Watch Monty Python’s “Summarize Proust Competition” on the 100th Anniversary of Swann’s Way

Mar­cel Proust’s Swan­n’s Way, the first vol­ume of In Search of Lost Time, appeared in 1913. This year, exact­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er, Proust enthu­si­asts, both indi­vid­u­al­ly and insti­tu­tion­al­ly, have found all man­ner of ways to cel­e­brate. The Mor­gan Library and Muse­um, for instance, put on an exhi­bi­tion of “a fas­ci­nat­ing selec­tion of the author’s note­books, pre­lim­i­nary drafts, gal­ley-proofs, and oth­er doc­u­ments from the col­lec­tion of the Bib­lio­thèque nationale de France” — lit­er­ar­i­ly seri­ous stuff. For a Proust cen­ten­ni­al expe­ri­ence equal­ly lit­er­ary but far less seri­ous, why not watch the Mon­ty Python sketch above depict­ing the “All-Eng­land Sum­ma­rize Proust Com­pe­ti­tion”?

The sit­u­a­tion presents the chal­lenge you’d expect: con­tes­tants must relate, in fif­teen sec­onds, the entire­ty of Proust’s sev­en-vol­ume mas­ter­work, “once in a swim­suit, and once in evening dress.” The attempt of one hap­less par­tic­i­pant, por­trayed by Gra­ham Chap­man, runs as fol­lows: “Proust’s nov­el osten­si­bly tells of the irrev­o­ca­bil­i­ty of time lost, the for­fei­ture of inno­cence through expe­ri­ence, the rein­stall­ment of extra-tem­po­ral val­ues of time regained. Ulti­mate­ly, the nov­el is both opti­mistic and set with­in the con­text of a humane reli­gious expe­ri­ence, re-stat­ing as it does the con­cept of atem­po­ral­i­ty. In the first vol­ume, Swann, the fam­i­ly friend, vis­its…” But ah, too long. Watch the whole thing and find out if Michael Pal­in’s char­ac­ter fares any bet­ter at sum­ma­riz­ing the unsum­ma­riz­able, and, this hap­pen­ing in Mon­ty Python’s real­i­ty, how quick­ly it will all cease to mat­ter any­way.

Works by Proust can be found in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Ani­mat­ed Film Tells the Life Sto­ry of Mon­ty Python’s Gra­ham Chap­man

John Cleese’s Eulo­gy for Gra­ham Chap­man: ‘Good Rid­dance, the Free-Load­ing Bas­tard, I Hope He Fries’

Mon­ty Python’s Best Phi­los­o­phy Sketch­es

Mon­ty Python Chan­nel Launch­es on Youtube

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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