Sunday, June 01, 2008

Proust--an ongoing tale

And I have begun, rebegun "Remembrance of Things Past," (ou "A la recherche du temps perdu.") I started it in high school and had to return it to the library (like I thought I could read it in a month). Started it when I was taking time from college, but the edition that I had was falling apart so carrying it was difficult. I threw out the set when we moved and resolved to buy a new one.

I love Proust. That's my problem. I want to sit and ponder each sentence for awhile. I always said I would take some vacation and just read him, but when is that going to happen??? So I have begun it again. A few pages each night or lunch, pencil in hand.

A few posts ago I documented my bruise. Now, the point of that wasn't really because I think all of you, my dear readers needed to know my intimate details, but to get myself writing again. At work I have to strip writing down to simple, short sentences. I get caught up in the grammar and whether idiots can understand it. I wanted to try and write some metaphor, use some larger words and complex sentences. And nobody except maybe Henry James writes complex sentences like Proust, not to mention wondering about a bit: starting with the long passage, (longtemps) about bedtimes at Combray (14 pages), then a "digression" on Swann (15 pages) only to return to bedtimes (22 pages) in what he terms the Overture before the story of Combray actually begins which will somehow return to Swann.

I'll probably let you know how I'm doing with this periodically. When I can tear myself away from this:

"Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them.

...I was convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice as though I were not there...

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone and need only be turned up like a page in an account book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people. Even the simple act which we describe as "seeing someone we know: is to some extent an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the person we see with all the notions we have already formed about him, and in the total picture of him which we compose in our minds those notions have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to flow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice as if it were no more than a transparent envelope, that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is these notions which we recognise and to which we listen."

Some time ago, Mirror had this clip up. It's fun to think of as one is reading, and in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the beauty of the language (which is, of course, partially Proust and partially the translators) or the depth of the ideas, but rather enhances both Python and Proust in a new mental thread, of which I am sure would amuse Proust were he alive and thinking today (take that clear and simple writing with your two line sentences).

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