Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Search of Lost Time (Part I)

(Note, this is only copied here so that I don't leave book I out of this blog. I just finished book II, which I'll post right after this)

Much like I've done with previous books, I got a little bit into Proust's "Swann's Way" which is part 1 (of 6) of "In Search of Lost Time", the longest piece of literature ever, and realized that some of these passages were beautiful, and not to somehow write them down would be a tragedy: (note, any line changes indicates a new quote)

A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated, me, without my having any notion as to its cause. It had immediately rendered the vicissitudes of life unimportant to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory, acting in the same way that love acts, by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not merely inside me, it was me. (45)

But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, upon the ruins of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory. (47)

"The woods are dark, the sky still blue. May the sky remain forever blue for you, my young friend; and even at the hour which is now approaching for me, when the woods are dark already, when night is falling fast, you will console yourself as I do by looking up at the sky." He took a cigarette out of his pocket, remained for a long time with his eyes on the horizon. "Good-bye, friends," he said suddenly, and left us. (123)

"And you know, my child, in life there comes a time, still quite remote for you, when our weary eyes can tolerate only one light, that which a lovely night like this prepares and distills from the darkness, when our ears cannot listen to any other music but that which is played by the moonlight on the flute of silence." (129)

...almost nothing else but sadism provides a basis in real life for the aesthetics of melodrama. (167)

At this time of life, one has already been wounded many times by love; it no longer evolves solely in accordance with its own unknown and inevitable laws, before our astonished and passive heart. We come to its aid, we distort it with memory, with suggestion. Recognizing one of its symptoms, we recall and revive the others. Since we know its song, engraved in us in its entirety, we do not need a woman to repeat the beginning of it-filled with the admiration that beauty inspires-in order to find out what comes after. And if she begins in the middle-where the two hearts come together, where it sings of living only for each other-we are accustomed enough to this music to join our partner right away in the passage where she is waiting for us. (204)

But once he was back at home he needed it, he was like a man into whose life a woman he has glimpsed for only a moment as she passed by has introduced the image of a new sort of a beauty that increases the value of his own sensibility, without his even knowing if he will ever see this woman again whom he loves already and of whom he knows nothing, not even her name. (218)

And this disease which was Swann's love had so proliferated, was so closely entangled with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he wanted after his death, it was now so much a part of him, that it could not have been torn from him without destroying him almost entirely: as they say in surgery, his love was no longer operable. (320)

Knowing a thing does not always allow us to prevent it, but at least the things we know, we hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our minds, where we can arrange them as we like, which gives us the illusion of a sort of power over them. (327)

He knew that even the memory of the piano falsified still further the perspective in which he saw the elements of the music, that the field open to the musician is not a miserable scale of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard still almost entirely unknown on which , here and there only, separated by shadows thick and unexplored, a few of the millions of keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, of serenity which compose it, each as different from the others as one universe from another universe, have been found by a few great artists who do us the service, by awakening in us something corresponding to the theme they have discovered, of showing us what richness, what variety is heartening darkness of our soul which we take for emptiness and nothingness. (362)

Maybe it is the nothingness that is real and our entire dream is nonexistant, but in that case we feel that these phrases of music, and these notions that exist in relation to our dream, must also be nothing. We will perish, but we have for hostages these divine captives who will follow us and share our fate. And death in their company is less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps less probable.(363)

And besides, even from this point of view, of mere quantity, in our lives the days are not all equal. As they travel through the days, temperaments that are slightly nervous, as mine was, have available to them, like automobiles, different "speeds." There are arduous mountainous days which one spends an infinite time climbing, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt singing. (407)

The places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years. (444, final sentence)

If any of this interested you, I highly recommend grabbing Swann's Way (translated by Lydia Davis). If you get the copy from the library, please excuse the dog ears and faint pencil marks beside special passages. Otherwise, you can talk to me about it.