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Friday March 27, 2015

The story about having a madeline and tea to manifest involuntary memory, told by the Narrator In Search of Lost Time, is fiction, but large portions of the novel are not. Was the struggle to write fiction the same for Marcel Proust as it was for the Narrator?

I was curious about Proust's reluctance being that his articles were published in Le Figaro and well recieved; but one reads that he did doubt his abilities as a fiction writer, perhaps after the poorly received novellas of Les Plaisirs et les Jours that he published in 1896 and his 900 page abandoned novel, called Jean Santeuil, ~1900.

I reread the biography of William C. Carter Marcel Proust: A Life—more completely this time—stopping to read Carter's references to Proust's development of his "mature voice" in various letters, published articles, Contre Sainte-Beuve and, first and foremost, his preface to the translation of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies:

It is likewise the living syntax of seventeenth-century France - and in it vanished customs and turns of thought - that we love to find in Racine’s poetry. The forms themselves of this syntax, laid bare, honoured, embellished by a chisel as sturdy as it is delicate, are what move us in his turns of phrase, colloquial to the point of strangeness and daring, 19 whose abrupt pattern we see, in the sweetest and most touching passages, flash by like an arrow or turn back in beautiful broken lines.

19 For example, I believe that the charm we are accustomed to find in these lines from Racine’s Andromaque:

Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

[Why murder him? What did he do? On what grounds? Who told you that?]

comes precisely from intentionally breaking the customary syntactical connections. ‘On what grounds?’ refers not to ‘What did he do?’ — the immediately preceding sentence — but to ‘Why murder him?’ and ‘Who told you that?’ refers to the ‘murder’ as well. ... Such zigzags of expression ...

Marcel Proust, note 19 to his translator's preface of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (1905) published as On Reading, translated by Damion Searles p. 40.


The Andromaque passage quoted by Proust is uttered by Hermione (in love with Pyrrhus) to Orestes (in love with Hermione). Hermione asks Orestes to kill Pyrrhus because he is in love with Andromaque.

She regrets her request, but before Hermione can cancel it, Orestes tells her the deed is done: Pyrrhus is dead.   


Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

Proust was well aware of Racine's "zigzags of expression". You can read it as I did; "It's in the books," as the 83 year old Robert Beverly Hale would say in a lecture to his anatomy class at the Art Student's League of New York. But what's not in the books is the application of Racine's writing, his "breaking the customary syntactical connections" to Proust's writing.




About the same time—he states that in his books, Ruskin moves

from one idea to the next without any apparent order but actually the imagination which leads him is following its own deep affinities and imposing a higher logic on him in spite of himself, to such an extent that at the end he finds himself to have obeyed a kind of secret plan, unveiled at the end, that retroactively imposes a kind of order on the whole and makes it seem magnificently staged, right up to the climax of the final apotheosis. ...

Marcel Proust's note 1 to John Ruskin's Of Kings Treasuries in On Reading translated by Damion Searles p. 94. 


“Oh, Monsieur,” I assured M. de Norpois, when he told me that he would inform Gilberte and her mother how much I admired them, “if you would do that, if you would speak of me to Mme Swann my whole life would not be long enough to prove my gratitude, and that life would be all at your service. But I feel bound to point out to you that I do not know Mme Swann, and that I have never been introduced to her.” I had added these last words from a scruple of conscience, and so as not to appear to be boasting of an acquaintance which I did not possess.

But as I uttered them I sensed that they were already superfluous, for from the beginning of my speech of thanks, with its chilling ardour, I had seen flitting across the face of the Ambassador an expression of hesitation and displeasure, and in his eyes that vertical, narrow, slanting look (like, in the drawing of a solid body in perspective, the receding line of one of its surfaces), that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear.

I realised in a flash that the words I had pronounced, which, feeble as they were when measured against the flood of gratitude that was coursing through me, had seemed to me bound to touch M. de Norpois and to confirm his decision upon an intervention which would have given him so little trouble and me so much joy, were perhaps (out of all those that could have been chosen with diabolical malice by persons anxious to do me harm) the only ones that could result in his abandoning his intention.

