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In Search of Lost Time (1925)

by Marcel Proust

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: In Search of Lost Time (1-7)

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3,794443,131 (4.54)4 / 362
Classic Literature. Fiction. Short Stories. In Search of Lost Time (French: ? la recherche du temps perdu)?? previously also translated as Remembrance of Things Past, is a novel in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871??1922). It is considered to be his most prominent work, known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine" which occurs early in the first volume. It gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained usage since D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992. The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages, as they existed only in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother… (more)
1920s (34)
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Take your time with this one. It's rich, deep, and has a lot to say. ( )
  medwyn1066 | Nov 28, 2023 |
Women shall have Gomorrah and men shall have Sodom - Alfred de Vigny, epigram

"[The Sodomites] form in every land an oriental colony, cultured, musical, malicious, which has charming qualities and intolerable defects."

For his next trick, Marcel Proust contrives to up-end much of what has come before, as his narrator goes ever further in search of lost time. (My reviews of the first three volumes can be found: here, here, and - what do you know? - here.) I'd have to say that volume four, Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah, more poetically, but less accurately translated in the past as Cities of the Plain), is the most challenging volume of Proust, and yet as I reached its end, I realised just how vital and thematically intertwined this is. As the narrator matures in his 20s, he is at a tipping-point between his youth and naivete, and his growing understanding of the world. There are essentially four sections to the novel:

"People never cease to change place in relation to ourselves."

One. In a brief section, Marcel (let's just agree to call him that, shall we?) decides to spy on a bee fertilising a flower, and instead gets to watch an altogether different kind of pollination, that of his old nemesis, Baron de Charlus, and Francoise's beloved tailor, Jupien. The sequence is cheeky, and heavily coded (to the point where I could imagine an older French reader of the 1920s barely even grasping what has happened) yet virtually obscene. A fascinating reminder of how utterly different the act of reading and writing was 100 years ago. It reminds me of Noel Coward apparently writing many of his straight couples with the intention of them being homosexual couples - if only he had born a generation or two later. This section sets off one of the major analyses of the novel, that of the homosexual and his (her?) relationship to polite society. Proust - himself both gay and part-Jewish - creates distinctly unflattering portraits of both groups, but one senses that some of the writing is tongue-in-cheek. There's no denying that the author is working through some serious issues over his sexuality, but at the same time, his deeply personal comparison of the homosexual to the dispersed Jews suggests that he was ultimately sympathetic. And many of the passages about the so-called "freemasonry" of gays, in which they begin to tell one another out amongst the crowd, still ring true in much of today's society - I can certainly pick examples from my own life that resonate! The anti-Semitism and homophobia (the latter not being anywhere near as virulent) expressed by many of the characters is not expressed by Marcel the narrator, suggesting that this social obsession with difference is not something of which Proust approves. And indeed, as we go on, we begin to realise how closely young Marcel identifies with both Charles Swann (the Jew) and Palamède de Charlus (the homosexual) even though he is neither, suggesting a human connection underneath.

(Proust's meditations on the idea of the homosexual as an "invert", as a "woman", are perhaps more problematic in light of the 94 years that have since passed, but to complain about such is fruitless. If nothing else, the book sheds an interesting light on the many ways gay culture - and views of gay culture - have evolved in a century ... and a few ways in which they have remained steadfastly the same.)

"When you rely on other people, you should try not to be such an idiot." - Madame Verdurin

Two. The return of Madame Verdurin! My favourite Proustian character by a country mile, Madame Verdurin drags her entire "set" kicking and screaming back into the novel, as we begin to see the older generation of characters filtered through Marcel's slightly-less-rose-coloured glasses, as they all spend the summer in and around Balbec. Swann and Robert Saint-Loup are developing and changing, their own personalities deepening and widening, their connection to Marcel strengthening and then fading, as happens to us all. As Proust was writing this novel (which was published in two parts), his health was fading rapidly, and indeed he would die only weeks after the second part was released. In light of this, it's impressive just how dense and funny much of this bulky centrepiece is. Madame Verdurin and all of her guests, interlopers, and rivals are portrayed in microscopic detail, and much of it is hilarious - particularly the deep, and finally seemingly complete, Cambremer vs. Verdurin rivalry, which escalates over essentially nothing! Much is discussed here, and Proust makes very little effort to even pretend like this section is being told from Marcel's point of view, but at the same time ... he does rather go on, doesn't he? Given that The Guermantes Way was almost sickeningly absorbed with salons and dinner parties, I was expecting a more personal experience for Marcel, and instead the narrator all but disappears from vast swathes of the novel. Everything ties back in thematically, and sometimes in surprising ways, such as the long-winded M. Brichot, who holds up the novel for sometimes four full pages discussing the etymology of place names (Mme Verdurin bemans how he likes to "hurl chunks of dictionary at our heads during dinner"), but - just when this is inducing a coma - we realise that Brichot's words are the final nail in the coffin of the narrator's earlier romanticism about such names and, by extension, the places themselves. On the other hand, the self-absorption and rung-climbing of society has been well and truly displaeyd, and one wonders whether we are achieving much more by examining it in yet further detail. It's not that the character drawings are dull or that the situation is lacking in humour and insight; it's just a continuation of what has gone before, with little reason to repeat. (One of my favourite of the many social debates is the different ways of seeing a Princess' social habits. Some think that she is received only alone by a certain guest because that guest is particular special. Others argue that she is only received alone by that guest because she doesn't really want to be seen with them!

