proust thread

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im so glad i dont go to parties

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 09:31 (nine years ago) link

"Why, Basin, you know quite well who' my aunt means," cried the
Duchess indignantly. "He's the brother of that great graminivorous
creature you had the weird idea of sending to call on me the other
day. She stayed a solid hour; I thought I should go mad. But I began
by thinking it was she who was mad when I saw a person I didn't know
come browsing into the room looking exactly like a cow."

"Listen, Oriane; she asked me what afternoon you were at home; I
couldn't very well be rude to her; and besides, you do exaggerate so,
she's not in the least like a cow," he added in a plaintive tone,
though not without a quick smiling glance at the audience.

He knew that his wife's lively wit needed the stimulus of
contradiction, the contradiction of common sense which protests that
one cannot (for instance) mistake a woman seriously for a cow; by this
process Mme. de Guermantes, enlarging upon her original idea, had
been inspired to produce many of her most brilliant sayings. And the
Duke in his innocent fashion helped her, without seeming to do so, to
bring off her effects like, in a railway carriage, the unacknowledged
partner of the three-card player.

"I admit she doesn't look like _a_ cow, she looks like a dozen,"
exclaimed Mme. de Guermantes. "I assure you, I didn't know what to do
when I saw a herd of cattle come marching into my drawing-room in a
hat and heard them ask me how I was. I had half a mind to say:
'Please, herd of cattle, you must be making a mistake, you can't
possibly know me, because you're a herd of cattle,' but after racking
my brains over her I came to the conclusion that your Cambremer woman
must be the Infanta Dorothea who had said she was coming to see me one
day, and is rather bovine also, so that I was just on the point of
saying: 'Your Royal Highness' and using the third person to a herd of
cattle. The cut of her dewlap reminded me rather, too, of the Queen of

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 09:40 (nine years ago) link

im so glad i dont go to parties

So is Proust - a conclusion he reached after not getting enough of 'em over a decade or so.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 09:50 (nine years ago) link

How does it compare to A Dance to the Music of Time?

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 09:51 (nine years ago) link

proust has more laffs

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 12:26 (nine years ago) link

Indeed it does have a lot of laffs - know you are reading Moncrieff and I wonder whether I should pick that up again for that reason. The multi-translator that I've read and love I think is less funny but somehow the 'laws' Proust abstracts from all the beahaviour he witnesses/creates comes out a lot more here.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 5 September 2014 12:33 (nine years ago) link

i read the first volume in lydia davis because i'd read the moncrieff version before. moncrieff is a more enjoyable reading experience, which helps

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:06 (nine years ago) link

he's a bit cheesecakey though, or like having a giant cadbury bar, in places

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:07 (nine years ago) link

new biography of Moncrieff makes him sound a p interesting figure:

i read the moncrieff/kilmartin translation in penguin, which worked out fine for me. have since seen a version further revised by D J Enright, which i might try if i ever re-read (which I would like to do.)

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Friday, 5 September 2014 13:15 (nine years ago) link

we have been in this drawing room for 80 pages and I suspect we have the same to pass again

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:06 (nine years ago) link

"words do have some meaning after all, damn it"

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:17 (nine years ago) link

I still getting the courage to open the second part of Sodoma and Gomorra. He is in Balbec yet again. First part was pretty brilliant.

Frederik B, Friday, 5 September 2014 16:32 (nine years ago) link

The second part is even better, especially the way the Charlus-Morel relationship frames the new phase of the narrator's relationship with Albertine. (I'm nearing the end of The Fugitive, myself.)

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 16:42 (nine years ago) link

A Dance to the Music of Time was a massive – in every sense – disappointment.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 5 September 2014 16:43 (nine years ago) link

balbec "yet" again? do i have another visit to deal with before then?

i can't decide if i care particularly about the things i know will happen already, given how much the unexpected reappearance of figures from earlier in the narrative is one of its stock tactics, tics, schticks

i am pro 'dance'; suspect powell less of a snob than proust tbh

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 18:31 (nine years ago) link

did someone, on ilx, talk about the bit where bloch's father tells saint-loup a painting is by ... i forget, manet? ... and saint-loup innocently asks if it is signed, not meaning to cast aspersions, and bloch sr's reaction demonstrates that he thinks saint-loup is casting aspersions, and also that he is lying

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 5 September 2014 18:32 (nine years ago) link

It's only his second long visit after In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, I think (?). I do like the repetitions, it gives structure to what could easily be seen as thousands of pages of dinners and vacations. Also, I'd just recommend the Deleuze book on Proust and the Signs. That one is pretty brilliant, really gave me a lot to focus on as I read.

