So, in a sentence, why read Proust?

Marcel Proust by Jacques-Emile Blanche, 1892.

If pressed to sum up in a single sentence the benefits of reading Proust, one might say that he consistently invites us to make improbable,  unlikely but hugely rewarding connections between things or thoughts that on the surface seem utterly unrelated. An obvious example is the Venetian sojourn in Albertine disparue, where Venice evokes memories of the narrator’s childhood in Combray. Read this, and it might well entirely change your way of looking things. Lost moments from your past may from then on be revived in the most unusual ways and in the most unexpected places. A wonderful book that amplifies this transformative quality is Paintings in Proust by Eric Karpeles. The hundreds of paintings referred to in À la recherche are reproduced alongside the relevant text with brief but informative notes by Karpeles. In the excerpt below, the narrator reveals unlikely but compelling common ground in Rembrandt, Carpaccio and Dostoevsky. This is the French edition, but Karpeles’ book is available in several languages.

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