But what this section of the novel does, importantly, is thrust Albertine back into the spotlight in a big way.

"It was my fate to pursue only phantoms, creatures whose reality existed to a great extent in my imagination."

Three. Things pick up considerably once Marcel and Albertine are contrasted with - of all people - Baron de Charlus and that dashing, debonair devil, Charles Morel the violinist soldier (I mean, honestly, what a combination). Proust is always at his strongest when analysing the "intermittencies of the heart" (a chapter title here but also apparently a rejected title for the overall novel), and this is no exception. On returning to Balbec, Marcel stands on a cliff top and finds his soul splitting and rejoining - Marcel past, Marcel present, Marcel future - a line of Scrooge's ghosts. Involuntary memory, like that of his grandmother's death, competes with voluntary memories: memories of girls he wants to forget, girls he has forgotten, girls he can never let go of. Marcel desires Albertine, even needs her, although he's still not able to interpret and convey love in the right ways. Is he truly in love with this girl? Is he even really trying to get to know her? I'm not entirely convinced. There are overt shades of the Swann/Odette relationship from Swann's Way, not least when Marcel becomes convinced - apropos of nothing - that Albertine is having, or has had, the old Sapphic scissoring with some of her Balbec girlfriends. But just as the Verdurin set are different in the leafy confines of La Raspeliere (the passage detailing Marcel and Albertine's painfully long journey there one night by carriage is a particular delight), so too are the young couple different in this strange netherworld both in and out of society, pretending they are cousins for the sake of the Verdurins and their ilk.

While we're given a bit of foreshadowing for Volume Five, in that Albertine is clearly becoming Marcel's psychological prisoner, at least in his own mind, the better part of this section is given over to the love affair of Morel and Charlus, completing the triptych of relationships that began with Odette and Swann. It's very intriguing in the way that Charlus' love basically strips him of any self-awareness and practicality, and the way Proust indicates that Morel clearly is not that into it. The comedy is really amped up here, from Charlus at dinners, not realising he is being mocked, to plotting a duel that he never intends to carry out. By this point, of course, we're reading not "for the story", but nevertheless while I find Charlus repugnant, his fierce personality manages to keep the reader intrigued through the sometimes overgrown plains of Sodom and Gomorrah.

"His nature was really like a sheet of paper that has been folded so often in every direction that it is impossible to straighten out."

The above quote is possibly my favourite of the entire work, incidentally.

Four. The final, brief section of this novel continues the trend of previous books, in acting more as a preface to the next volume. Marcel's jealousy of Albertine has now gone into overdrive, to the point where it inadvertently destroys his friendship with Bloch (forever? I hope not!). In these last pages, Proust reaches his most lyrical, in passages of beauty that we haven't really experienced - at least of such a height - since the days that Odette was a main character. Some of my favourite images include a restaurant waiter portrayed as a series of "successive statues of a young god running", the conceit of Charlus as a fish in an aquarium, swimming delicately but not realising visitors are laughing behind the glass only metres away, and an absolutely fantastic analogy featuring a centaur. The ending is not particularly a surprise, given the narrator's penchant for ironical twists, but it certainly creates a great narrative hook, while also making us - or at least me - worried about his mental state. This young man is just refusing to grow up. No wonder, really, given he is surrounded by complete and utter children - maybe that's the point of all these dinner parties?

"Oh, if I could write like that!" - Virginia Woolf on reading Proust, 1922

In closing, then, I'm excited to learn that a change in tone is coming in The Prisoner. As much as I've enjoyed this book, the focus away from Marcel's psychology, which made the first two volumes such captivating and perfect reads, has been frustrating. Even Proust's delightful page-long sentences occasionally became enervating this time around. Nevertheless, Sodom and Gomorrah remained a deeply human work, full of sneaky character portrayals and staggering moments of beauty. As previously mentioned, if you're reading the Vintage editions, be sure to get a hold of Volume 6: it contains the Reader's Guide which apparently replaces any attempt at serious footnotes, with its dense thematic and character indices. They're great, they really are, but I'm beginning to suspect that an Annotated Proust will become more and more necessary. There were sections of social dialogue that were essentially indecipherable to me, beyond what I could gleam from context. As a music lover, I was deeply amused by the constant musical reference, particularly in the older Mme de Cambremer and whether Debussy will eventually become "as passe as Massenet", but it's not enough to expect readers to look up the two musicians. Without an understanding of their place in the repertoire, provided by an annotation, the point - both comic and serious - is lost, and this is but one of hundreds of examples I have come across thus far. The decision, for instance, to render all house mottoes in the original French or Latin also creates problems for audiences of a generation who don't habitually learn these things in school. If this is a Reader's Edition, I would like it to be as readable as possible. All of which is to say, this is a wonderful translation - and in a few years, once I've regained my strength - I'll be sure to check in on one of the 21st century traditions beginning to make their presence known - but I think we need to slightly adjust our approach if the great novelists are to regain their appeal in this new iWorld.