Frederik B, Friday, 5 September 2014 18:55 (nine years ago) link

Benjamin's "Image of Proust" essay is also essential, although that probably goes without saying. I think the ending of The Guermantes Way, with the Guermantes' willful refusal to recognize death recapitulating the narrator's inability (yet) to mourn his grandmother, was probably the place in the cycle where I started to appreciate Proust's unexpectedly forceful command of narrative structure beyond the paragraph level.

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:18 (nine years ago) link

(I don't really know what constitutes spoilers in this thread, or whether they're even that relevant to reading Proust, but maybe I should be more circumspect about talking about plot here.)

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:21 (nine years ago) link

Beckett's book also essential.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 5 September 2014 19:24 (nine years ago) link

Yes! In my teaching days, when I taught Endgame a few times, I would usually start one of the classes with Beckett's analysis of habit, "the ballast that chains the dog to its vomit."

one way street, Friday, 5 September 2014 19:28 (nine years ago) link

i dont think we need to avoid spoilers on the proust thread, i think if ur contemplating reading proust you have high level developed reading skills that enable u 2 do things like read a sentence starting "I think the ending of The Guermantes Way..." and think 2 urself, i do not need 2 rd the rest of this sentence

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 6 September 2014 09:53 (nine years ago) link

i sort of recognise myself in proust's thing about sons who are rude to their mothers /:

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 6 September 2014 09:53 (nine years ago) link

how do ppl reconcile themselves with the antisemitism and homophobia and misogyny in this then

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:44 (nine years ago) link

is reconciling necessary?

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:49 (nine years ago) link

I didn't mean to write "themselves with"

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:52 (nine years ago) link

man the first reference to the war reminds me of the clunking 'this is the 50s!' stuff that tv show mad men used to do

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 12:52 (nine years ago) link

On the other hand, in light of what Proust's contemporary readers had recently experienced, in the first volume of The Guermantes Way the irony of Saint-Loup's protracted praise of the aesthetic beauty of military planning is handled exquisitely.

one way street, Sunday, 7 September 2014 18:47 (nine years ago) link

(I shake my head at having written "aesthetic beauty" in place of "beauty," though.)

one way street, Sunday, 7 September 2014 18:52 (nine years ago) link

how does he go from that to "if we had another war not that we will have another war it will be like the Götterdämmerung and the great flood rolled into one" though? dude needs an editor

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 7 September 2014 20:06 (nine years ago) link

"Standing in the tunnel before a match against Liverpool at Anfield, I had a brush with something that Marcel Proust describes as 'a remembrance of things past'" - from I Am The Secret Footballer, pg. 19

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Monday, 8 September 2014 09:34 (nine years ago) link

five months pass...

I'm three quarters through my rereading of S&G. Charlus has said he prefers strawberry lemonade, leading the narrator to think, "Aha! He's given himself away as an invert!"

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 February 2015 14:49 (nine years ago) link

charlus is totally my favourite aspect of this, in retrospect

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:50 (nine years ago) link

hey alfred this one-liner is from the next volume turn away to avoid spoilers. everyone else, isn't this grand:

“For the American woman dinner-parties and fashionable entertainments were a sort of Berlitz School. She heard the names and she repeated them, without having first learnt their precise value and significance.”

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:52 (nine years ago) link

btw in re how do ppl reconcile the antisemitism and homophobia and misogyny in this then i arrived at a reading, i have decided everyone else is wrong about proust

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:53 (nine years ago) link

except people who say things like "volumes five and six fall off a little," i didn't want them to be but these people are right about proust

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:53 (nine years ago) link

two months pass...

so what's the best translation of this shit

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:20 (nine years ago) link

english translation

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:21 (nine years ago) link

ck scott moncrieff forever and all time accept no imitations

adam, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:25 (nine years ago) link


drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:29 (nine years ago) link

these editions?

markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:32 (nine years ago) link



markers, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:38 (nine years ago) link

i read & love the former (moncrieff & kilmartin), not familiar with enright's revision

drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 01:45 (nine years ago) link

sorry can't be more helpful. if/when i read again in translation (still have crazy ambition to read it in french someday) may try enright (revising moncrieff & kilmartin).

many recommend new davis translation (of first volume); i've only read a few excerpts. comparing davis & m&k, without comparing either to the french, i find m&k more beautifully written. totally subjective (really, subjective): just love m&k's sentences more.

if i intended to read whole thing (all volumes), think i'd want to read same "voice" throughout-- which would be arg for m&k (or m&k&e) over davis, even if one preferred davis's translation of swann's way.

so don't take this as rec but just my subjective pref.