Indeed, on hearing them, in the same way as when a stranger with whom we have been pleasantly exchanging impressions which we might have supposed to be similar about passers-by whom we agreed in regarding as vulgar, reveals suddenly the pathological abyss that divides him from us by adding carelessly as he feels his pocket: “What a pity I haven’t got my revolver with me; I could have picked off the lot of them,” M. de Norpois, who knew that nothing was less costly or more simple than to be commended to Mme Swann and taken to her house, and saw that to me, on the contrary, such favours bore so high a price and must consequently be very difficult to obtain, thought that the desire I had expressed, though ostensibly normal, must cloak some different motive, some suspect intention, some prior transgression, on account of which, in the certainty of displeasing Mme Swann, no one had hitherto been willing to undertake the responsibility for conveying a message to her from me.

And I realised that this mission was one he would never discharge, that he might see Mme Swann daily, for years to come, without ever mentioning my name.

He did indeed ask her, a few days later, for some information which I required, and charged my father to convey it to me.

But he had not thought fit to tell her on whose behalf he was inquiring. So she would never discover that I knew M. de Norpois and that I so longed to be asked to her house; and this was perhaps a lesser misfortune than I supposed.

For the second of these discoveries would probably not have added much to the efficacy of the first, which was in any event dubious: for Odette, the idea of her own life and of her own home awakened no mysterious uneasiness, and a person who knew her, who came to her house, did not seem to her a fabulous creature such as he seemed to me who would have flung a stone through Swann’s windows if I could have written upon it that I knew M. de Norpois; I was convinced that such a message, even when transmitted in so brutal a fashion, would have given me far more prestige in the eyes of the lady of the house than it would have prejudiced her against me. But even if I had been capable of understanding that the mission which M. de Norpois did not perform must have remained futile, indeed that it might have damaged my credit with the Swanns, I should not have had the courage, had he proved himself willing, to relieve the Ambassador of it and to renounce the pleasure—however fatal its consequences might prove—of feeling that my name and my person were thus brought for a moment into Gilberte’s presence, into her unknown life and home.

Within a Budding Grove, Marcel Proust, 1919; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992 p. 68-70.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/23/2015 6:14 pm
Labels: On Reading, Proust

... that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear.

Within a Budding Grove, Marcel Proust, 1919; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992 p. 68.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/22/2015 3:03 pm
Labels: Marcel Proust

Edo period (1615–1868), 60 1/16 x 140 inches. 

A full moon, once silver but now blackened by age, appears on an unobstructed horizon between a background of golden clouds and a foreground frieze of grasses and autumnal wildflowers: yellow maiden-flower, blue and white Chinese bellflower, purple agrimony, and wild chrysanthemum. A queue of descending geese (perhaps a later addition) at upper right conveys the vastness of the grassy plain.

These pictorial motifs are associated with the once-wild plain of Musashi, now a densely populated area of North Tokyo.

There are close-ups of the six-panel folding screen on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/20/2015 5:02 pm

We use the natural hormone Oxytocin frequently in the lambing barn with ewes who are not attentive to their newborn lambs.

"OxyT": Oxytocin is a mammalian neurohypophysial hormone. Produced by the hypothalamus and stored and secreted by the posterior pituitary gland, oxytocin acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain.

Oxytocin plays an important role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy, specifically in sexual reproduction of both sexes, in particular during and after childbirth. It is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and uterus during labor, facilitating birth, maternal bonding, and, after stimulation of the nipples, lactation. Both childbirth and milk ejection result from positive feedback mechanisms.

Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin's role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviors. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the "bonding hormone".