So, people are ageing, dying, getting engaged, getting married, getting more and more bitter. I'm excited for whatever comes next for Marcel, Albertine, and those crazy kids as the 20th century begins.

"I must marry Albertine." ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
"Stories somehow lengthen when begun" - Lord Byron, Beppo

And so, after 11 months and 3 weeks, I find myself making the emotionally harrowing descent from Mont Proust. And, boy, has it been worth it. Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained, also translated as Finding Time Again) is the final volume of the masterful Search, and is a distinct step up from its immediate predecessors, for a few reasons. (My reviews of the previous volumes : Unum Duo Tria Quattuor Quinque Sex )

Published a few years after Proust's death, Time Regained exists in something of a draft form, and this is rampantly evident throughout. The narrative is fragmented; key characters make cameo appearances in what must surely have been pencil sketches for larger farewells; the dead return to life with alarming regularity; and some sections betray a sense of repetition that even Gertrude Stein would have hesitated at. Anyone who tells you that they can explain what Proust intended is lying however, like any good paleontologist, we can hope to reconstruct at least some of what lies at the end of Proust's search. (Walking with Proust?) And thank goodness we can.

“My great adventure is really Proust. Well-- what remains to be written after that? - Virginia Woolf

Broadly speaking, Time Regained can be separated into four sections. The first, brief chapter takes place before WWI, and is sometimes included at the end of The Fugitive instead, although I prefer it here, as in my Vintage edition. With Gilberte, the narrator (we'll call him Marcel however, as I've previously established, I don't like that name for him) returns to Combray, marking the beginning of his psychological reassessment of what has gone before. It's remarkable to think that when Proust began the novel, he could not have predicted that there would be a Great War allowing him to destroy Méséglise and to so powerfully capture the downfall of so many of his characters and the society in which they move. What this vignette shows us is the susceptibility of memory, of perspective. Marcel could not have known, all those years ago, what Gilberte truly intended as a child, nor that this valuations of people - such as the seemingly upright Saint-Loup - could be proven so incomplete with the passing of the years. The grand revelation that the two "ways" are connected is a perfect symbol of everything the novel has attempted to say. The novel constantly hints at other lives Marcel may have led: an early, happy marriage to Gilberte? An early death, perhaps? As with homosexuality and Jewishness, those two big, bad questions that academics and readers can't help asking about the narrator/author connection, I wonder how much of a role age and illness played. Proust was famously hands-on when it came to revisions, and there is certainly a level of denial in the narrator's claims that he has "totally forgotten" Albertine, and that he is perfectly happy to retreat from the world. One wonders.

A book is a huge cemetery in which on the majority of the tombs the names are effaced and can no longer be read.

The second of the four is the part that most obviously shows evidence of being a rough draft. The war years are, to a large part, glossed over, with indications that Marcel spent time in a sanatorium. We will, alas, never find out what happened to Mamma and Papa. Yet, the war actually seems a fitting if unintended conclusion to the political drama that has played out in the background of the Search, from the Dreyfus Affair to the naiveté of the aristocracy on Europe's nationalist troubles at the beginning of the 20th century. It also allows for an obvious transition point, a kind of termination shock, after which everyone has changed, and their society has changed with them. ("It is all a question of chronology.")

Various rumours are cleared up as we meet Saint-Loup, Jupien, and Charlus for the last time. The brothel sequence, in which Morel and Jupien take their "inverted" tastes to the logical extreme, is perhaps a bit silly. It feels too calculated to shock, too desperate and contrived (why exactly Marcel needs to rent a private room for a glass of cassis is beyond me) but, nevertheless, it provides a logical endpoint for the discussion of social codes-within-codes that has often dominated the story and, in the tale of Saint-Loup's sad demise (oh, that croix de guerre!) and Morel's ironic rise, he captures all the irony of a Madame Bovary with just a few, brief, moonlit images. If the novel really is like Vinteuil's septet, then this is most certainly the "da capo al fine" section. Thankfully, with the rise and fall of the war, Proust's social eye - arguably his strongest single literary skill - gets to put a little extra sharpness into his pen after quite some time in which we have focused only on the immediate concerns of the protagonist. After all these years, a younger generation are rising up in society, and what good is a war if you can't use it to forget the inconvenient facts about the past? Social status has changed for so many since the teenaged Marcel burst on to the scene, and everyone is doing their best to obfuscate their origins. Perhaps the single funniest line in the whole novel is when Madame Verdurin, continuing her rise from the bourgeoisie (to which she was once so firmly proud), describes someone with great disdain as being hopelessly "pre-war"! And, of course, Francoise continues to be the greatest comic relief character written since Shakespeare's death.

