SWANN’S WAY

I am reading Swann’s Way again. I have started Swann’s Way many times. The last time I got about 100 pages in. For some reason I always stop reading; then months or years later, I start again.

I first started Swann’s Way when I was seven. My parents had a copy with a cover that frightened me. The cover showed a man being elongated by forces far away. Or perhaps the forces changing the shape of his body were intrinsic to him. I wanted to read the book to find out about the forces acting on the man. I wanted to know about something far away that could also be in him. I moved my eyes along the words but couldn’t really make sense of them.

When I found another instance of the elongate man I tried reading the book again. This man was in our basement under a sheet; he lived in a painting my uncle had made. My dad said this man was their father who was dead. The man was in a wheelchair because he had a strange head. I tried reading the book to find out about the elongate man with the now-strange head but again I couldn’t understand the words though many were familiar to me.

Then later I found the man in another painting, that one by Edvard Munch, The Scream. This time I did not try to read the book again. Instead of reading the book I thought about reading the book. I decided the man was definitely elongating because of forces inside him, the same forces inside me.

And several more times after coming across the man I thought about starting the book again. Sophmore year of college the man helped me up after my bike slid on wet brick. He offered me a tissue for the blood coming from my head then hurried away through a narrow passage between buildings.

I saw him sitting on a bench in Barcelona.

I saw him pushing a shopping cart on the street.

I imagine the elongate man lives surrounded by curliques and narrow, twisted streets. He curls himself toward their ends.

I cannot find an image online of the version of Swann’s Way with the elongate man on the cover.

Then the Lydia Davis translation came out. Last summer I checked it out from the library and started it again. This time there were not so many curliques; the streets through which Swann moved were not curled and he was not elongate, just thin. I read maybe 100 pages before I stopped again.

Now I am beginning the Lydia Davis version again.