drash, Monday, 4 May 2015 02:44 (nine years ago) link

i read the first volume in lydia davis because i'd read the moncrieff version before. moncrieff is a more enjoyable reading experience, which helps

― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, September 5, 2014 1:06 PM (7 months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

he's a bit cheesecakey though, or like having a giant cadbury bar, in places

― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, September 5, 2014 1:07 PM (7 months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Monday, 4 May 2015 03:13 (nine years ago) link

enright's revisions of kilmartin's revisions aren't that big of a deal imo -- those two are trying to abolish howlers and make a style a little more consistent, but hardly changing the book's basic deal in english. i can't read french though so take this w a grain of salt!! -- there's a really good i think lrb article about the changes?

davis is fun to read and wonder about whether her studied affectlessnesslessness is more of a mesh w proust than one had ever realised, but i think it's better to start triangulating what proust is like from the version we had around for decades than to go to the scorched-earth penguin one

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Monday, 4 May 2015 03:15 (nine years ago) link

Love how often this question comes around (boo on me for noticing).

There are only two translations. try one - then if you don't like try he other one.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 May 2015 08:56 (nine years ago) link

This is the LRB piece i think (came up randomly on my twitter feed just now).

reminds me of this podcast (feat. Prendergast). don't like Matthew Sweet and Prendergast was know-it-all iirc but worth a listen if you'd like to be annoyed.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 May 2015 11:00 (nine years ago) link

five months pass...

Why would anyone take a dog to a dentistry exhibition?

Matt DC, Wednesday, 21 October 2015 12:29 (eight years ago) link

Tfw you're carrying on endless arguments with yourself while you dream.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 22:15 (nine months ago) link

marcel makes his move: had not occurred to me that man, a creature clearly less rudimentary than the sea urchin or even the whale, nevertheless lacks a certain number of essential organs, and notably possesses none that will serve for kissing. For this absent organ he substitutes his lips, and thus perhaps manages to achieve a more satisfactory result than if he were reduced to caressing the beloved with a horny tusk. But the lips, designed to bring to the palate the taste that lures them, have to be content, without understanding their mistake or admitting their disappointment, with drifting over the surface and coming up against the barrier of the cheek's desirable impenetrability. And at the moment of actual contact with the flesh, the lips, even supposing they might become more expert and talented, would doubtless be unable to enjoy any more fully the flavor that nature prevents them from grasping spontaneously, for in the desolate zone in which they are unable to find their rightful nourishment they are alone, long since abandoned by the eyes and then the nose in turn. For a start, as my mouth began to move toward the cheeks my eyes had led it to want to kiss, my eyes changed position and saw different cheeks; the neck, observed at closer range and as if through a magnifying glass, became coarse-grained and showed a sturdiness which altered the character of her face.

Apart from the latest developments in photography-- which lay down at the foot of a cathedral all the houses that so often, from close up, seemed to us to be as high as towers, which deploy like a regiment, in file, in organized dispersion, in serried masses, the same monuments, bring together on the piazzetta the two columns that were so far apart a while back, distance the nearby Salute, and, on a pale and lifeless background, manage to contain an immense horizon beneath the arch of a bridge, in a single window frame, between the leaves of a tree in the foreground that is more vigorous in tone, frame a single church successively in the arcades of all the others-- I know of nothing that is able, to the same degree as a kiss, to conjure up from what we believed to be something with one definite aspect, the hundred other things it may equally well be, since each is related to a no less valid perspective. In short, just as in Balbec Albertine had often seemed different to me, now-- as if, by magically accelerating the speed of the changes of perspective and coloring a person offers us in the course of our various encounters, I had tried to contain them all within the space of a few seconds in order to re-create experimentally the phenomenon that diversifies a person's individuality and to draw out separately, as from a slipcase, all the possibilities it contains-- now what I saw, in the brief trajectory of my lips toward her cheek, was ten Albertines...

difficult listening hour, Monday, 2 October 2023 17:53 (nine months ago) link

book needs a kill bill siren every time he thinks of a church (or a regiment)

difficult listening hour, Monday, 2 October 2023 17:53 (nine months ago) link

I've often been reduced to caressing my beloved with a horny tusk.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 2 October 2023 17:56 (nine months ago) link

knew that'd get you

difficult listening hour, Monday, 2 October 2023 17:56 (nine months ago) link

If M. de Charlus's liking for me had been destroyed, his behavior could not have been more at variance with the fact, since, while assuring me that we had fallen out, he was making me stay and drink, offering to put me up for the night, and now arranging for me to be sent home. He looked as if he was dreading the moment he must leave me and find himself on his own again, the same sort of slightly anxious fear his sister-in-law and cousin Guermantes had seemed to me to be feeling an hour ago, when she had tried to force me to stay a little longer, with something of the same momentary fondness for me, the same effort to prolong the minute.

