by Dennis Abrams
Davis: 82-92; Moncrieff: 110-124
“The Virtues and Vices of Padua.” Marcel’s afternoon of reading. Francoise and the gardener discuss soldiers and war.
The scene describing Marcel’s summertime reading in the garden strikes me as crucial. I love this passage:
“And once the novelist has put us in that state, in which, as in all purely internal states, every emotion is multiplied tenfold, in which his book will disturb us as might a dream but a dream more lucid than those we have while sleeping and whose memory will last longer, then see how he provokes in us within one hour all possible happinesses and all possible unhappinesess just a few of which we would spend years of our lives coming to know and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slowness with which they occur prevents us from perceiving them (thus our heart changes, in life, and it is the worst pain; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality it changes, as certain natural phenomena occur, slowly enough so that, if we are able to observe successively each of its different states, in return we are spared the actual sensation of change.)” Davis, pg. 87
Roger Shattuck in Proust’s Way writes:
“The Combray world that displays convincing color and strong personality dims temporarily when seen from another perspective. The shift occurs when Marcel is reading in the garden. This carefully reasoned yet poetic passage places us suddenly inside his world looking out. Marcel’s faith in the special world of childhood weakens briefly in the face of a competing faith — the reality of a book. Art makes the challenge. Marcel describes his long Sunday afternoons of reading as forming a single consciousness ‘dappled with different states of mind.’ (Davis) He has become only marginally aware of the world around him. ‘…before my eyes, what was first in me, innermost, the constantly moving handle that controled the rest, was my belief in the philsophical richness and the beauty of the book I was reading, and my desire to appropriate them for myself…’ (Davis) And we are told why. Being not opaque flesh-and-blood people, but images made out of words, the characters of such a story can be transparent and can reveal their feelings and motives to us. As images, they can also concentrate the actions of a lifetime into a few hours’ reading, thus making perceptible what we cannot observe at the slow pace of living. The transparent image of fiction is doubly revealing compared to life, and hence more alluring than life…These six pages on reading offer a superb example of how Proust’s prose interweaves a narrative sequence of Marcel taking his book out into the garden, a double description of both a topographical and mental landscape, and a careful step-by-step philsophical argument about the nature of reading — a full-fledged epistemology of reading.”
What did you respond to in this section, and why? Do we recognize our own pain only because our reading teaches us to do so? Also…is there anything you’d like me to be discussing in this blog that I’m not? Or, is there anything I’m discussing on this blog that you’d rather I not?
Davis: Page 92 “I had heard Bergotte mentioned…” through page 102 “…that would perhaps be indispensible to a stockbroker.”
Moncrieff: Page 124 “I had heard Bergotte spoken of…” through page 139 “…I dar say, for a stockbroker.”