The Guermantes Way

By Marcel Proust, Christopher Prendergast

4.3 - ratings 7,770

After the relative intimacy of the first two volumes of In Search of Lost Time, The Guermantes Way opens up a vast, dazzling landscape of fashionable Parisian life in the late nineteenth century, as the narrator enters the brilliant, shallow world of the literary and aristocratic salons. Both a salute to, and a devastating satire of a time, place, and culture, The Guermant After the relative intimacy of the first two...

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May 31st 2005 by Penguin Classics

(first published 1920)

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Quotes From "The Guermantes Way"

"We may, indeed, say that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say so we represent that hour to ourselves as situated in a vague and remote expanse of time, it never occurs to us that it can have any connexion with the day that has already dawned, or may signify that death — or its first assault and partial possession of us, after which it will never leave hold of us again — may occur this very afternoon, so far from uncertain, this afternoon every hour of which has already been allotted to some occupation. You make a point of taking your drive every day so that in a month’s time you will have had the full benefit of the fresh air; you have hesitated over which cloak you will take, which cabman to call, you are in the cab, the whole day lies before you, short because you have to be at home early, as a friend is coming to see you; you hope that it will be as fine again to-morrow; and you have no suspicion that death, which has been making its way towards you along another plane, shrouded in an impenetrable darkness, has chosen precisely this day of all days to make its appearance, in a few minutes’ time, more or less, at the moment when the carriage has reached the Champs-Elysées."
"A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves."
"It is illness that makes us recognize that we do not live in isolation but are chained to a being from a different realm, worlds apart from us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might manage to make him conscious of his own personal interest if not our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like talking to an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the sea, and with which we should be terrified to find ourselves condemned to live."
"Unkindness is inspired by hatred, anger fuels it into action in which there is no great joy; it would take sadism to turn it into something pleasurable; unkind people imagine themselves to be inflicting pain on someone equally unkind."
"Each of us is indeed alone."
"A person does not, as I had imagined, stand motionless and clear before our eyes with his merits, his defects, his plans, his intentions with regard to ourselves (like a garden at which we gaze through a railing with all its borders spread out before us), but is a shadow which we can never penetrate, of which there can be no such thing as direct knowledge, with respect to which we form countless beliefs, based upon words and sometimes actions, neither of which can give us anything but inadequate and as it proves contradictory information — a shadow behind which we can alternately imagine with equal justification, that there burns the flame of hatred and of love."
"She was not yet dead. But I was already alone."
"But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing in front of an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the tides, and with which we should be appalled to find ourselves condemned to live."

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