"Unfortunately," he continued, "the gift of making something that has been destroyed rebloom is not one I have. My affection for you is quite dead. Nothing can revive it. I don't think it would be unworthy of me to confess that I regret it. I always feel myself to be rather like Victor Hugo's Boaz: 'I am widowed and alone, and darkness falls upon me.'"

I walked back through the big greenish drawing room with him. I let drop a chance remark about how beautiful I thought it was. "Isn't it?" he replied. "One needs to have something to love. The paneling is by Bagard."


"There, now, I've actually forgotten the most important thing. In memory of your grandmother, I have had a rare edition of Mme de Sévigné bound for you. Which means that this will not be our last meeting. One must console oneself with the thought that complicated affairs are rarely settled in a day. Just look how long it took to negotiate the Congress of Vienna."

"But I could send someone round for it without disturbing you," I said to oblige him.

"Will you learn to hold your tongue, you little fool," he replied angrily, "and not push your grotesque behavior to the point of assuming that the likelihood of being received by me-- I don't say the certainty, for perhaps one of my servants will hand you the volumes-- is some trifling honor." He regained control of himself: "I do not wish to part from you on these words. No dissonance; before the eternal silence, a chord on the dominant!" It was for his own nerves that he seemed to dread a return home immediately after harsh words of discord. "You would not like to come to the Bois," he said in a tone that was not interrogative but affirmative, not, it seemed to me, that he did not want to make the offer, but because he was afraid that his pride would be injured by a refusal. "Well, there we are," he continued, still marking time, "it is the hour, as Whistler says, when the bourgeois go to bed"-- perhaps he wished now to exploit my own sense of pride-- "the moment to start taking a look at the world. But you don't even know who Whistler is."

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 7 October 2023 14:55 (nine months ago) link

Just look how long it took to negotiate the Congress of Vienna.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 7 October 2023 14:58 (nine months ago) link

à la recherche du temps perdu, literally "it is the hour when the bourgeois go to bed"

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 7 October 2023 14:58 (nine months ago) link

But you don't even know French.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 7 October 2023 15:03 (nine months ago) link

The Duc called the footman back in to find out whether the man he had sent to Cousin d'Osmond's for news had returned. His plan was as follows: since he rightly believed his cousin to be dying, he was anxious to obtain news of him before his actual death-- that is, before he was obliged to go into mourning. Once he was covered by the official certainty that Amanien was still alive, he would push off to his dinner, to the Prince's reception, to the fancy-dress party he was to attend as Louis XI and where he had a most titillating assignation with a new mistress, and put off any further inquiries until the next day, when his pleasure was over. Then he would don mourning if his cousin had passed away in the course of the evening. "No, M. le Duc, he is not back yet." "Damn and blast it! Nothing is ever done in this house until the last minute," shouted the Duc, thinking that Amanien might have "snuffed it" in time to be in the evening paper and to make him miss his party. He sent for Le Temps, in which there was nothing.

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 7 October 2023 15:32 (nine months ago) link

I think there's a running joke there with the Duc and these Larry David-ish missteps around the etiquette of death and bereavement.

"I have just, my dear Sir, heard your tragic news. I should like, as a mark of sympathy, to shake hands with your father." I made the excuse that I could not very well disturb him at the moment. M. de Guermantes was like a caller who turns up just as one is about to start on a journey. But he felt so intensely the importance of the courtesy he was shewing us that it blinded him to all else, and he insisted upon being taken into the drawing-room. As a general rule, he made a point of going resolutely through the formalities with which he had decided to honour anyone, and took little heed that the trunks were packed or the coffin ready.

jmm, Saturday, 7 October 2023 20:06 (nine months ago) link

The one author whom M. de Guermantes considered "perfectly proper" was the gentleman who wrote the death notices in Le Gaulois. He at least contented himself with citing the name of M. de Guermantes at the head of those persons noticed "among others" at the funerals where the Duc had signed the list. When the latter preferred that his name should not appear, instead of signing he sent a letter of condolence to the deceased person's family, assuring them of the deep sadness that he felt. Should this family then have inserted in the newspaper, "Among the letters received, let us cite that from the Duc de Guermantes," etc., this was not the fault of the gossip writer but of the son, brother, or father of the person deceased, whom the Duc described as arrivistes, and with whom he was determined to have no further dealings (what he called, being unclear as to the meaning of these locutions, "having a bone to pick").