An hour is not merely an hour, it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates.

Next up is the single most dense section of the entire Search, as Marcel - and, I think we can all agree, Proust - lays out his extensive theory of art and creation. (It's important to note both are equally important; those critics who most savagely deride Proust for filling a novel with platitudes on art rarely seem to notice that this is really a novel about creating it.) Here is the ultimate modernist push Proust made, to create a climax that is, really, entirely passive and internal. The reason this section fascinates (even if, true, it is heavy going) is that these revelations are so important to Marcel, for Marcel. He is realising a rebellion against the so-called "literature of description", and seeking an answer to "the vision... of a person situated in the distorting perspective of Time". With each revelation about previous moments, our narrator is seeking to find whether all of that time has been truly wasted (an equally good translation for the title's "perdu", translated usually as "lost") or whether we can keep it with us, whether we can find time again. And indeed, we can all find it through art. To do so, Marcel needs to "become a mirror" and transcribe the music of all these years. As he says, "oblivion is at work within us". That's not to say that creating art is a vanity project - it may well be for La Berma, and perhaps Bergotte, and it took Elstir until his dying moments to realise otherwise - but that desire to write must come from somewhere. Marcel here seems to find that desire in his realisation of the ultimate tragedy of life: that we can't let go - "If our life is vagabond, our memory is sedentary" - but neither are we holding on in the right way. Here, more than ever, one understands that now conventional wisdom of why Remembrance of Things Past is such a bad title: Marcel may be the first truly internally-driven protagonist in literary history, but he is still driven. It's just that Albertine was never truly the fugitive; the fugitive was Time (yep, capital T, no way around it).

Profound Albertine, whom I saw sleeping and who was dead.
(What a quote, huh? What a freaking quote.)

The final fascicle of Time Regained captures surely the longest social engagement of the entire work and, to be frank, it feels it. I assume Proust would have done some pruning and elaborating before he published this section, or at least I hope so! That's not to say this section isn't gorgeous, by the way, because it is. However, it contains all the hallmarks of a reworked draft, with characters recognising one another before they've even arrived at the party, identical analogies in quick succession, fragmentary portraits that deserve more airtime, and occasionally grand statements from the narrator that haven't earned their place.

It's tragic in retrospect, but this section takes place assumedly in the late '20s, i.e. the time the volume was published, and which Proust expected he would live to see. Marcel, now a man in his 50s, is attending a reception at the home of the aged Princesse de Guermantes. It's a bit of a greatest hits package, as we are reunited one last time with the Duc, Morel, Rachael, Gilberte, Odette, Bloch, and Mme Verdurin who has completed her ascent to become the new Duchesse de Guermantes, for all the happiness it will bring her. Proust opens this section with a startling narrative conceit, that of appearing to enter a costume ball where everyone has come as the walking dead, until he realises it is simply that everyone has substantially aged. (It is clear that Marcel has been removed from society for some time, although he is also only just making the decision to truly retreat, one of many little inconsistencies that poke out from this draft volume.) While the heartbreaking final scene for Charlus is fitting, one hopes that Morel and Mme Verdurin would have received greater farewells in the finished work - although the last we see of the new Duchesse is her truly enjoying the music at the reception even as those around her engage in intrigues, a reminder of her bourgeois past, so at least that's fitting. Warming my heart is the fact that, although we don't get a farewell to Francoise, this is because she appears to be the only character who will remain in the narrator's life after he retreats from society on the final page.

