Proust & Me contributing writer Nicholas During describes himself as "very fortunate to work at The New York Review Books." He says he, "enjoys reading all of their books and you should too!"
My step-dad is a philosophy professor and when I was a kid he became interested in memory. First his focus was how people remember the Holocaust, and later he came to Proust. Bear in mind, he's from Australia and was taught French by a WWII vet who'd learnt it during the war, and was hardly a Francophile. All of a sudden, he bought three different complete English translations of À la recherche du temps perdu. And also the complete book read aloud on cassette tapes (this was a while back). As anyone who has bought and listened to audio books can tell you they are surprising long. A normal–length book often comes to ten CDs, and even more hours. I don't remember how many Proust tapes there were, but needless to say, it was a lot. Keeping the tapes in order was a feat itself.
We would listen to it on family trips or just during a normal day on much shorter distances. Since I wasn't always in the car I would often come into the story being hours out of the narrative. It never really mattered and I never felt I missed anything. The settings of the cassette player were such that once the side ended it automatically switched to the other side. I didn't notice. During a long trip I would lose attention and stop listening to the words, and then a bit later refocus and start paying attention again and I never felt like I had missed the context of what was going on. Characters would come in and go out and it seemed so natural. I often wasn't sure what time the narrator was talking about, but it never bothered me. I've always felt like it could have gone on forever. That you could put the tapes on when you got in your car, let someone else borrow it for the weekend, and keep on listening where they left off. That once you got to the end of however many tapes there were you could just start at the beginning again. And if the order was completely messed up, or you lost some, or the tape unspooled, then you could do without one of the tapes and the story would still take you while driving down the road.
Nicholas During is the manager of Marketing and Sales at New York Review Books. He also likes to read Proust and eat French patisseries.
Air France is a proud sponsor of 2013: A Year with Proust, a year long festival organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
Cultural Services of the French Embassy
972 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10075
28 Cornelia Street, New York