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Bergotte 2

Posted 6/29/2015 3:25pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Recently I've re-read the 35 pages of the Modern Library Edition of Within a Budding Grove: (p. 165-200) from the time of the luncheon at the Swanns with Bergotte to the time the Narrator gets out of the carriage at home that he shared with the author.

Some years ago I skimmed the passage the first time I read it. To tell you the truth, Bergotte bored me—I passed over the passage quickly and remembered little. But the plus to the situation was that when I read it again (or "for the first time" according to Proust on music, p. 140) it was fresh. I liked what Proust learned from the writing of Ruskin and I better liked Bergotte because Proust made him the axis of their stylistic interaction. Note 1 was published with Sésame et les Lys in 1906; À l'ombre de jeunes filles en fleurs (translated as Within a Budding Grove in 1922) was published in 1919 and was revised during the Great War of 1914 to 1918. Here are partial contents of Note 1:

He (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. 

IOn Reading translated by Damion Searls published in 2011.

There are other passages, to be sure; the one I singled out has mostly to do with Bergotte. In this passage I find that Proust, like his mentor Ruskin, stylistically "moves from one idea to the next without any apparent order", he "impose(s) a higher logic on him in spite of himself ... right up to the climax of the final apotheosis" and that was Bergotte in the carriage calling Mme Swann a "whore" (and its consequences for her husband) in spite of his being congenial to their faces. The Narrator was a little shocked at Bergotte's duplicity but I found it refreshing. 

Might I remind you that this is the same young Narrator who wouldn't eat caviare at the luncheon because he didn't know what it was. There is a music here and Proust has the advantage over the non-fictive Ruskin by writing with different Narrators: the younger 1st person active, the 3rd person omniscient or Marcel Proust and, here among indeterminate times, the older 1st person reflective:

Names, no doubt, are whimsical draughtsmen, giving us of people as well as of places sketches so unlike the reality that we often experience a kind of stupor when we have before our eyes, in place of the imagined, the visible world (which, for that matter, is not the real world, our senses being little more endowed than our imagination with the art of portraiture—so little, indeed, that the final and approximately lifelike pictures which we manage to obtain of reality are at least as different from the visible world as that was from the imagined).

Within a Budding Grove Marcel Proust 1919, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terrence Kilmartin & revised by D. J. Enright in 1923, 1981 and 1992, p. 166.

Delightful, Marcel.

Ruskin writes without an editor, and a single nonfiction narrator, himself. Proust has an editor and writex fiction and with several narrators.

The Narrator who won't eat caviare and the one who speaks about "Names" above are the same person but separated by some years, much learning and the "secret plan, unveiled at the end".

I thank Sharon for putting Note 1 in the hand-out about Bergotte given to members of the discussion group that met on Jane St. Because of the handout, I reread the Bergotte passage from a different viewpoint.

This is why one should read the actual texts of classical writers, and not be satisfied with excerpts or selections. Writers’ most famous pages are often those where this inner structure of their language is masked by the beauty of the excerpt, beauty of an almost universal character. 

Marcel Proust’s translation of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies and his preface On Reading were published in 1906. The introduction and translation of the preface, On Reading is by Damion Searls of the same title, published in 2011, p. 44.