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Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Affair with Proust


My love affair with Marcel Proust is only half over. Now that I have listened to all seven volumes of Á La Recherche du Temps Perdu, I have begun to read the words from the pages of those volumes. Highlighter in hand, I read slowly, often out loud, and mark the passages that I find the most beautiful.

No, Proust is not hard to read! Even his sentences which seem to go on forever are not tedious if you push the thought of their length and complexity from you mind. I just read the words as they come and relish them, devour them like little sweet candies.

And where is all this Proust taking me? I am certain that my own writing has been enriched by it. My poems, especially, are developing more depth and dimension. They are still hard to write, but I pursue them now in a different light. I believe my prose is richer as well. (Granted, I have been spending too much time bog hopping and not writing for myself, but that has come to a halt. I start to work on Monday).

Those of you who have read Proust know that he can be sappy and nebulous with ad nauseum, but the words with weight far overcome any tendency to put down the book because it is vague and abstract. Au contraire. The fuzzy stuff just serves as a background to showcase the brilliance of his ability to paint vivid pictures in one’s mind.

Here’s a quote from Swann’s Way:
“My body, still too heavy with sleep to move, would endeavor to construe from the pattern of its tiredness and the position of its limbs, in order to deduce therefrom the direction of the wall, the location of the furniture, to piece together and give a name to the house in which it lay.”

That wasn’t so bad, now was it?

Here’s another:
“I went into the first of her two rooms and through the open door of the other saw my aunt lying on her side asleep; I could hear her snoring gently. I was about to slip away when the noise of my entry must have broken into her sleep and made it ‘change gear’ as they say of motor-cars, for the music of her snore stopped for a second and began again on a lower note; then she woke and half turned her face, which I could see for the first time; a kind of horror was imprinted on it; plainly she had just escaped from some terrifying dream.”

I won’t torture you any more. It is fair to say that Proust isn’t for everybody. Many fine writers have remarkable skills and great success without ever taking it up.

Why me? I haven’t a clue. I started this project 16 years after my dear, sweet friend, Elaine, instructed me to read Proust. Why did it take me so long to pick up the baton and run with it? There are dozens of answers, excuses and rationalizations, not one of which matters now. It is the now of my life that matters most.

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