In Search of Vinteuil

Music, Literature and a Self Regained

By James Holden

Positioning himself as an autobiographer, a literary critic, and a pianist, author James Holden presents an homage to Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). "One night I came across the recording of a piano work that I had composed whilst still at school. The strange thing was, I had no recollection of it whatsoever. As I sat and listened to it, it revealed to me, or so it seemed, a self that I had no connection with and a past that I had not lived." In Search of Vinteuil gains access to all of the lost and impossible experiences the musical piece pointed towards. The book turns to the passages in Proust's long novel that deal with music, focusing in particular on the descriptions of fictional composer Vinteuil's Sonata for Piano and Violin and Septet. Analysis reveals the role of memory in musical appreciation and music's ability to lay before us different worlds. Armed with this engagement, literary tools emerge to understand this personal uncanny experience and how to respond to it. After an original critical response to both Proust's novel and those classical works where themes of memory, lost chances, music, and piano predominate, Holden moves from the role of literary critic to amateur pianist, as he describes his first proper return to the keyboard in almost a decade, and his hesitant steps towards the composition of a new work. This musical experience finally promises to bring out the psychological mechanisms inherent in the acts of listening to and playing music. In Search of Vinteuil is a highly original and compelling work, representing a significant contribution to literary scholarship.


167 pages

Publication Date: 8/1/2010
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9781845193201