The ponderings on old age seem to go on for some time, often repeating themselves, suggesting that Proust was uncontrollably - and reasonably - fascinated by the subject as he entered his 50s himself, a dying man living like a hermit in his cork-lined room (I suppose you could argue that this is a deliberate literary technique to present the narrator as aged and forgetful but this seems overly generous and also, I would think, a way of writing that hadn't really been invented yet). However, they are constantly delightful, and indeed much of this section is light-hearted, suggesting to me yet again that the popular image of the depressive, wilting Proust is in fact only one aspect of his personality. Two portraits particularly stand out. The ageing Odette who, like so many others, has forgotten Marcel's own early years in the haze of her memory (fairly reasonably; after all, he was no-one special to her!), now mistakes his minor successes for true fame, and takes the time to exaggerate events from her early life for his benefit. Describing her new place as the constantly demeaned mistress of the "magnificent ruin" that is the Duc de Guermantes, Proust speaks thus: "She was commonplace in this role as she had been in all her others. Not that life had not frequently given her good parts; it had, but she had not known how to play them". Can this man write, or can this man write? And, perhaps the best scene of the entire second half of the Search takes only a few pages, as Berma - the character I least expected to see receiving such narrative focus in the closing chapter - hosts the world's saddest dinner party. It's a testament to the great skill Proust had developed over the course of writing his magnum opus that a conflict between two fairly minor characters, taking us from location to location, from past to present to future, can at all times seem so razor-sharp, so thematically apt, and so dimensional. There is certainly an air of tragedy underlying everything, though. Our protagonist at last finds his way, but this newfound focus on genealogy couldn't but remind me of that other original protagonist, Charles Swann. In an earlier volume, it was mentioned that the late Swann wished to leave three things behind: good memories in friends, his child, and his name. Well, his name is barely known at all by the new generation, his ageing friends hold some good memories although they're largely fictionalised (and often bowdlerised) from reality, and his child - who, having married twice, no longer even bears his name - has largely renounced him. (Marcel says of Gilberte early on that she is "like one of those countries with which one dare not form an alliance because of their too frequent changes of government.")

A few of those old bugbears return to haunt us in the final pages. First, Marcel decides that the logical next step in his life would be to take Gilberte and Robert's 16-year-old daughter, Mlle de Saint-Loup, as his next mistress (um...?), and Gilberte indicates that Robert would probably have preferred a son given his homosexual tendencies (ummmmmmm....?). And then Marcel becomes obsessed with death in the same way he once obsessed over jealousy and, before that, over kisses from his mother. Well, at least he's consistent! The problematic nature of parts of the novel should not be neglected by serious readers, and I hope I have not, but they only add to my desire to reread, and to study more of Proust's life, to better capture all the complexities of this man and his work. The final pages, as the narrator agonises about whether death will take him before he finishes his great work, are sobering given Proust's untimely end, but they also enlighten and enrapture, as Marcel realises that over the course of his life, his book was "perpetually in the process of becoming".

(On a housekeeping note, this Vintage imprint includes the substantial A Guide to Proust which catalogues the Characters, Real-Life Persons, Places, and Themes of the novel with handy breakdowns of key moments. It's by no means a complete concordance, but it's a satisfyingly researched appendix to the volumes, and I really appreciate its inclusion - not that it makes up for the frustrating lack of annotations! I appreciate the complexity of such things but, for a work written in a vastly different society in a different language a century ago, there were many areas of discussion and reference where the knowing voice of an expert would have helped me, and many others with which I was familiar, but which I suspect most people of my generation would not be. In this "do more with less" era, I appreciate why publishing houses issue these bare-bones editions, but it is a cheap shortcut now that will only lead to an incomplete map in the future, as young people struggle with the Everest that is four centuries of art and literature in an age when such things are already less and less valued. Simply put, the cost of a world without introductions and endnotes is too much for Western culture to afford.)

How many great cathedrals remain unfinished!

As I finished the last page of this 3,000-page masterpiece, I achieved a truth that I'm sure everyone has felt who has finished Proust: one never finishes Proust. This world created, these philosophies explored: they will never leave me. It may be several years before I read the Search again, but I know that I will. I chose to embark upon the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright translation because it is the foundation text upon which most Proust criticism is written, but next time I look forward to devouring the new 21st century translations. The layers to the Search are historical, biographical, emotional, psychological, literary and, it seems, are endless. When at last, the narrator sits down to write, he at last understands "this notion of Time embodied, of years past but not separated from us", and it is one of the most beautiful revelations I have yet had the privilege to read in all of literature. That final image of the Duc de Guermantes on the ever-growing stilts that we all wear in this life, is indelibly etched upon my memory. Much like the young Marcel and Gilberte in the pink hawthorn grove, I feel as if I have witnessed countless signs I have only just begun to comprehend. Yet also, like an evening salon with the Verdurins or a walk by the seaside in Balbec, this year of reading Proust has only been a part of my life, a tiny aspect of that tapestry of memory, that web created between our mind and the world. Proust mentions in this volume that all art, particularly good art, is on some level only what the reader makes of it. Less charitably (with due credit to the wonderful 182 Days of Proust) Schopenhauer said "Books are like a mirror. If an ass looks in, you can't expect an angel to look out". Indeed, I can only agree - with both of them! Over the past year, I have connected so much of my own life to what Proust writes about, and conversely I have connected much of Proust's search to my own. Reading Proust has been bewildering, delightful, uplifting, heartbreaking, philosophical, and occasionally infuriating. But, whatever else it may have been, I know I have not wasted Time. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
ALL'OMBRA DELLE FANCIULLE IN FIORE

