Swann's Way

Critical reception

In Search of Lost Time is considered the definitive modern novel by many scholars. It has had a profound effect on subsequent writers such as the Bloomsbury Group.[9] "Oh if I could write like that!" marveled Virginia Woolf in 1922 (2:525).

Literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that In Search of Lost Time is now "widely recognized as the major novel of the twentieth century."[10] Vladimir Nabokov, in a 1965 interview, named the greatest prose works of the 20th century as, in order, "Joyce's Ulysses, Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Bely's Petersburg, and the first half of Proust's fairy tale In Search of Lost Time."[11] J. Peder Zane's book The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, collates 125 "top 10 greatest books of all time" lists by prominent living writers; In Search of Lost Time is placed eighth.[12] In the 1960s, Swedish literary critic Bengt Holmqvist described the novel as "at once the last great classic of French epic prose tradition and the towering precursor of the 'nouveau roman'", indicating the sixties vogue of new, experimental French prose but also, by extension, other post-war attempts to fuse different planes of location, temporality and fragmented consciousness within the same novel.[13] Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon has called it his favorite book.[14]

Proust's influence (in parody) is seen in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust (1934), in which Chapter 1 is entitled "Du Côté de Chez Beaver" and Chapter 6 "Du Côté de Chez Tod."[15] Waugh did not like Proust: in letters to Nancy Mitford in 1948, he wrote, "I am reading Proust for the first time ...and am surprised to find him a mental defective" and later, "I still think [Proust] insane...the structure must be sane & that is raving."[16]

Since the publication in 1992 of a revised English translation by The Modern Library, based on a new definitive French edition (1987–89), interest in Proust's novel in the English-speaking world has increased. Two substantial new biographies have appeared in English, by Edmund White and William C. Carter, and at least two books about the experience of reading Proust have appeared by Alain de Botton and Phyllis Rose. The Proust Society of America, founded in 1997, has three chapters: at The Mercantile Library of New York City,[17] the Mechanic's Institute Library in San Francisco,[18] and the Boston Athenæum Library.

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