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Marcel Proust

Posted 3/1/2016 1:26pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The noted Hungarian photographer Brassaï came to Paris in 1924 speaking poor French. To learn it better he began reading the works of Marcel Proust.

Nous croisâmes près de l’église Legrandin qui venait en sens inverse conduisant la même dame à sa voiture. Il passa contre nous, ne s’interrompit pas de parler à sa voisine, et nous fit du coin de son œil bleu un petit signe en quelque sorte intérieur aux paupières et qui, n’intéressant pas les muscles de son visage, put passer parfaitement inaperçu de son interlocutrice ; mais, cherchant à compenser par l’intensité du sentiment le champ un peu étroit où il en circonscrivait l’expression, dans ce coin d’azur qui nous était affecté il fit pétiller tout l’entrain de la bonne grâce qui dépassa l’enjouement, frisa la malice ; il subtilisa les finesses de l’amabilité jusqu’aux clignements de la connivence, aux demi-mots, aux sous-entendus, aux mystères de la complicité ; et finalement exalta les assurances d’amitié jusqu’aux protestations de tendresse, jusqu’à la déclaration d’amour, illuminant alors pour nous seuls, d’une langueur secrète et invisible à la châtelaine, une prunelle énamourée dans un visage de glace.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 2399.

Near the church we met Legrandin, who was coming in the opposite direction escorting the same lady to her carriage. He passed close to us, did not break off his conversation with his neighbor, and from the corner of his blue eye gave us a little sign that was in some way interior to his eyelid and which, not involving the muscles of his face, could go perfectly unnoticed by the lady he was talking to; but seeking to compensate by intensity of feeling for the somewhat narrow field in which he had circumscribed its expression, in the azure corner assigned to us he set sparkling all the liveliness of a grace that exceeded playfulness, bordered on mischievousness; he overrefined the subtleties of amiability into winks of connivance, insinuations, innuendos, the mysteries of complicity; and finally exalted his assurances of friendship into protestations of affection, into a declaration of love, illuminating for us alone, at that moment, with a secret languor invisible to the lady, a love-smitten eye in a face of ice.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 139.

À vrai dire mon père lui-même, qui était pourtant le plus irrité contre l’attitude qu’avait eue Legrandin, gardait peut-être un dernier doute sur le sens qu’elle comportait. Elle était comme toute attitude ou action où se révèle le caractère profond et caché de quelqu’un : elle ne se relie pas à ses paroles antérieures, nous ne pouvons pas la faire confirmer par le témoignage du coupable qui n’avouera pas ; nous en sommes réduits à celui de nos sens dont nous nous demandons, devant ce souvenir isolé et incohérent, s’ils n’ont pas été le jouet d’une illusion ; de sorte que de telles attitudes, les seules qui aient de l’importance, nous laissent souvent quelques doutes.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 2416.

In fact, my father himself, though he was the one most irritated by Legrandin’s attitude, may still have harbored a last doubt as to what it meant. It was like any attitude or action that reveals a person’s deep and hidden character: it has no connection with anything he has said before, we cannot seek confirmation from the culprit’s testimony for he will not confess; we are reduced to the testimony of our own senses concerning which we wonder, confronting this isolated and incoherent memory, if they were not the victims of an illusion; so that these attitudes, the only ones of any importance, often leave us with some doubts.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 141.

Posted 2/18/2016 6:20am by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel Proust says that Camille Saint-Saëns, the source of his little phrase at the Saint-Euverte soirée, is "a composer I dislike" and Charles Swann complains of Odette, whom he later marries, that she "was not my type". 

what's good for the goose is good for the gander—

From the author,

"... the little phrase from this Sonata, and I've never told anyone this before, is, at the Saint-Euverte soirée (to begin at the end), the charming but mediocre theme from a Violin and Piano Sonata by Saint-Saëns, a composer I dislike."

A letter from Marcel Proust to Jacques Lacretelle, April 20, 1918.

And Swann on Odette,

And with the intermittent coarseness that reappeared in him as soon as he was no longer unhappy and the level of his morality dropped accordingly, he exclaimed to himself: “To think that I wasted years of my life, that I wanted to die, that I felt my deepest love, for a woman who did not appeal to me, who was not my type!”

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 433.

Mais le concert recommença et Swann comprit qu’il ne pourrait pas s’en aller avant la fin de ce nouveau numéro du programme. 

Il souffrait de rester enfermé au milieu de ces gens dont la bêtise et les ridicules le frappaient d’autant plus douloureusement qu’ignorant son amour, incapables, s’ils l’avaient connu, de s’y intéresser et de faire autre chose que d’en sourire comme d’un enfantillage ou de le déplorer comme une folie, ils le lui faisaient apparaître sous l’aspect d’un état subjectif qui n’existait que pour lui, dont rien d’extérieur ne lui affirmait la réalité ; il souffrait surtout, et au point que même le son des instruments lui donnait envie de crier, de prolonger son exil dans ce lieu où Odette ne viendrait jamais, où personne, où rien ne la connaissait, d’où elle était entièrement absente.

Mais tout à coup ce fut comme si elle était entrée, et cette apparition lui fut une si déchirante souffrance qu’il dut porter la main à son cœur. C’est que le violon était monté à des notes hautes où il restait comme pour une attente, une attente qui se prolongeait sans qu’il cessât de les tenir, dans l’exaltation où il était d’apercevoir déjà l’objet de son attente qui s’approchait, et avec un effort désespéré pour tâcher de durer jusqu’à son arrivée, de l’accueillir avant d’expirer, de lui maintenir encore un moment de toutes ses dernières forces le chemin ouvert pour qu’il pût passer, comme on soutient une porte qui sans cela retomberait. Et avant que Swann eût eu le temps de comprendre, et de se dire : « C’est la petite phrase de la sonate de Vinteuil, n’écoutons pas ! » ...

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 6396-6407.

But the concert was beginning again and Swann realized he would not be able to leave before the end of this new number.

He was suffering at having to remain shut up among these people whose stupidity and absurd habits struck him all the more painfully since, being unaware of his love, incapable, had they known about it, of taking any interest in it or doing more than smile at it as at some childish nonsense or deplore it as utter madness, they made it appear to him as a subjective state which existed only for him, whose reality was confirmed for him by nothing outside himself; he suffered most of all, to the point where even the sound of the instruments made him want to cry out, from prolonging his exile in this place to which Odette would never come, where no one, where nothing knew her, from which she was entirely absent.

But suddenly it was as though she had appeared in the room, and this apparition caused him such harrowing pain that he had to put his hand on his heart. What had happened was that the violin had risen to a series of high notes on which it lingered as though waiting for something, holding on to them in a prolonged expectancy, in the exaltation of already seeing the object of its expectation approaching, and with a desperate effort to try to endure until it arrived, to welcome it before expiring, to keep the way open for it another moment with a last bit of strength so that it could come through, as one holds up a trapdoor that would otherwise fall back. And before Swann had time to understand, and say to himself: “It’s the little phrase from the sonata by Vinteuil; don’t listen!” ...

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 388.

Posted 1/12/2016 4:18am by Eugene Wyatt.

And she would say to me, pointing to my note-books as though they were worm-eaten wood or a piece of stuff which the moth had got into: “Look, it’s all eaten away, isn’t that dreadful! There’s nothing left of this bit of page, it’s been torn to ribbons,” and examining it with a tailor’s eye she would go on: “I don’t think I shall be able to mend this one, it’s finished and done for. A pity, perhaps it has your best ideas. You know what they say at Combray: there isn’t a furrier who knows as much about furs as the moth, they always get into the best ones.”

Time Regained Volume VI, Marcel Proust, The Modern Library translation, Loc 6499

Elle me disait, en me montrant mes cahiers rongés comme le bois où l’insecte s’est mis : "C’est tout mité, regardez, c’est malheureux, voilà un bout de page qui n’est plus qu’une dentelle, et—l’examinant comme un tailleur—je ne crois pas que je pourrai la refaire, c’est perdu. C’est dommage, c’est peut-être vos plus belles idées. Comme on dit à Combray, il n’y a pas de fourreurs qui s’y connaissent aussi bien comme les mites. Elles se mettent toujours dans les meilleures étoffes."

A la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust, Loc 54396

Posted 11/26/2015 3:05am by Eugene Wyatt.

No doubt—for at every level of society a worldly and frivolous life paralyses the sensibility and robs people of the power to resuscitate the dead—the Duchess was one of those people who require a personal presence—that presence which, like a true Guermantes, she excelled in protracting—in order to love truly, but also, and this is less common, in order to hate a little.

The Fugitive Volume VI by Marcel  Proust, Modern Library Edition p. 780