Edward Behrens

Remembrance of Things Present

Gate of Lilacs: A Verse Commentary on Proust

By

Picador 75pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Gate of Lilacs is, in Clive James’s words, a ‘quinzaine of rhapsodies’: a poem of fifteen parts in blank verse that is also a critical essay on Proust. ‘His book,’ says James, ‘big for a book, is still small for a world.’ This awareness of scale is, perhaps, what makes James able to present the apparently vast world of Proust in such condensed form. It is an unabashedly personal response to a novel of asthmatically breathtaking self-obsession.

This is not a poem that plods through the plot of A la recherche du temps perdu to offer a boiled-down version of the story. In a novel so alive to time (and a poem so interested in its running out) what would be the point? James picks out the characters, the motifs and the moments that set his memory ablaze, just as Marcel was able to conjure such visions from a tisane-infused madeleine.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,