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 7 October 2023 21:23 (nine months ago) link

I have read only up through Sodom and Gomorrah, but Proust's depiction of Charlus' behavior is fascinating, if repellent. I had to take a break before moving on; there are only so many dinner parties one can read about at one go.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, 7 October 2023 22:46 (nine months ago) link

It's worth reading a Proust biography just for the frenemy relationship between Proust and Montesquiou, a main inspiration for Charlus.

jmm, Sunday, 8 October 2023 00:08 (nine months ago) link

Charlus was the only thing that made wading through most of that dinner party shit bearable---I kept hoping for him show up again and do his thing---well played, Marcel (just in case some of us juveniles don't find those olde swells so endlessly fascinating)

dow, Sunday, 8 October 2023 01:56 (nine months ago) link

i enjoy the psycho duke, the "turkish ambassadress" who's always wrong, and saint-loup's q-pilled mom

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 8 October 2023 02:36 (nine months ago) link

"What's that affair up there with the pickets?" asked Mme Verdurin, indicating to M. de Cambremer a superb carved escutcheon above the fireplace. "Are they your arms?" she added, with ironic disdain. "No, they're not ours," replied M. de Cambremer. "We bear Or with three bars embattled, counter-embattled Gules of five pieces each charged with a trefoil of the field. No, those are the arms of the Arrachepels, who weren't of our stock, but from whom we inherited the house, and those of our line have never wanted to change it. The Arrachepels-- Pelvilains in the old days, so it's said-- bore Or with five piles couped Gules. When they intermarried with the Féternes, their coat of arms changed but remained cantoned with twenty crosses crosslet with pile pery fitchy Or with dexter a vol ermine." "So much for you," said Mme de Cambremer under her breath.

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 12 October 2023 01:48 (nine months ago) link

Yet this simple situation suffices to demonstrate that even that universally decried thing, which would nowhere find anyone to defend it, "gossip," has, whether we are ourselves its object, so that it then becomes particularly disagreeable, or whether it teaches us something we did not know about a third person, its psychological value. It prevents the mind from falling asleep over the factitious view that it takes of what it believes things to be like, which is only their outward appearance. It turns this inside out with the magical dexterity of an idealist philosopher and quickly offers us an unsuspected corner of the reverse side of the fabric. Could M. de Charlus have imagined these words spoken by a certain fond female relative: "How can you expect Mémé to be in love with me? You're forgetting I'm a woman!" Yet she had a genuine, deep attachment to M. de Charlus. Why be surprised, then, that in the case of the Verdurins, on whose affection and kindness he had no right to rely, the remarks that they made when far away from him (and it was not only remarks, as we shall see) should have been so unlike what he imagined them to be, that is to say the simple echo of those that he heard when he was there? These last alone decorated with fond inscriptions the little ideal pavilion into which M. de Charlus sometimes went in order to dream on his own, when he would introduce his imagination for a moment into the idea that the Verdurins had of him. The atmosphere there was so sympathetic, so cordial, the respite so comforting, that, when M. de Charlus, before going to sleep, had come there for a moment to relax from his cares, he never re-emerged without a smile. But for each of us a pavilion of this kind is double: facing what we think is the only one, there is the other, customarily invisible to us, the real one, symmetrical with the one that we know yet very different, whose decoration, where we would recognize nothing of what we were expecting to see, would alarm us as being formed of the odious symbols of an unsuspected hostility. How aghast M. de Charlus would have been had he found his way into one of these adverse pavilions, by virtue of some piece of gossip, as if by one of those servants' staircases where obscene graffiti have been chalked on the doors of the apartments by disgruntled tradesmen or dismissed domestics!... Thus M. de Charlus lived deluded, like the fish that believes the water in which he is swimming extends beyond the glass of his tank, which offers him his reflection, whereas he does not see beside him, in the shadows, the amused passerby who is following his antics, or the all-powerful pisciculturalist who, at the unforseen and fatal moment... will pull him ruthlessly out from the medium in which he had liked living, to toss him into another one. Whole nations, what is more, insofar as they are simply collections of individuals, can provide examples, vaster yet identical in each of their parts, of this profound, obstinate, and disconcerting blindness.

