Pleasures and Days

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Hesperus Classics, 2004 - Fiction - 173 pages
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A stunning volume of philosophical reflections, short narratives, and prose poems, Pleasures and Days provides an early glimpse into Proust’s genius as a collector of exquisitely poignant sensations and recollections. Set amid the salon society of fin-du-siècle Paris, these sketches and short stories depict the lives, loves, manners, and motivations of a host of characters, all viewed with a famously knowing eye. By turns cuttingly satirical and bitterly moving, Proust’s portrayals are layered with imagery and feeling—whether they be of the aspiring Bouvard and Pécuchet, the deluded Madame de Breyves, or of Baldassare Silvande, steeped in memories, regret, and final understanding at the end of his life. Novelist Marcel Proust was a prominent figure in the French salons of the late 19th century; he is best remembered for his seven-volume masterpiece In Search of Lost Time.

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In the Shadow is the second installment in Penguin's popular new translation of Proust's masterwork, In Search of Lost Time . Pleasures is a collection of short stories and character sketches. Read full review

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Proust is one of the seminal figures in modern literature, matched only in stature by Joyce, Woolf, Mann and Kafka. By the last decade of the 19th century, the charming and ambitious Proust, born into a wealthy bourgeois family, was already a famous Paris socialite who attended the most fashionable salons of the day. The death of his parents in the early years of the 20th century, coupled with his own increasingly ill health, made of Proust a recluse who confined himself to his cork-lined bedroom on the Boulevard Haussmann. There he concentrated on the composition of his great masterpiece, Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27). In recent years, it was discovered that he had already prepared a first draft of the work in the 1890s in Jean Santeuil, which was only published posthumously in 1952. Remembrance of Things Past resists summary. Seeming at turns to be fiction, autobiography, and essay, Remembrance is a vast meditation on the relationship between time, memory, and art. In it the narrator, who bears the same first name as the author, attempts to reconstruct his life from early childhood to middle age. In the process, he surveys French society at the turn of the century and describes the eventual decline of the aristocracy in the face of the rising middle class. The process of reconstruction of Marcel's past life is made possible by the psychological device of involuntary memory; according to this theory, all of our past lies hidden within us only to be rediscovered and brought to the surface by some unexpected sense perception. In the final volume of the work, the narrator, who has succeeded in recapturing his past, resolves to preserve it through the Work of Art, his novel. He died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Andrew Brown is a journalist who writes extensively for the Guardian, the Independent, and the Daily Mail. He is the author of two acclaimed books: Watching the Detectives and The Darwin Wars.

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