Book review: Sodom & Gomorrah

In Search of Lost Time Volume IV: Sodom & Gomorrah by Marcel Proust.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So, this is volume four of Proust’s epic, and it marks the point of no return, or at least where the presence of the sunk cost fallacy begins to make itself felt.

(I must admit that it was at this point I began to question whether I’d actually finish the text. But having cut through the first couple of volumes, I figured the only way out was through, so ONWARDS.)

The usual preoccupations of Proust’s narrator are in force in Sodom and Gomorrah: meetings and gossip; conversations and daydreams. But as the title might lead you to expect, this is also the volume which features a whole lot of gay sex. Ruminations about, descriptions of – well, with some gauze drawn over, given that it is still early in the 20th century – homosexuality, lesbianism and ‘inverts’ (as Proust styles it) flow through this tome almost as freely as drinks at endless parties.

This is a good thing, however – rather than prurience it adds some bite to the proceedings. The narrator’s own sexuality hovers around the border, commiserating with other “inverts” and their inability to live in the open. At least, that’s at the outset – later on he takes great glee in describing Charlus’s behaviour like a gallic version of Withnail & I‘s Monty.

There’s a lot more humour in here than I had expected to find in Proust, and it’s broken up by the narrator’s overwhelming suspicions about Albertine’s putative lesbianism. He’s a shit of a man: he is jack of Albertine but can’t bear to think about her indulging herself so he decides marriage is the way to go, which – even for a bloke for whom terrible decisions and a lack of foresight are standard operating procedure – will prove a monumentally stupid idea.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s for the next volume. This one, it’s all gayness and grief, and further proof that the Marcel of the text (and by extension, the author) is one fucked up dude. It’s as beautifully observed and terribly edited as the rest of the book, but I feel the need to press on.

Sunk costs, eh.

My Goodreads profile is here.

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