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Reading Groups

Advanced Proust II with Lila Azam Zanganeh

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Third Tuesday of Every Month Tuesdays, 5:00 pm EDT - 6:30 pm EDT September 19, 2023 to June 18, 2024

Online via Zoom

The ‘With Book’ option includes a copy of Within a Budding Grove at a 10% discount.

Though attendance in last year’s course is not a requirement, it is recommended that participants have already read Swann’s Way before joining the group.

“An open book is time regained,” wrote Bernard de Fallois, a legendary French editor and Proustian who, upon dying in 2018, released a trove of previously unpublished Proust stories and caused an earthquake in the field. Marcel Proust, beginning with Swann’s Way (the first of his seven volumes), and continuing with Within a Budding Grove—the book at hand this coming September—points the way to the sensual and mysterious nature of time. Time is evanescent, and yet may, at any moment, loop back around itself. Within a Budding Grove goes on weaving the cycle of time, enriching it with the myriad chords and colors of desire (for a girl, a seascape, a painting.) Desire, Proust tells us, is the prime mover of the imagination and its secret golden lining. An inquiry into both the labyrinth of youth and the prismatic sheen of first love, Within a Budding Grove tells us how, against all odds, time is a gift if we know to become its lover.

These next ten sessions will focus primarily on Within a Budding Grove. Students will actively discuss the second volume over the course of 10 sessions within a single year. Roughly fifty pages will be discussed per live session, paying particular attention to narrative texture, intent, and tenor.

The class, in its beginnings and entirety, will allow participants to fully experience the essence of the Proustian: from the sensorial, and quietly cataclysmic, experience of the madeleine to the epiphany of the loose paving stone and the great, final ball of the Guermantes. We will also delve into each extraordinary character (biographical or not): the narrator himself, Swann, Odette, Saint-Loup, Madame Verdurin, and many others whose affect and vision deeply influenced our perception of modern sensibility. We will examine the acumen with which Proust describes the fracturing of the French social structure in response to the Dreyfus Affair, as well as his groundbreaking exploration of the versatile, at times perverse, nature of love.

Students are encouraged to use Moncrieff’s translation for ease and consistency within the group.

What to expect from this reading group: Students will actively discuss the second volume, paying particular attention to narrative texture, intent, and tenor.

Students should read the first fifty pages ahead of the first class. Roughly fifty pages will be discussed per session, and the instructor will be in touch with the group ahead of each session to indicate which particular passages the session will focus on.


Led By

  • Lila Azam Zanganeh

    Lila Azam Zanganeh

    Lila Azam Zanganeh

    Lila Azam Zanganeh was born in Paris to Iranian parents. After studying literature and philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, she moved to the United States to teach literature and cinema at Harvard University. She has contributed criticism, interviews and essays to a host of publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Le Monde, La Repubblica, and the Paris Review. Her first book, The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness, was the recipient of the 2011 Roger Shattuck Prize and was published worldwide in thirteen languages. Lila serves as a Director on the Board of Trustees for the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation and as a member of the Advisory Board of Libraries Without Border. She has also served as a judge for the Man Booker Prize and the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Her forthcoming novel, Exit Paradise, will be published in 2024.