Proust notes – Overture

A strange tone and temperament to this first part of Remembrance of Things Past. Marcel (narrator) is a boy too attached to his mother, and he is a keen observer of the goings on in his grandfather’s country house, where his elder relatives–mostly gasbags–sit around and comment on how one should and should not comment on people. Very interesting idea that this middle class family is like those of Hindu origin, sticking to its born-that-way caste system. Marcel is a strange but keen on M. Swann, a visitor to the house. Swann has married badly (to a prostitute) and has a daughter, and delights in visiting Marcel’s elders. He styles himself an art connoisseur and yet most of his traits are described by others, not Swann himself. He is one who is talked about, and young Marcel’s fascination with him seems to be shared by his parents and grandparents.

Late in the chapter an adult Marcel eats a madeleine cookie and his memory recreates Combray, the country town where the action takes place. It’s the part of Remembrance of Things Past known by people who haven’t read it—like Don Quixote and the windmills. But the entire Overture is a very funny start to this long novel.