Proust’s great novel has been described as ‘a conspiracy against readers’. The course is designed for all who are resolved (or merely tempted) to embark on this voyage for themselves, offering a variety of useful charts and soundings, and a checklist of what to bring along as essential kit.


The course provides detailed knowledge of Proust’s own biography, essential to any understanding of his novel. Secondly, a series of interlocking summaries which make visible the hidden structures of the novel (settings, characters, plot). Thirdly: discussions of memory, class, comedy, the Jewish question, snobbery, sexuality, and the narrator’s view of Art as a ‘translation’ of life. Fourthly: some talk about those things Proust liked to talk about (Vermeer, Beethoven, Venice), exploring the digressive aspect of the novel.


The weekend will proceed with a consideration of Proust’s narrator: this new and unprecedented ‘I’, who moves so fluidly between the present of the narrator and the past of ‘Marcel’. By the end, you will be equipped for a solo encounter with The Search for Lost Time, the greatest novel-reading experience of them all.


Participants are asked to have read The Way by Swann’s.


Further Reading:

The Penguin Proust: In Search of Lost Time

1. The Way by Swann’s, translated by Lydia Davis

2. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve

3. The Guermantes Way, translated by Mark Treharne

4. Sodom and Gomorrah, translated by John Sturrock

5. The Prisoner and The Fugitive, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier

6. Finding Time Again, translated by Ian Patterson


Marcel Proust: A Life by Edmund White (Penguin)


The Telegraph/How To Academy seminars, in association with Waterstones and Penguin Classics, celebrate the art of reading and the craft of criticism. In this unique series, we ask authors to stand before a page rather than a podium, to share a private passion rather than give a public performance – and we ask readers to roll up their sleeves and participate. In the course of a day, or a weekend, you will be guided in small groups through the historical and biographical context of the work and shown how to unlock its meanings, release its power, and absorb the quality of its strangeness. These intimate events will take place in a private room in the congenial surroundings of Waterstone’s Piccadilly, in central London.




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