PARTE PRIMA - INTORNO ALLA SIGNORA SWANN

Ma la ragione principale, ed applicabile, questa, all’umanita’ in generale, era che le nostre stesse virtu’ non sono qualcosa di libero e fluttuante, di cui serbiamo la disponibilita’ permanente; esse finiscono per associarsi cosi’ strettamente, nel nostro animo, con le azioni in occasione delle quali ci siamo fatti un dovere di esercitarle, che, se sorge per noi un’attivita’ d’altro ordine, essa ci prende alla sprovvista, senza che neppure ci sfiori l’idea che potrebbe comportare la pratica di quelle stesse virtu’. (354)

Ma - come al viaggio a Balbec, al viaggio a Venezia, che avevo tanto desiderato - cio’ che io chiedevo a quella matinee, era ben altro che un piacere: erano verita’ appartenenti ad un mondo piu’ reale di quello in cui vivevo, e la cui conquista, una volta compiuta, non avrebbe potuto essermi tolta da incidenti insignificanti, pur se dolorosi per il mio corpo, della mia oziosa esistenza. Tutt’al piu’, il piacere che avrei provato durante lo spettacolo mi appariva come la forma forse necessaria della percezione di quelle verita’; (362)

I nostri desideri interferiscono via via fra loro, e, nella confusione dell’esistenza, e’ raro che una felicita’ giunga a posarsi esattamente sul desiderio che l’aveva invocata. (397)

Senza dubbio, in queste coincidenze tanto perfette, quando la realta’ si ripiega e aderisce a quel che abbiamo tanto a lungo sognato, ce lo nasconde interamente, si confonde con esso, come due figure uguali e sovrapposte che ne formano una sola, mentre invece, per dare alla nostra gioia tutto il suo significato, vorremmo conservare a tutti i punti del nostro desiderio, nel momento stesso in cui li raggiungiamo - e per essere piu’ certi che siano proprio loro - il prestigio d’essere intangibili. E il pensiero non puo’ nemmeno ricostituire l’antico stato per confrontarlo con quello nuovo, perche’ non ha piu’ il campo libero: la conoscenza che abbiamo fatto, il ricordo dei primi minuti insperati, le parole che abbiamo udite, sono li’ a ostruire l’ingresso della nostra coscienza, e dominano la via della nostra memoria ben piu’ che quelle della nostra immaginazione, retroagiscono sul nostro passato, che non siamo ormai padroni di vedere senza tener conto di loro, assai piu’ che sulla forma, rimasta libera, del nostro avvenire. (434-5)

Senza dubbio i nomi sono disegnatori pieni di fantasia, e ci danno delle persone e dei paesi schizzi cosi’ poco somiglianti da farci provare spesso una specie di stupore quando ci troviamo davanti, invece del mondo immaginato, il mondo visibile (che del resto non e’ il mondo vero, perche’ i nostri sensi son privi del dono della rassomiglianza quanto lo e’ l’immaginazione, cosicche’ i disegni finalmente approssimativi che e’ possibile ottenere dalla realta’ sono differenti dalle cose viste, almeno quanto queste lo erano dalle cose immaginate). (443)

Non si ritrovava pero’ nel linguaggio di Bergotte una certa luminosita’ che, nei suoi libri come in quelli di qualche altro autore, modifica spesso nella frase scritta l’apparenza delle parole, senza dubbio perche’ proviene da grandi profondita’ e non raggiunge coi suoi raggi le nostre parole nelle ore in cui, aperti agli altri dalla conversazione, siamo in una certa misura chiusi a noi stessi. (446)

E’, nell’amore, uno stato anormale, capace di dare subito, alla circostanza apparentemente piu’ semplice e che puo’ sempre capitare, una gravita’ che di per se’ la circostanza non comporterebbe. A rendere tanto felici e’ la presenza nel cuore di qualcosa di instabile, che perpetuamente ci sforziamo di trattenere e di cui non ci accorgiamo quasi piu’, finche’ non viene spostato. In realta’, c’e’ nell’amore una sofferenza permanente, che la gioia neutralizza, rende virtuale, rinvia, ma che puo’ in ogni momento diventare quel che sarebbe da molto tempo se non si fosse ottenuto cio’ che si sperava: atroce. (468)

Stavo per attraversare una di quelle congiunture difficili di fronte a cui accade, in generale, di trovarsi a piu’ riprese nella vita, ed alle quali, benche’ non si sia cambiato carattere ne’ natura - la nostra natura che crea lei stessa i nostri amori, e quasi le donne che amiamo, e perfino le loro colpe - non si fa mai fronte nella stessa maniera ogni volta, vale a dire ad ogni eta’. In quei momenti la nostra vita e’ divisa e come distribuita in una bilancia, su due piatti opposti che la contengono totalmente. Nell’uno, c’e’ il nostro desiderio di non dispiacere, di non apparire troppo umili all’essere che amiamo senza riuscire a comprenderlo, ma che riteniamo piu’ abile lasciare un po’ da parte perche’ non abbia quella sensazione di credersi indispensabile che lo allontanerebbe da noi; nell’altro c’e’ una sofferenza - e non una sofferenza localizzata e parziale - che, al contrario, potrebbe calmarsi solo se, rinunciando a piacere a quella donna e a farle credere che possiamo privarci di lei, tornassimo a cercarla. (470-1)

