By anybody’s reckoning, reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is an ambitious endeavour. The text itself takes some getting used to, with it’s seemingless endless series of subordinate clauses and cascading phrases. Yet, in a good translation, it’s still quite easy to make sense of it all.
The greatest difficulty I have found in reading Proust is that the text becomes so easy and fluid to read, and the nature of the content, about remembering and recreating events in the narrator’s past, that my mind wanders through its own reminescences, finding comparisons and contrasts, recalling other books and stories, and generally becoming lost in a world of memory.
Keeping track of what is actually happening, though there isn’t much, as such, does require continued concentration, and when my mind wanders, as it does often, I need to reread paragraphs or pages. Conscious that this was happening, I sought a project to keep me actively reading the text, so I don’t find in the future that I just read pages 2700-2800, for example, without any recollection of what just happened.
And so, based on the regularity of progress in the text, about on the scale of a page, and considering the amount of time and effort that I could realistically devote to a project, while looking for something that would help me actively engage with the text, not only in terms of surface meaning, but also in terms of contextualising, understanding, and synthesising my text-provoked daydreams, and considering types of text I have experience with and enjoy, I decided that I should write a short haiku-like piece for each page of text, such that reading the haiku series should evoke both the content and feel of the text, in ways that connect with the impressionistic style of the text, despite the brevity of the form used.
There is of course an obvious contrast between what may be the longest sentences ever published and one of the shortest textual forms, and that dissonance flavours the project tastily.
Beginning with Swann’s Way and working through to Time Regained, I intend to write these short texts, as an exercise for myself and for the edification of any interested reader. If nothing else, 3500-odd haiku could be less taxing to read than the pages of the book. Or perhaps not.
I have a few comments to make about the form of my pieces and the translation I am working from, among other things, but soon the first text will be making its way from the pencilled margins of the books to this blog.