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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Is Marcel Proust the twentieth century's answer to Henry James?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (34067points) June 23rd, 2017

I’m finishing Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and I’m struck by how similar he is in some respects to Henry James. I’ve always thought James was a little more modern or forward-thinking than many nineteenth century writers.

Proust is very cerebral in many of the same ways that I found James to be very internal. Proust is perhaps more interested in what is going on in the mind of his narrator while James is more interested in revealing what’s going on inside by telling us what’s not happening between the characters.

Both writers have long passages of very good description whether of the environment or the characters. Proust uses a great deal more internal dialogue than James, but I’m finding their styles to be quite similar.

Am I imagining this? I’m really finding Proust to be an extension of James or a further growth from what James started.

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7 Answers

janbb's avatar

Sorry – have only read some of James a while ago and none of Proust although he’s on my bucket list. You’ll have to wait for my response but I’m also thinking they sounds a bit like George Eliot too who does a lot of internal description.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’ve only read Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I fell in love with, and I do see the similarity. Thank you. That gives me more to think about.

janbb's avatar

I’ve read that and Daniel Deronda which was interesting but very slow because of the pages of description of thought and motivation.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I think I have Mill on the Floss lurking in the depths of my overburdened Kindle. I may dredge it up next. I’m hoping to finish Proust this weekend. I’m also thinking of reading some James next. There are too many choices!

janbb's avatar

I’m rereading the second Barchester novel now – Dr Thorne. Not quite as good as Towers but delightful none the less.

For a long time I’d take a Dickens on a long trip because it would last the whole trip but I’ve read almost all of his.

Jeruba's avatar

I wouldn’t have thought to compare James to Eliot. I’ve read five novels of George Eliot, most recently Adam Bede, and loved them. I found James generally unreadable, although I did get through Daisy Miller. Maybe if I’d gone farther with one of the longer novels, I’d see a comparison. Proust is on my not-yet list; I’m currently reading Chaucer and Bulgakov.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I thought the comparison was between Proust and Eliot.

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