Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Search of Lost Time (part 2)

This is the 2nd book in Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I quite liked this book. The periods of complete enjoyment were longer, but the periods of boredom were about the same length of time. This is probably related to what I have experienced, rather than his precise (albeit probably fictional) recounting of his life. Anyway, onto the quotes!

Peace of mind is foreign to love, since each new fulfillment one attains is never anything but a new starting point for the desire to go beyond it. (156)

In love, happiness is an abnormal state, capable of instantly conferring on the pettiest-seeming incident, which can occur at any moment, a degree of gravity that in other circumstances it would never have. What makes one so happy is the presence of something unstable in the heart, something one contrives constantly to keep in a state of stability, and which one is hardly even aware of as long as it remains like that. In fact, though, love secretes a permanent pain, which joy neutralizes in us, makes virtual, and holds in abeyance; but at any moment, it can turn into torture, which is what would have happened long since if one had not obtained what one desired. (157)

With a woman who does not love us, as with someone who has died, the knowledge that there is nothing left to hope for does not prevent us from going on waiting. (166)

Neurotics never believe people who assure them that, if they just stay in bed, read no letters, and open no newspapers, they will gradually calm down. They foresee that such a regimen can only worsen the state of their nerves. Those in love see renunciation in the same light: they imagine it while living in its opposite; and, never having so much as begun to try it, they cannot believe in its power of healing. (185)

They time we have to spend each day is elastic: it is stretched by the passions we feel; it is shrunk by those we inspire; and all of it is filled by habit. (187)

So, with tears, courage, and consolation, I sacrificed the happiness of being with her to the possibility of one day seeming lovable in her eyes, though knowing it would be a day when the prospect of seeming lovable in her eyes would leave me cold. (190)

We may be not entirely sincere in hoping never again to see the woman we love; but the same may well be true when we sya we do hope to see her again. (196)

To be no longer in love is to know that forgetting-or even a fading memory-causes much less pain than the unhappiness of loving. (197)

...[In] love, unlike war, the more one is defeated, the more one imposes harsh conditions...[201]

...[Our] impression of the woman, living forever within us, is enhanced by the halo which our adoration constantly creates for her, and is tinged, if not by the glad promises of recurrent hope, at least by the peace of mind of lasting sadness. [203]

The image of the woman we love, though we think it has a pristine authenticity, has actually been often made and remade by us. And the memory that wounds is not contemporaneous with the restored image; it dates from a very different time; it is one of the few witnesses to a monstrous past. S8ince this past goes on existing, though not inside us, where we have seen fit to replace it with a wondrous golden age, a paradise where we are to be reunited and reconciled, such memories and such letters are often a reminder of reality; their sudden stab ought to make us realize how far we have strayed from that reality, and how foolish are the hopes with which we sustain our daily expectation. [203]

We design our life for the sake of the individual, who, by the time we are able to welcome her into it, has turned into a total stranger, and never comes to share that life with us; and so we live on, imprisoned in an arrangement made for someone else. [209]

To be with those one loves is enough: to talk with them or not to talk with them is all the same. [344]

I was at one of those times in youth when the idle heart, unoccupied by love for a particular person, lies in wait for Beauty, seeking it everywhere, as the man in love sees and desires in all things the woman he cherishes. We need only to see in passing a single real feature of a woman, a glimpse of her at a distance or from behind, which can be enough for us to project Beauty onto her, and we imagine we have found it at last: the heart beats faster, we lengthen our stride, and, on condition that she disappears, we may be left with the certainty of having set eyes upon it-it is only if we succeed in catching up to her that we discover our mistake. [369]