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 12 October 2023 01:54 (nine months ago) link

This is how he died: after a mild uremic attack he had been ordered to rest. But a critic having written that in Vermeer's View of Delft (lent by the museum at The Hague for an exhibition of Dutch painting), a painting he adored and thought he knew perfectly, a little patch of yellow wall (which he could not remember) was so well painted that it was, if one looked at it in isolation, like a precious work of Chinese art, of an entirely self-sufficient beauty, Bergotte ate a few potatoes and went out to the exhibition. As he climbed the first set of steps, his head began to spin. He passed several paintings and had an impression of the sterility and uselessness of such an artificial form, and how inferior it was to the outdoor breezes and sunlight of a palazzo in Venice, or even an ordinary house at the seaside. Finally he stood in front of the Vermeer, which he remembered as having been more brilliant, more different from everything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic's article, he now noticed for the first time little figures in blue, the pinkness of the sand, and finally the precious substance of the tiny area of wall. His head spun faster; he fixed his gaze, as a child does on a yellow butterfly he wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall. "That is how I should have written," he said to himself. "My last books are too dry, I should have applied several layers of color, made my sentences precious in themselves, like that little patch of yellow wall." He knew how serious his dizziness was. In a heavenly scales he could see, weighing down one of the pans, his own life, while the other contained the little patch of wall so beautifully painted in yellow. He could feel that he had rashly given the first for the second. "I would really rather not," he thought, "be the human interest item in this exhibition for the evening papers." He was repeating to himself, "Little patch of yellow wall with a canopy, little patch of yellow wall." While saying this he collapsed onto a circular sofa; then suddenly, he stopped thinking that his life was in danger and said to himself, "It's just indigestion; those potatoes were undercooked." He had a further stroke, rolled off the sofa onto the ground as all the visitors and guards came running up. He was dead. Dead forever? Who can say? Certainly spiritualist experiments provide no more proof than religious dogma of the soul's survival. What we can say is that everything in our life happens as if we entered it bearing a burden of obligations contracted in an earlier life; there is nothing in the conditions of our life on this earth to make us feel any obligation to do good, to be scrupulous, even to be polite, nor to make the unbelieving artist feel compelled to paint a single passage twenty times over, when the admiration it will excite will be of little importance to his body when it is eaten by the worms, like the little piece of yellow wall painted with such knowledge and such refinement by the never-to-be-known artist whom we have barely identified by the name of Vermeer.

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 14 October 2023 17:00 (nine months ago) link

He was dead. Dead forever? Who can say?

ha, I think Bergotte is one of a few characters who have a habit of dying and coming back to life in the unfinished novel

jmm, Saturday, 14 October 2023 17:37 (nine months ago) link

"Ah! The Hague! What a gallery!" cried by M. de Guermantes. I said to him that he had doubtless admired Vermeer's Street in Delft. But the Duke was less erudite than arrogant. Accordingly he contented himself with replying in a tone of sufficiency, as was his habit whenever anyone spoke to him of a picture in a gallery, or in the Salon, which he did not remember having seen. "If it's to be seen, I saw it!"

jmm, Saturday, 14 October 2023 17:39 (nine months ago) link

Reminds me that I got an alert about a new book by Benjamin Moser about the Dutch Masters that looks good.

Smike and Pmith (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 14 October 2023 17:52 (nine months ago) link

Bergotte is one of a few characters who have a habit of dying and coming back to life in the unfinished novel

the slippage caused by proust's geographical+chronological+historical errors and accidental retcons, even in the published volumes, rly suits the book

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 14 October 2023 19:08 (nine months ago) link

(feel the same way about the polyphonic translation tbh but how would i know)

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 14 October 2023 19:09 (nine months ago) link

Yes, totally. That along with the fact that it's basically impossible to hold more than a fraction of the story in your memory at any given time, and the way that the narrator constantly multiplies the hypothetical explanations and motivations for any given event - the book has all these distorting layers which make it endlessly perplexing. Even though in another sense Proust is a very clear writer.

jmm, Saturday, 14 October 2023 19:50 (nine months ago) link

the book has all these distorting layers

He was mistaken. He did see her again, one more time, a few weeks later. It was while he was asleep, in the twilight of a dream. He was walking with Mme. Verdurin, Dr. Cottard, a young man in a fez whom he could not identify, the painter, Odette, Napoleon III, and my grandfather, along a path that followed the sea and overhung it steeply sometimes very high up, sometimes by a few yards only, so that one climbed and descended again constantly; those who were descending again were already no longer visible to those who were still climbing, what little daylight remained was failing, and it seemed then as though a profound darkness was going to sweep over them at any moment.... Odette turned her wrist, looked at a little watch, and said: "I have to go..." After one second, it was many hours ago that she had left them. The painter remarked to Swann that Napoleon III had vanished an instant after she had. "They certainly must have arranged it together," he added. "They must have met at the bottom of the hill, but they didn't want to say good-bye at the same time for the sake of appearances. She's obviously his mistress." The unknown young man began to cry. Swann tried to comfort him. "Really, she's doing the right thing," he told him, drying his eyes and taking off his fez so that he would be more comfortable. "I told her a dozen times she should do it. Why be sad about it? He above all would understand her." Thus did Swann talk to himself, for the young man he had not been able to identify at first was also himself; like certain novelists, he had divided his personality between two characters, the one having the dream, and another he saw before him wearing a fez.

