On Proust and Procrastination

Ok, let’s get started. With a title like ‘On Proust and Procrastination’ you might be expecting some Earth-shattering insights on Proust and life in general, but unfortunately, you’ll probably be disappointed – for which I’m sorry.

I started reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time this year and had initially intended to set up a blog to keep a record of it and to get some feedback from others who would, no doubt, know what they were talking about more than me; but I joined a GoodReads reading group which fulfilled most of my Proustian requirements and so blogging about it became less urgent. But now I’m just starting the sixth volume, The Fugitive, and I’m starting to regret not setting this up when I started the book, as I’d intended. Inertia is the main reason for not doing this along with all the other little worries connected with such a project, such as: What to call it? Have I got anything to say? Have I got enough to say? Can I spell? Can I use the correct grammar when listing a series of questions? I’m still unsure of the answers to most of these questions but on reading volume four (Sodom and Gomorrah) of In Search of Lost Time I came across the section titled The Intermittencies of the Heart which I thought, with a slight adjustment, would make a great name for a blog, especially as I can’t imagine my posts being anything other than intermittent. I also found out that The Intermittencies of the Heart was an early contender for the title of the whole novel; it’s one I think he should have kept.

Whilst I was busy procrastinating I kept thinking of a quote by Henry Miller on writing and writer’s block. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find it in an old notebook of quotes that I’ve kept and by looking online but I’ve had no luck. The most obvious place that it could be is in the book Henry Miller on Writing; but I’m confident that I’ve never read that book, so until I can find the actual quote, which will probably bear no relation to what I remember, I’ll have to paraphrase it from memory: Henry Miller said that he had never had writer’s block and that other writers suffered from it when they were trying to start a book with a perfect sentence, which stops them from writing anything. What Miller did was to just start typing anything, this would get the words flowing and then you could just edit out all the waffle at the beginning and end up with something publishable. So I’ve followed Henry’s advice, but I’ve left all the waffling in. In future I promise to edit my posts a bit more thoroughly….





Filed under Fiction, Proust, Marcel

6 responses to “On Proust and Procrastination

  1. yodcha

    I completed Proust not long ago. I plan to start rereading it in the first quarter of 2015. Proust’s Library by Anka Muhlstein is a fascinating look at how Proust makes reading a very important part of his characters lives. It also shows some of the literary roots of Proust. I am now reading the Human Comedy and once I finish that I will start in on rereading Proust.


    • Jonathan

      I just started the final volume today. I’ve really enjoyed reading Proust and I can see why many people end up re-reading ISOLT. I’m aiming to read a biography of Proust once I’ve finished ISOLT as well as a few other books about Proust. I may even re-read parts of ‘Swann’s Way’ straight off, but I’ll leave a complete re-read for the future. Have you read much on Proust since finishing ISOLT?


  2. yodcha

    I have read William C. Carter’s biography of Proust. All you might want to know on Proust and then some. I also highly recommend a biography of C. K. Scott Moncrieff by his grand niece Jean Finlay. On my next read might read the Lydia Davis version of Volume One.


    • Jonathan

      Yes, the Carter bio is the one I’ll tackle and it will probably be the first I’ll read on becoming a ‘Proust graduate’. There are other Proust books that have caught my eye but I’m not sure which ones to read first. The Moncrieff biography looks interesting but that won’t be a priority.

      I’ve switched between MKE and Penguin translations – both have their pros and cons. Did you read in English? Was it MKE or the original Moncrieff version?


  3. yodcha

    I read Proust in the Moncrieff translations. Volume one I read in a corrected and annotated version by William Carter. Here if I may is a link to my post on the biography of Moncrieff


    I sadly do not read French.


    • Jonathan

      Thanks for the link to your post yodcha. It definitely looks like an interesting book. For English readers of Proust, Moncrieff’s name is inextricably linked with the author. I’ve read most of ISOLT in the MKE version and it reads beautifully. I’ve just started the last volume, which Moncrieff didn’t have time to translate, and think I may switch to the Penguin translation.


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