(This is a long one, but a great example of the monumental lengths of Proust's descriptions)
For an instant, as I passed close to the brunette with the full cheeks and the bicycle, I glimpsed her oblique, laughing glance, looking out from the inhumane world that circumscribed the life of their little tribe, an inaccessible terra incognita, obviously incapable of harboring or offering a home to any notion of who or what I was. With her toque pulled down low on her brow, entirely engrossed in what her companions were saying, did she see me at the moment when the black ray from her eyes encountered me? If so, what must I have seemed like to her? What sort of world was the one from which she was looking at me? I could not tell, any more than one can tell fro the few details that a telescope enables us to descry on a neighboring planet whether it is inhabited by human beings, whether or not they can see us, or whether their view of us has inspired any reflections in them.
If we believed that the eyes of such a girl were nothing but shiny little disks of mica, we would not be eager to enter her life and link it to our own. But we are well aware that whatever it is that shines in those reflective discs is not reducible to their material composition; that flitting about behind them are the black incognizable shadows of the ideas she forms about the people and places she knows-the paddocks at racecourses, the sandy paths along which she might have pedaled, drawing me after her, over hill and meadow, like a little Peri more seductive than the sprite from the Persian paradise-the dimness of the house into which she will disappear, her own impenetrable projects, and the designs of others upon her; and what we are most aware of is that she herself lies behind them, with her desires, her likes and dislikes, the power of inscrutable and inexhaustible will. I knew I could never possess the young cyclist, unless I could also possess what lay behind her eyes. My desire for her was desire for her whole life: a desire that was full of pain, because I sensed it was unattainable, but also full of heady excitement, because what had been my life up to that moment had suddenly ceased to be all of life, had turned into a small corner of a great space opening up for me, which I longed to explore, and which was composed of the lives led by these young girls, because what was laid out now before my eyes was that extension and potential multiplication of self that we know as happiness. (375-6)

...a pleasure divested of imagination is a pleasure reduced to itself, to nothing. [377]

Just as it is not the wish to be famous, but a habit of hard work, that may make a creative artist of us, so it is not the joy we take in the present, but sober reflection on the past, that may enable us to safeguard the future. [396]

...drunkenness brings about, for the space of a few hours, subjective idealism, pure phenomenalism; all things become mere appearances, and exist only as a function of our sublime selves. [397]

The men and youths, the old or middle-aged women, in whose company we think we take pleasure, we conceive of as shallow beings, existing on a flat and insubstantial surface, because our only awareness of them is that of unaided visual perception; but when our eye ventures in the direction of a young girl, it is as though it acts on behalf of all our other senses: they seek out her various properties, the smell of her, the feel of her, the taste of her, which they enjoy without collaboration of the hands or the lips; and because of desire's artful abilities in transposition, and its excellent spirit of synthesis, these senses can draw from the color of cheeks of breasts the sensations of touching, of savoring, of forbidden contact, and can rifle girls' sweet succulence, as they do in a rose garden when plundering the fragrances of the flowers, or in a vineyard when gloating with greedy eyes upon the grapes. [471]

Our curiosity about the woman we love, the roots of which lie far beyond our reasoning mind, reaches far beyond her character. Even if we were capable of pausing and focusing on it, we would probably not wish to. The object of our anxious investigations is her essence, not to be confused with peculiarities of character more akin to the minute diamond shapes on the surface of the skin, which in their varieties of combinations give rise to the rosy individuality of the person in the flesh. Our intuitive radiation sees through them, and the images it gives are not those of any particular face, but rather the lineaments of a skeleton, in all its dismal and dismaying universality. [473-4]

Loving sharpens discernment and our power to make distinctions. [486]

The expressions of our face are little more than expressions ingrained by habit. Nature, like the catastrophe at Pompeii or the metamorphosis of a nymph, freezes us into an accustomed cast of countenance. In the same way, the intonations of our voice express our philosophy of life, what one says to oneself at each moment about things.[487]

At the very beginning of love, as at its end, we are not exclusively attached to a singled beloved: it is the yearning to love, of which that person will be the loved outcome, and later the echo left in the memory, that wanders voluptuously in a place full of charms-sometimes deriving only from contingencies of nature, bodily pleasures, or habituation-interchangeable and interrelated enough for it to feel in harmony with any of them. [494]

The chain of past days runs through the memory, which only holds fast to the nearest end of it, and the metal of which this end is forged is often very different from the metal of the earlier links, which have already slipped away into the dark; in our journey through life, the only country the mind sees as real is the one in which we live during the present instant. [527]

Even amid the factitious enjoyments we may eventually find in our later dealings with people whom we at first found unlikable, there always remains the sour aftertaste of the failings they have contrived to conceal; whereas, in relationships such as those I had with Albertine and her friends, the genuine delight in which they have originated always leaves a trace of the fragrance that no artifice can ever give to fruit that is forced, to grapes that have never ripened in the sunshine. The supernatural creatures they had briefly been for me could still, even without my knowing it, sprinkle a spice of wonder into the tritest things I did with them-or, rather, they forever banished the trite from the vicinity of such things. [528]

I thought they after reading the first volume, but never wrote it down: the earlier you read these books, the better. At its best, it enhances how I see the world, loving it ever more fully than before. At its worst, it gives me a full look into a life that I have never wanted for myself and can now logically reason why it is not fit for me. My next post will be shorter, I swear.