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 14 October 2023 20:26 (nine months ago) link

The lie, the perfect lie, about people we know, about the relations we have had with them, about our motive for some action, formulated in totally different terms, the lie as to what we are, whom we love, what we feel with regard to people who love us and believe that they have fashioned us in their own image because they keep on kissing us morning, noon and night — that lie is one of the few things in the world that can open windows for us on to what is new and unknown, that can awaken in us sleeping senses for the contemplation of universes that otherwise we should never have known.

jmm, Saturday, 14 October 2023 21:26 (nine months ago) link

Have y’all seen the doc about the Buenos Aires reading group, have I mentioned it before?

Smike and Pmith (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 14 October 2023 21:46 (nine months ago) link

Haven't seen it yet. I want to find a group like that.

jmm, Sunday, 15 October 2023 00:23 (nine months ago) link

"Ah! The Hague! What a gallery!"


hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 15 October 2023 02:08 (nine months ago) link

But you don't even know what The Hague is.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 15 October 2023 08:30 (nine months ago) link


Smike and Pmith (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 15 October 2023 10:42 (nine months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Mlle Vinteuil acted as she did simply out of sadism, which does not excuse her, but comforted me a little when I thought about it afterward. She must have understood, I would say to myself, that all this was just an illness, a form of madness, and not the true delight in wickedness that she wanted it to be. But if she was able, later, to think of this for herself, it must have eased her suffering as it had formerly spoiled her pleasure. "That wasn't me," she must have said, "I was out of my mind. I can still pray for my father, and not despair of his goodness." However, it is possible that this idea, which must have come to her during her pleasure, did not occur to her during her suffering. I wished I could have put it into her mind.

difficult listening hour, Monday, 30 October 2023 23:45 (eight months ago) link

lol "le roman d'albertine" is so diseased (slyly acknowledged by long woody allen style pontification to albertine about dostoevsky). get a grip marcel!! write the book already!!

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 01:39 (eight months ago) link

Bergotte is one of a few characters who have a habit of dying and coming back to life in the unfinished novel... the narrator constantly multiplies the hypothetical explanations and motivations for any given event... the book has all these distorting layers

gasped at this (another de fourcheville dream!):

Two days later I was delighted to think that Bergotte must have greatly admired my article, which he could not have read without jealousy. Yet after a while my joy subsided. In fact Bergotte had not written me a word. I had simply wondered whether he would have liked the article, fearing that he had not. The question that I had asked myself was answered by Mme de Forcheville, who had replied that he admired it greatly, finding it worthy of a great writer. But she told me this while I was asleep: it was a dream. Almost all our dreams answer the questions that we have asked ourselves with complex affirmations and scenarios involving several characters, but they fade with the dawn.

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 11 November 2023 18:17 (eight months ago) link

irl lol @ all the tenses here:

I then came back to a Paris very different from the one to which I had already returned on an earlier occasion, as we shall see shortly,

difficult listening hour, Monday, 13 November 2023 15:38 (eight months ago) link

one month passes...

Found this essay to be pretty terrible.

If you had the time and there was nothing stopping you would you read this book?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 January 2024 09:28 (six months ago) link

that's paywalled but this line is very funny:

Thanks to a few features of Proust’s distinctive style, reading In Search of Lost Time inevitably takes at least twice or even three times as long as this.

"this" is three days. yes, nine days, that's about how long it takes to read Proust

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Thursday, 4 January 2024 12:30 (six months ago) link

i think the concept of "time poverty" is useful and important as a materialist element in cultural commentary and orientation: "time famine" less so tbh

however this essay tackles this area quite poorly -- not least by being far far longer than it needs to be for the various ideas it does little more than touch on, it could honestly have been a fifth the length without loss

i didn't know that marx and proust were distant cousins, so that's one small thing i guess (not consequential, but funny)

mark s, Thursday, 4 January 2024 12:54 (six months ago) link

also it's extremely annoying stylistically

mark s, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:00 (six months ago) link

"that's paywalled but this line is very funny"

You can sign up to two free articles a month.

I think this essay (from an earlier issue of the same mag) on as a yet untranslated Dutch novel from the 90s (as big as Proust) tackles some of the issues of life spent in the office. Those modern drudgeries.

