Sleep and dreaming are important themes in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past; indeed the novel opens with Marcel, in his youth, remembering his difficulties in getting to sleep and with insomnia in general and his great need to receive a nightly goodnight kiss from his mother before going to sleep. The subject arises often throughout the rest of the novel.
I’ve excerpted three passages from the novel dealing with the subject, one from Swann’s Way and one each from The Guermantes Way and Cities of the Plain (which opens with an odd scatological passage); aside from presenting Proust’s thoughts on the subject it will, hopefully, entice readers into tackling the admittedly time consuming (no pun intended) task of reading the entire novel. It has perennially turned up (near the top) on lists of “great books of the 20th century” for well on the last one hundred years and is well worth the time and effort required to work your way through it; I’m just starting the final volume (of seven), Time Regained, and have enjoyed it immensely.
Page numbers, where indicated, refer to the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics edition (my reading copy for the third and fourth volumes and used to edit the 2nd and 3rd of our digital excerpts), based on the Pléiade text, 1954, translation copyright by Chatto & Windus and Random House, 1981, although our excerpts are taken from C.K. Scott Moncrieff’s original translation which is available for download (in seven volumes) from The University of Adelaide (e-Books@ Adelaide) in a mix of PDF and eBook formats (in French) and in eBook format, ePub & Kindle (in English).
The excerpt from Swann’s Way, which extends somewhat beyond Marcel’s reflections on sleep, opens the novel and is also from the C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation; it is available, all on one page, at http://alarecherchedutempsperdu.com/text.html. This page, which contains all 1.35 million words that constitute the novel will take some time to load. I’ve copied it and separated it into separate MS Word documents corresponding to the seven volumes and it is these that I’ve used in assembling my excerpts of Proust on this blog; this source still needs editing for scanning errors but is (for the most part) properly formatted for italics.
Continue reading then for some of Marcel Proust’s reflections on sleep.