From: Wikipedia

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/18/2015 7:56 am
Labels: Oxytocin

Si je ne compris pas la Sonate je fus ravi d'entendre jouer Mme Swann. Son toucher me paraissait, comme son peignoir, comme le parfum de son escalier, comme ses manteaux, comme ses chrysanthèmes, faire partie d'un tout individuel et mystérieux, dans un monde infiniment supérieur à celui où la raison peut analyser le talent.

"N'est-ce pas que c'est beau cette Sonate de Vinteuil?" me dit Swann.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919 Marcel Proust, Loc 1756 of 8912


If I did not understand the sonata, I was enchanted to hear Mme Swann play. Her touch appeared to me (like her wrapper, like the scent of her staircase, like her coats, like her chrysanthemums) to form part of an individual and mysterious whole, in a world infinitely superior to that in which reason is capable of analysing talent.

“Isn’t it beautiful, that Vinteuil sonata?” Swann asked me.

Within a Budding Grove, 1992 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, P. 144.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/15/2015 9:32 pm

Mais en les prononçant, je sentais qu'ils étaient déjà devenus inutiles, car dès le début de mon remerciement, d'une ardeur réfrigérante, j'avais vu passer sur le visage de l'ambassadeur une expression d'hésitation et de mécontentement et dans ses yeux, ce regard vertical, étroit et oblique (comme, dans le dessin en perspective d'un solide, la ligne fuyante d'une de ses faces), regard qui s'adresse à cet interlocuteur invisible qu'on a en soi-même, au moment où on lui dit quelque chose que l'autre interlocuteur, le Monsieur avec qui on parlait jusqu'ici - moi dans la circonstance - ne doit pas entendre.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919 Marcel Proust, Loc. 823 of 8912.


But as I uttered them I sensed that they were already superfluous, for from the beginning of my speech of thanks, with its chilling ardour, I had seen flitting across the face of the Ambassador an expression of hesitation and displeasure, and in his eyes that vertical, narrow, slanting look (like, in the drawing of a solid body in perspective, the receding line of one of its surfaces), that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear.

Translated as Within a Budding Grove, 1992 Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, P. 68.

The emphasis is my own. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/10/2015 7:58 pm

Intrepid lambs coming down from the shearing shed on day 2 of shearing. We'd hoped for warmer temperatures (the nights had lows of single digits) and no falling or fallen snow, but who knows when you join the rams in October of 2014 what the weather will be in February and March of 2015. It can be warm and suitable for shirtsleeves or it can be snowy like last year. 

We always shear three weeks before lambing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
3/5/2015 5:21 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

We moved the ewes a quarter mile uphill to an old dairy barn we call the shearing shed. They will be shorn on the first Monday of March. Our sheep spend their days and nights out of doors all year round. But if you value your wool, you can't shear wet sheep; we shelter them during the time they are being shorn.

And all the ewes are pregnant. For lambing, which begins three weeks after shearing, we bring the newborn lambs and their dams inside—rain or shine—at night we leave the door to the barn open so the ewe can enter and choose a comfortable place to lamb. When the ewe has lambed we move her and her lambs into a 4' x 4' bonding jug. After several days inside together—if they look healthy—we let them go outside until the next shearing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/25/2015 4:06 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

One work Proust was eager to hear again in the late winter of 1916 was César Franck’s Quartet in D as performed by the Poulet QuartetOne evening at a concert by this ensemble, Proust approached the viola player Amable Massis during the intermission and asked him whether the group would be willing to come and play for him in a private concert. Massis agreed in principle and thought no more about it.

One night around eleven Gaston Poulet, the leader of the quartet, heard his doorbell ring. Poulet, already in his pajamas, opened the door to find himself face to face with a thin, pale man with a moustache, who said, “I am Marcel Proust.” The caller made an unusual request: he wanted to hear Franck’s Quartet that very night. There was a cab waiting that could round up the other members of the quartet. Poulet agreed. Once in the cab Poulet directed the driver to the homes of Louis Ruyssen, cellist, Victor Gentil, second violin, and Amable Massis, viola. When Massis entered the taxi, he saw Proust wrapped in a huge eiderdown; there was a bowl of mashed potatoes sitting on the folding seat. Massis, suddenly disconcerted by the oddity of the situation, received a reassuring smile and gesture from the driver, signaling that his employer was somewhat bizarre, but harmless. By the time Proust had collected all the musicians and their instruments and arrived back at boulevard Haussmann, it was nearly one in the morning.