Anyone who can read German should do themselves the favor of getting this book. One of the great reading experiences of my life. Get a @readliberties account and you can read my essay on it:

— Adrian Nathan West (@a_nathanwest) December 26, 2023

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:16 (six months ago) link

iirc (maybe not so correctly) it compares it with Proust, makes args around how those eight hours in the office sap your strength.

In the end though people read Proust (I read a lot of Proust on the bus commute and lunch break when I was working the most dreary dead end job in my life) so work partitioned my time so I could engage with it. Not saying my experience would be richer if I didn't have to work but people manage. The question is: do you want to read it?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:24 (six months ago) link

to me the relevant orientation is not so much office time vs empty time vs leisure time but how you parcel up reading time when available reading content is so colossally super-abundant

mark s, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:30 (six months ago) link

Read an interview with this philosopher on Hegel. Touched on Kant, Spinoza, various philosophers and systems.

At the end there is this:

"Not everyone is going to have the time to read Hegel and that’s a shame. It’s a shame, too, that most people won’t have the time or perhaps the energy to study Aristotle, Kant or Heidegger. Philosophers such as Kant and Hegel are hugely rewarding, but not everyone is going to be able to read them. You can’t just pick up Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or Hegel’s Logic in an evening after having spent all day at the office and think you’re going to make much headway with it. It’s hard. But if you have the time and are willing to make the effort, studying these works can be hugely rewarding."

I think certain works of philosophy suffer from the lack of time an office worker has to be able to give it.

But then again I have read very little philosophy and don't really know.

xp - yes that is an issue too. So I don't perhaps pick up philosophy because I can't quite see how that could be more rewarding than a novel. That's me making stuff up to parcel as the lack of time is an issue, but not in the way that essay talks about it

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:36 (six months ago) link

That essay also values finishing far too much. It's ok not to finish things even if you are enjoying it. I've seen three series of The Sopranos years ago abd stopped it. I read about the last scene last year and went on YT. Watched and enjoyed it. That's fine.

We should normalise picking things up and putting them down.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:42 (six months ago) link

guardedly prepared to tone down my lifelong animus against jameson* if that's what he was getting at here: "the ‘mid-cult pride’, in the words of fredric jameson, felt by those who finish it"

*another author who invariably delivers at greater length than necessary

mark s, Thursday, 4 January 2024 13:50 (six months ago) link

how you parcel up reading time when available reading content is so colossally super-abundant

I'm really grateful when I find a long work which seems so worth tackling that it kinda resolves this issue for me.

Proust has always done this for me. I think I'm getting a similar feeling from The Tale of Genji. Works that force me to read slowly, where I know I'm not going to be finishing any time soon, and where I just stop thinking about what else I might be reading.

jmm, Thursday, 4 January 2024 14:24 (six months ago) link

Sunrise is a necessary concomitant of long railway journeys, just as are hard-boiled eggs, illustrated papers, packs of cards, rivers upon which boats strain but make no progress. At a certain moment,— when I was counting over the thoughts that had filled my mind, in the preceding minutes, so as to discover whether I had just been asleep or not (and when the very uncertainty which made me ask myself the question was to furnish me with an affirmative answer), in the pale square of the window, over a small black wood I saw some ragged clouds whose fleecy edges were of a fixed, dead pink, not liable to change, like the colour that dyes the wing which has grown to wear it, or the sketch upon which the artist’s fancy has washed it. But I felt that, unlike them, this colour was due neither to inertia nor to caprice but to necessity and life. Presently there gathered behind it reserves of light. It brightened; the sky turned to a crimson which I strove, gluing my eyes to the window, to see more clearly, for I felt that it was related somehow to the most intimate life of Nature, but, the course of the line altering, the train turned, the morning scene gave place in the frame of the window to a nocturnal village, its roofs still blue with moonlight, its pond encrusted with the opalescent nacre of night, beneath a firmament still powdered with all its stars, and I was lamenting the loss of my strip of pink sky when I caught sight of it afresh, but red this time, in the opposite window which it left at a second bend in the line, so that I spent my time running from one window to the other to reassemble, to collect oh a single canvas the intermittent, antipodean fragments of my fine, scarlet, ever-changing morning, and to obtain a comprehensive view of it and a continuous picture.

jmm, Saturday, 13 January 2024 15:21 (six months ago) link

Elaine Scarry drills down on this passage here (this title could not be more perfectly pitched for me).

jmm, Saturday, 13 January 2024 15:46 (six months ago) link

I find it tempting to think that the passage is anticipating something about the aesthetics of colour film.

jmm, Saturday, 13 January 2024 15:52 (six months ago) link

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