Del resto, se prima di andare dalla signora Swann cercavo sempre di accertarmi dell’assenza di Gilberte, questo dipendeva forse, oltre che dalla mia risoluzione d’essere in rotta con lei, da quella speranza di riconciliazione che si sovrapponeva alla mia volonta’ di rinuncia (ben poche rinunce sono assolute, almeno per continuita’, in quest’animo umano una delle cui leggi, rafforzata dall’inopinato affluire di ricordi diversi, e’ l’intemittenza) e mi mascherava quel che aveva di troppo crudele. Quella speranza, sapevo bene quanto fosse chimerica. (475)

Di modo che - cosi’ almeno pensavo allora - si e’ sempre distaccati dagli altri esseri; quando si ama, si sente che quell’amore non porta il loro nome, potra’ rinascere in futuro, avrebbe potuto, anche in passato, nascere per un’altra e non per lei; e, nel tempo in cui non si ama, se ci si rassegna filosoficamente a quanto c’e’ di contraddittorio nell’amore, e’ solo perche’, allora, quell’amore di cui si parla con disinvoltura non lo si prova, quindi non lo si conosce, giacche’ la conoscenza in questo campo e’ intermittente e non sopravvive alla presenza effettiva del sentimento. (490)

E poiche’ la durata media della vita - la longevita’ relativa - e’ molto maggiore per i ricordi delle sensazioni poetiche che non per quelli delle sofferenze del cuore, dopo tanto tempo che sono svanite le pene che provavo allora a causa di Gilberte, e’ sopravvissuto loro il piacere che provo, ogni volta che voglio leggere, in una specie di quadrante solare, i minuti compresi fra mezzogiorno e l’una e un quarto di un mese di maggio, nel rivedermi conversare cosi’ con la signora Swann, sotto il suo ombrello, come sotto il riflesso di un pergolato di glicini. (511-2)



PARTE SECONDA - NOMI DI PAESI: IL PAESE

Fugitive beaute’
dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’Eternité?

Fuggitiva bellezza,
il cui sguardo m’ha fatto rinascere improvviso,
non ti rivedro’ piu’ che nell’Eternita’?

(Baudelaire, 565)

Proust … da leggere per avere un’idea di tutto quello che perdiamo quando osserviamo, pensiamo, o semplicemente amiamo.

Quando subivo il fascino di un volto nuovo, quando l’aiuto di un’altra fanciulla mi faceva sperare di conoscere le cattedrali gotiche, i palazzi e i giardini d’Italia, mi dicevo tristemente che il nostro amore, in quanto amore di una determinata creatura, forse non e’ qualcosa di veramente reale perchè, se associazioni di fantasticherie piacevoli o dolorose possono legarlo per qualche tempo a una donna fino a farci pensare che sia stato ispirato da lei in modo necessario, in compenso, se ci svincoliamo volontariamente o a nostra insaputa da quelle associazioni, l’amore, come se fosse invece spontaneo e provenisse solo da noi, rinasce per darsi a un’altra donna. (513)

Ecco perché la parte migliore della nostra memoria e’ fuori di noi, in un soffio piovoso, nell’odore di rinchiuso di una camera o nell’odore di una prima fiammata, … (513)

La carrozza della signora di Villeparisis correva. Avevo appena il tempo di vedere la ragazzetta che veniva nella nostra direzione; eppure - poiché’ la bellezza degli esseri non è come quella delle cose, e sentiamo che è propria di una creatura unica, cosciente e volitiva - appena la sua individualità, anima vaga, volontà a me sconosciuta, si dipingeva in una piccola immagine prodigiosamente ridotta, ma completa, in fondo al sua sguardo distratto, subito, misteriosa risposta di pollini preparati per i pistilli, sentivo germinare in me l’embrione altrettanto vago, altrettanto minuscolo, del desiderio di non lasciar passare quella ragazza senza che il suo pensiero prendesse coscienza della mia persona, senza impedire ai suoi desideri di andare verso qualcun altro, senza fissarmi nelle sue fantasie e impadronirmi del suo cuore. (565)

