I don’t think there’s much doubt that CP Snow really wanted people to compare him to Proust. He drops Proust’s name into the narrative now and again as if to remind us and somewhere I read that a woman had told him he was the best writer since Proust. The first time I came across Snow, Marcel Proust was just a name to me: like everyone else I’d heard about the madeleines and the memories. But now that I have read him, the comparison seems somewhat absurd. Not completely absurd: after all, Snow has the cast of characters, the introspection, the reflection on society, the minute observation of petty snobbery, that characterises a lot of Proust’s work. But Proust is an utter genius: whereas, although Snow was an excellent writer in his time, his time has gone. He saw deep into his time, but he didn’t see beyond it; whereas Proust, who wrote on Time; time lost, time lived, time regained – was, i ronically, able to see beyond the society in which he lived.
Nice try, CP – but no doughnut.
I mean, madeleine.