A friend gave me, as a graduation present, the box set of A la recherche du temps perdu. I began the first volume on the long drive from Texas to California, but was distracted by other books for a while and only over the past month dove fully into and finished Swann’s Way. The word I find I want to use, and I’m sure has been used before, is virtuosic. There is such a fine balance of construction within each section, and within the sections as they compound into the whole work, with which I am enamored; an underlying structure of thematics which, just as Swann & Odette’s love-theme appears throughout their relationship, seems to play out at various magnifications and degrees of unity across the whole work. I am anxious to see how the themes are parlayed into the other books.
For now, though, having finished the first volume, I am particularly interested in the way Proust treats homosexuality, as I was a bit surprised to find lesbianism portrayed so blatantly in the first volume. I was under the impression that Proust waited until the fourth volume to depict the lascivious underworld of homosexuality, having read some while ago a review that decried so few people reading past the pleasantries of Swann’s Way and never getting to the grittier reality of the later volumes, including the scenes of gay cruising in Sodom and Gomorroh. What is interesting about these early depictions of homosexuality is their carefully layered inversions, which confuse the possibility of making the “correct” moral judgements, and indeed make “correct” a rather ambiguous term whose initial social grounding gives way to a paradoxical construction.