Céleste opened the door and greeted the group. Massis, like everyone who saw her the first time, noted that she was tall for a woman, svelte, and very pretty. The men removed their overcoats, opened their cases, and took out their instruments. Massis remembered playing in a bedroom lighted solely by candles. Just beyond a circle of light a divan covered in green velvet had been placed in the semidarkness; near the bed stood a mountain of manuscripts. The opening of the chimney had been covered, as Poulet had recommended, to prevent any of the sound from escaping. While Céleste assisted the musicians in setting up makeshift music stands, Proust stretched out on the divan.

The String Quartet in D Major, FWV 9: II. Scherzo. Vivace by the Vilnius Quartet

During the playing Proust lay with his eyes closed, without making the slightest movement. So solemnly eerie was this concert deep in the night that the musicians dared not speak to each other between movements. When the last notes of the Franck piece were no longer audible, Proust opened his eyes and asked the musicians to begin again. The stricken instrumentalists looked at each other. The Franck quartet took forty- five minutes to perform. It was now around two in the morning, and the musicians felt dead with fatigue. Sensing their distress, Proust asked Massis to bring him a small Chinese box from a nearby shelf. The novelist opened it and removed a stack of fifty- franc bank bills redeemable for gold. He handed each musician three of the bills. According to Massis’s recollection, 150 of these gold francs were worth 45,000 ordinary francs. Their energy restored at the sight of so much money, the musicians immediately began again to play the entire quartet. The room filled once more with the strains of the Pater Angelus.

Afterward, Proust thanked the musicians warmly and told them that he would like to have them back again under similar conditions. Céleste came in with champagne and fried potatoes. Shortly before dawn the musicians stepped out onto the boulevard Haussmann to find four taxis waiting to take them home.

Marcel Proust: A Life, William C. Carter 2013

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/24/2015 6:16 pm
Labels: Franck, Poulet, Proust

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/19/2015 6:09 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

Marcel Proust writes in 1910 to Robert Dreyfus, a long time friend, whose brother Henri has just died,

Proust...used one of his favorite images, found in a number of variations in Time Regained (his last volume): 

“In continuing to live thus you will be living in a region of yourself where the barriers of flesh and time no longer exist, where there is no death, because there is no time and no body, and where one lives tranquilly in the immortal company of those one loves.”

Marcel Proust, A Life (2002-2013) William C. Carter.

Since high school I've loved The Mountains High (1961) by Dick and Dee Dee; their lyrics resemble Marcel Proust in the quote above,

I know someday that we will meet again,

But I don't know exactly where or wh-en-n-n-n-en. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/17/2015 12:43 pm

A poet writing prose (naturally, I don’t mean when he is making it into a form of poetry, like Baudelaire in his Petits Poèmes, Musset in his plays, but Musset writing his stories, his critical essays, his addresses to the Académie) is someone who has put by his genius, who no longer requires of it the things it invents in the privacy of its own magic world, but who still bears it in mind and puts us in mind of it too. Some turn of phrase will suddenly remind us of a famous line of poetry, not perceptible, not there, but whose unspecified indeterminate shape seems to extend like an atmosphere behind a statement that could quite well have been made by anybody, giving it a kind of grace and stateliness and emotional evocativeness. The poet has flown away, but one can catch sight of his lustre behind the clouds. Nothing of it remains in the man, the everyday man who goes out to dinner and has his ambitions; and it is from this one, who has kept none of it, that Sainte-Beuve claims to extract the essence of the other.

