and Gomorrah puts homosexuality front and centre; at the very beginning, we discover that the monstrous Baron de Charlus is in fact perpetually on the lookout for attractive men; and throughout the second half of the book the narrator is tormented by the idea that his girlfriend Albertine is having affairs with her girlfriends. Proust is himself a gay but very closeted writer, putting words in the mouth of a heterosexual narrator who observes but is horrified by homosexuality, and for today's reader there is more of the fascination of watching the author's mental train wreck than the idea that we are learning anything.

There is other stuff going on as well. At first I was afraid that we would have yet more bitchy and superficial social events, but we have the interesting compare and contrast between two key relationships - the narrator and Albertine, and Baron de Charlus and the young plebeian musician Morel - which drives the narrative. There are a couple of interesting confrontations with modern technology - the elevator, the motor car, the aeroplane. There are reflections on art and how people respond to it (a discussion continued from earlier works). And the significance of placenames is a major sub-theme of the last third of the book. All quite fascinating, and yet again I feel will reward re-reading in due course.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 24th, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
Your review makes me want to read this tome like nothing else has. for today's reader there is more of the fascination of watching the author's mental train wreck than the idea that we are learning anything Very nicely put.
Dec. 24th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
I've been feeling the same way. I've avoided it for years, but suddenly I'm tempted.
Dec. 24th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
I've avoided it for years, but suddenly I'm tempted.

What, mental train wrecks, or Proust?
Dec. 24th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
Mostly Proust.

I'm hoping the train wreck chunk of my life is behind me, at least for a week or two...
Jan. 18th, 2008 12:25 pm (UTC)
Reading backwards
Ah, I see, you did finish.

I actually saw the place names as not really a theme but more of a texture, like the stuff about miliatary strategies in Guermantes and the bits he'd throw in about scientific stuff (the flower and the moths, remember?) he's pulling in now in S&G. I feel like it was stuff he'd learned about and wanted to mention in his books because he found it interesting and it added fresh flavors and new ways of talking about stuff, very important for a man who loathed using stale metaphors.

I think the themes of this book were ... well, the way that people lie about themselves to each other and then are clueless to how people actually see them. This was a big deal for the Baron, but the narrator sadly has almost no ability to tell how others see him - at the very end, he mentions hurting a friend's feelings because he's turned down his invite to talk with his father (but is thorght to be snobbish when in fact it's jealousy that's driving him) and also says he thinks Albertine knows it was fear of her having lesbian relations that is driving him to want to be with her - but mostly there's not much self-reflection. What other themese are there? Hmm, I will need to reflect ...

And I think you're safe to read the Alan de Bottom book as it really gives away no plot. Shall I mail it to you?
Jan. 18th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Reading backwards
Oooh, yes, please, if that's OK. My contact details are here.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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