Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Proust as Woody Allen?

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Interesting article for the dedicated Proust readers (“Prousties”) among you. It begins:

Recently a friend and I were lolling about at a neighbourhood park when she asked why I was reading Proust–“other than for bragging rights.” Had she asked me the question just a few hours earlier, I might have stumbled over something pompous or false. But it just so happened that I’d had an epiphany about “Remembrance of Things Past,” and an answer at the ready: “It’s funny,” I said. “I expected Proust to be a lot of things, but no one ever told me how funny he would be.”

I read her a passage I’d just encountered:

I was genuinely in love with Mme de Guermantes. The greatest happiness that I could have asked of God would have been that he should send down on her every imaginable calamity, and that ruined, despised, stripped of all the privileges that separated her from me, having no longer any home of her own or people who would condescend to speak to her, she would then come to me for asylum.

This captures Proust’s sensitivity to the absurdities of human nature–and the amusement it affords him. It also highlights the exquisite quality of Proust’s writing. The energy, the accelerating grandeur (not just “ruined” but also “despised” and “stripped of all privileges”), which conveys and yet mocks his growing excitement at the thought of his beloved’s multiplying distresses, and builds expertly to the clincher. And what better word than “asylum”: perfect in its sexlessness and implied power imbalance. (Ah, the egotism of love.)

Proust’s humour has been, for me, one of the most …

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2008 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

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