Se pensassimo che gli occhi di una ragazza simile non sono che una brillante rotella di mica, non saremmo avidi di conoscere e di unire a noi la sua vita. Ma sentiamo che quel che brilla in quel disco riflettente non è dovuto unicamente alla sua composizione materiale; che sono, a noi ignote, le nere ombre delle idee che quell’essere si fa a proposito delle persone e dei luoghi che conosce - prati degli ippodromi, sabbia dei sentieri per cui, pedalando attraverso campi e boschi, mi avrebbe trascinato quella piccola Peri, più seducente per me di quella del paradiso persiano - e anche le ombre della casa in cui sta per tornare, i progetti che fa o che altri hanno fatto per lei; e soprattutto che e’ lei, con i suoi desideri, le sue simpatie, le sue repulsioni, la sua oscura e incessante volontà. (625)

Ma, a questa prima incertezza, se le avrei o no viste quel giorno stesso, veniva ad aggiungersene una più grave, se le avrei riviste mai, perché, insomma, ignoravo se dovessero partire per l’America o ritornare a Parigi. Bastava questo per farmi cominciare ad amarle. Si può provare simpatia per una persona. Ma per scatenare quella tristezza, quel sentimento di irreparabile, quelle angosce che preparano l’amore, ci vuole - ed è forse questo, più che una persona, l’oggetto vero e proprio che la passione cerca appassionatamente di attingere - il rischio di una impossibilità. (652)

… mi sentii perfettamente felice, perché, grazie a tutti i dipinti che erano intorno a me, sentivo la possibilità di sollevarmi a una conoscenza poetica, feconda di gioie, di molte forme che fino allora non avevo isolate dallo spettacolo totale della realtà. (653)

I suoi occhi, anche fissi, davano l’impressione della mobilità, come avviene in quei giorni di gran vento in cui l’aria, benché invisibile, lascia percepire la velocità con cui esso passa sullo sfondo dell’azzurro. Per un momento i suoi sguardi incrociarono i miei, come quei cieli erratici dei giorni di bufera che si avvicinano ad una nuvola meno rapida, la costeggiano, la toccano, la sorpassano. Ma non fanno conoscenza e si allontanano l’uno dall’altra. (669)

Se, nel suo gusto del divertimento, Albertine aveva qualcosa della Gilberte dei primi tempi, e’ perché una certa somiglianza esiste, pur evolvendosi, fra le donne che amiamo successivamente, somiglianza dovuta alla fissità del nostro temperamento, perché è lui a sceglierle, eliminando tutte quelle quelle che non ci sarebbero al tempo stesso opposte e complementari, cioè atte a soddisfare i nostri sensi e a far soffrire il nostro cuore. Sono, queste donne, un prodotto del nostro temperamento, un’immagine, una proiezione rovesciata, un “negativo” della nostra sensibilità. (696-7)

Erano riunite intorno a me; e tra i loro visi poco lontani l’uno dall’altro, l’aria che li separava tracciava sentieri d’azzurro, come segnati da un giardiniere che ha voluto mettere un po’ di spazio per potersi muovere in mezzo a un boschetto di rose. (704)

Anche la conversazione, che è il modo di espressione dell’amicizia, e’ una divagazione superficiale, che non ci fa acquisire nulla. (706)

Il volto umano e’ davvero come quello del Dio di una cosmogonia orientale, tutto un grappolo di visi giustapposti su piani diversi e che non si vedono contemporaneamente. (713)

Quanto all’armoniosa coesione in cui si neutralizzavano da qualche tempo, per la resistenza che ognuna opponeva all’espansione delle altre, le diverse onde sentimentali propagate in me da quelle fanciulle, si spezzò in favore di Albertine… (714

I GUERMANTES



  NewLibrary78 | Jul 22, 2023 |
Reading this was a memorable experience. It keeps reverberating with me. It will be a source for inspiring observations about our brief lives and their fading memories.
  ivanfranko | Jan 30, 2023 |
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Proust, Marcelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beretta Anguissola, AlbertoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bloom, HaroldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blossom, Frederick AugustusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clarac, PierreEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Maria, LucianoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enright, DJTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferré, AndréEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fischer, Bernd-JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galateria, DariaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keller, LuziusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, TerenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matic, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurois, AndrePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayor, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raboni, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rechel-Mertens, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott Moncrieff, C. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tadié, Jean-Yvessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For a long time, I would go to bed early.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. Short Stories. In Search of Lost Time (French: ? la recherche du temps perdu)?? previously also translated as Remembrance of Things Past, is a novel in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871??1922). It is considered to be his most prominent work, known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine" which occurs early in the first volume. It gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained usage since D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992. The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages, as they existed only in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother

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L'edizione comprende i sette romanzi della "Recherche" nella prestigiosa traduzione di Giovanni Raboni, e il volume "Sulla lettura", una rievocazione di Proust delle proprie esperienze di lettore, corredato di un'appendice di "Immagini proustiane" a cura di A. L. Zazo.

Dalla parte di Swann; La parte di Guermantes; All'ombra delle fanciulle in fiore; Sodoma e Gomorra; La Prigioniera; Albertine scomparsa; Il Tempo ritrovato; Sulla lettura.

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