French Literature

This was originally meant to be a review of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, but….I am not going to finish it. At least, not yet. It is going back on my To Read list for now. I got about 25% of the way through it, and I just cannot get through it.

It is always extremely frustrating to me when I cannot finish a book–especially one that is on the Boxall’s list, as Proust is. I feel that I should push on through, these books are IMPORTANT for one reason or another, why am I not smart enough to understand them? And so, maybe, I read them for a little bit longer than I should. Maybe, I am just not ready for them, right now. I haven’t read enough of something else to get me to that point. My mind isn’t in the right place. I should just come back later. But I just have a really really hard time doing that. It messes up my perfectly organized book charts. And it’s hard to mark on Goodreads. Do I count it as read? Should it count towards the Boxall challenge and go on the list? UGH! It makes me crazy.

I am learning that there is a definite style difference (as opposed to English lit) that just does not appeal to me in French literature. Something in the sentence structure, maybe, I don’t know, but it is so hard for me to really focus in on the story. I don’t get immersed into the pages like I do with most other books. I seem to fight against the language–like a newly-awakened coma patient, fighting against the breathing tube. I am being forced into a rhythm that is unnatural to me.

I often find, too, that French lit seems to focus on the setting and environmental aspects that I don’t consider necessary. I think maybe that is why I often find the writing “shallow.” The clothes are so often mentioned, or in one book, it was all about people’s nails. What? Proust is just all over the place. He will be describing a situation, and then he will just go off on this philosophical tangent and I just cannot follow what is going on at all. There is just so little actual dialogue, so the books are very monotonal.

I think I’m going to add Swann’s Way to my chapter-by-chapter list (more on that later) and see how it goes at another time. I’m not writing it off completely, but I just can’t get through it right now.


What do you think about French literature? Any tricks to get through it? I know some people just LOVE Proust–Virginia Woolf was a huge fan, and so I feel like I’m missing something here.

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