Contre Sainte-Beuve found in Marcel Proust on Art and Literature 1954, translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner, p. 128-129.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/15/2015 3:05 pm

A micron (a micrometer) is one millionth of a meter. Microns, expressed as Average Fiber Diameter (AFD), are how the wool of sheep is measured and valued. AFD's of fewer microns are always more dear. The Saxon Merino produces the most expensive wool per pound in the world.

New York's climate—its annual rainfall—suits Saxon Merino sheep in the United States. I imported 5 world-class Saxon Merino rams for breeding from Australia in the early 1990's.

Saxon Merino sheep are found exclusively in the higher rainfall country of southern Australia, especially in the highlands of Tasmania, the cooler and wetter regions of Victoria and the tablelands of New South Wales. 

Physically the smallest of the Merino types, cutting the lowest weight of wool (3-6 kg.), the Saxon Merino is without peer in the quality of wool produced, e.g. a sheep producing 14 microns would cut 3 kilos and a sheep producing 17.5 microns up to 6 kilos.

Specifically, this wool is extremely bright and white in colour, soft to handle and fine (i.e. narrow) in diameter. 

From the website of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders.

Strong—opposed to fine—wool prickles and makes the skin itch. Wool of an AFD over 30 microns has a Prickle Factor but wool of a finer AFD—below 16 microns—pills on wearing it; however these extremely fine wools are suitable for blending with other fibers. 

I wanted to be somewhere between the prick and the pill but I wanted the wool to be fine. In New York I breed Saxon Merino sheep with an AFD of 16 to 18 microns; this wool is superfine and soft to the touch but the fiber is broad enough to resist pilling on a garment.

The AFD is determined by shearing a sample, 3" x 3" x the staple length of the wool, from the side of the sheep (see the ewes pictured) and sending the sample to a wool testing laboratory for laser examination.


Graph of an Examined Wool Sample

The ascending scale on the right hand side of the graph shows the number of fibers counted and the bottom horizontal scale shows the microns measured.

The data on the graph reports that a Saxon Merino 10 month old lamb, eartag 14, has a 17.6 microns AFD. Sheep will have higher AFD's as they get older. The AFD is a selected average throughout the body of the sheep (the wool of the side is finer than the wool of the rump) and, as you can see, a true average throughout the sample tested.

We side sampled and tested 393 purebred Saxon Merinos; the averages were,

Lambs, 16.4 microns

Ewes, 18.6 microns

Rams, 18.7 microns

The samples were tested by the wool laboratory at Texas A&M in San Angelo, Texas.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/9/2015 2:35 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

A photograph of me and Saxon Merino rams that appears in Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley, a 2014 book by Francesco Mastalia who took the photo with a remanufactured version of an 1860 wooden-box 12" x 14" x 16" camera; it has a cloth drape on the rear that Francesco ducked under to frame the photograph. He developed the exposure by a wet plate collodion process, a 19th century technique.

Francesco uncapped the lens—I had to remain still for 5 seconds—he capped the lens and the photograph was taken. He developed the exposures on the tailgate of his Volvo station wagon—taking about 10 minutes—in a silver nitrate solution.

In the book there are a 100 wet plate collodion photographs of Hudson Valley farmers or chefs; each subject was interviewed about the controversial topic of organic; some of the interviews are pro and  some are con, but interesting all.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/7/2015 8:29 pm

The lambs are one color; the difference you see is wetness of the wool; when sheep sleep out-of-doors their body temperature of 103F melts the snow beneath them. 

It has been below freezing for about 2 weeks; the snow doesn't melt, it drifts with the wind. With the 45 hp tractor we can't get to 2 round bale feeders to feed hay because of the depth of the snow.

This cold weather is fine for the sheep—the lambs cavort and gambol in the snow—but things become expensive for the shepherd; we fed a bale without a feeder—the hay goes faster—but no matter the expense, you must care for your sheep; listen to Bob Dylan sing you Gotta Serve Somebody.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/4/2015 6:42 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal