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The Guermantes Way

Posted 9/24/2015 5:38pm by Eugene Wyatt.

And stooping over the bed, with her knees bent, almost kneeling on the ground, as though by an exercise of humility she would have a better chance of making acceptable the impassioned gift of herself, she lowered towards my grandmother her whole life contained in her face as in a ciborium which she was holding out to her, adorned with dimples and folds so passionate, so sorrowful, so sweet that one could not have said whether they had been engraved on it by a kiss, a sob or a smile.

The Guermantes Way, The Modern Library Edition, p. 440

Posted 6/3/2015 5:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Bernard Palissy 1510-1590

On long drives I listen to À la recherche du temps perdu [Remembance of Things Past] read by Neville Jason on Audible.com and when I hear a passage that interests me, I bookmark it in the Naxos Edition and type a note to distinguish it from other bookmarks. At home, I replay the bookmarked portion and select a relatively unique search word but common enough to be included in both the Moncrieff translation—which Jason reads—and the Modern Library translation which is on my iPhone in a Kindle version. Searching for "shrimps", I found the passage below and this gave me the page number or location. On my iPhone, I emailed it to myself on my iMac so I could read it at my leisure on a larger screen or easily put it in my blog, etc.

Marcel Proust gives us aspects of fellow-feeling in a novel where homosexuality is an important topic. In the passage that I selected, he brackets a food description (food interests me being a farmer) with his description of men talking: they were sheltered from the others (the troopers who were dining there) by the imposing veils of one of those instinctive likings between men which, when they are not based on physical attraction, are the only kind that is altogether mysterious. I wanted Proust to elaborate further on these instinctive likings between men...perhaps he will later on.

The seafood in France is now called Fruits de Mer but it may have not been called that then; he likens the dish to the work of an interesting early French potter, whom I didn't know, Bernard Palissy.

Palissy failed to discover the secret of Chinese porcelain, but invented a style of rustic pottery, called "Palissy ware," for which he is now famous. The pottery is decorated with reliefs mimicking wildlife from Palissy's native Saintonge marshes, and includes fish, crustaceans, reptiles, ferns and flowers.

From Wikipedia.

~

At Doncières where Saint-Loup and his fellow troopers take their mess,

On the third evening, one of (Saint-Loup's) friends, to whom I had not had an opportunity of speaking before, conversed with me at great length; and at one point I overheard him telling Saint-Loup how much he was enjoying himself. And indeed we sat talking together almost the entire evening, leaving our glasses of Sauterne untouched on the table before us, separated, sheltered from the others by the imposing veils of one of those instinctive likings between men which, when they are not based on physical attraction, are the only kind that is altogether mysterious.

The Guermantes Way 1922 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 133.

I felt cut off—not only from the great icy darkness which stretched out into the distance and in which we could hear from time to time the whistle of a train which only accentuated the pleasure of being there, or the chimes of an hour still happily distant from that at which these young men would have to buckle on their sabres and go—but also from all external preoccupations, almost from the memory of Mme de Guermantes, by the kindness of Saint-Loup, to which that of his friends, reinforcing it, gave, so to speak, a greater solidity; by the warmth, too, of that little dining-room, by the savour of the exquisite dishes that were set before us. These gave as much pleasure to my imagination as to my palate; sometimes the little piece of nature from which they had been extracted, the rugged holy-water stoup of the oyster in which lingered a few drops of brackish water, or the gnarled stem, the yellowed branches of a bunch of grapes, still enveloped them, inedible, poetic and distant as a landscape, evoking as we dined successive images of a siesta in the shade of a vine or of an excursion on the sea; on other evenings it was the cook alone who brought out these original properties of the viands, presenting them in their natural setting, like works of art, and a fish cooked in a court-bouillon was brought in on a long earthenware platter, on which, standing out in relief on a bed of bluish herbs, intact but still contorted from having been dropped alive into boiling water, surrounded by a ring of satellite shell-fish, of animalcules, crabs, shrimps and mussels, it had the appearance of a ceramic dish by Bernard Palissy.

“I’m furiously jealous,” Saint-Loup said to me, half laughing, half in earnest, alluding to the interminable conversations apart which I had been having with his friend. “Is it because you find him more intelligent than me? Do you like him better than me? Ah, well, I suppose he’s everything now, and no one else is to have a look in!” (Men who are enormously in love with a woman, who live in a society of woman-lovers, allow themselves pleasantries which others, seeing less innocence in them, would never dare to contemplate.)

So rare Marcel. 

The Guermantes Way 1922 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 151.

Posted 5/22/2015 7:44pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way 1922 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

I noticed this sentence for its expressed impossibility. Listen to a fragment from it: "...offering us an image of the unknowable..." but offering us an image of the unknowable makes it known, on one handdoesn't it. Proust's syntax is from a mostly realistic novel, À la recherche du temps perdu. But on the other hand, we can normalize this fragment to not find it impossible and still we find it somewhat implausible with very correct but disparite meanings like the Narrator's loves for Albertine where, as some would say, he metaphorically plucks the petals of a daisy and muses, "I love her, I love her not..."

~

Proust discusses new art, specifically music he loved, Beethoven's Late Quartets:

The reason why a work of genius (art) is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. 

By this thought on Beethoven and others Proust makes on his fictional artists (Bergotte, Vinteuil, Elstir), I was reminded of the title of a 1980 book The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes. By the way, the book arrived today; I wonder if Hughes credits Proust with his concept or, much less, with his title; but perhaps the idea  predates Proust.

...

It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.

Within a Budding Grove 1919 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 142.

A "community of minds..."

~

With a wink, I subscribe to Groucho Marx's adage about clubs—that he wouldn't belong to any organization that would accept him as a member—yet, teasing aside, I have that specific Proustian difficulty—that of reading—I find little to read after reading Proust.

Posted 5/19/2015 9:28pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

The bold face is used to mark the subject and the verb and it marks the predicate that makes the sentence periodic.

Last Saturday I was at the Coffee Shop on 16th Street and Union Square West and I said to Sharon Girard and Marcelita Swann, two charming Proustians, "I began reading Proust because he writes difficult sentences." 

O Sharon I do agree with you; to determine the subject and the verb of a sentence helps in understanding the meaning in some of Marcel Proust's sentences; in addition, when I started reading À la recherche du temps perdu, I broke the sentence down by its parentheticals (its modifiers, its phrases, its clauses: see below) as that made the identification of subject and verb easier and the sentence more understandable.

Proust's sentence is a period, (periodos = a circuit, a race course in Greek of the time) made famous by the Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), and is not complete until "has its lady or its fairy" makes the meaning of the sentence.  

... the decline of the periodic sentence's popularity goes hand in hand with the development toward a less formal style, which some authors date to the beginning of the Romantic period (~1800) ...

From Wikipedia: Periodic sentence.

Marcel Proust's Les Plaisirs et les Jours (1896) was written more or less in the Romantic style; but let's go forward in time and backward at once before the Romantics into Proust's Grand Style writing of À la recherche du temps perdu (1913 - 1927).

 

At the age when Names,

offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould,

while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place,

force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name,

it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality,

as do allegorical paintings,

it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences,

people with marvels,

it is the social universe also;

and so every historic house,

in town or country,

has its lady or its fairy,

as every forest has its genie,

every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

Note that the 1st volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Nom and the 2nd volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Pays. We are in the 3rd volume and talk about Noms still, so important it was for Proust.

 

A l'âge où lesNoms, nous offrant l'image de l'inconnaissable que nous avons versé en eux, dans le même moment où ils désignent aussi pour nous un lieu réel, nous forcent par là à identifier l'un à l'autre au point que nous partons chercher dans une cité une âme qu'elle ne peut contenir mais que nous n'avons plus le pouvoir d'expulser de son nom, ce n'est pas seulement aux villes et aux fleuves qu'ils donnent une individualité, comme le font les peintures allégoriques, ce n'est pas seulement l'univers physique qu'ils diaprent de différences, qu'ils peuplent de merveilleux, c'est aussi l'univers social: alors chaque château, chaque hôtel ou palais fameux sa dame, ou sa fée, comme les forêts leurs génies et leurs divinités les eaux.

Le Côté de Guermantes Marcel Proust 1920, p. 3.