Moncrieff: 269-281; Patterson: 184-197
by Dennis Abrams
“To this contemplation of the essence of things I had decided therefore that in future I must attach myself, so as somehow to immobilize it. But how, by what means was I do to this?” Memory is the means by which we attain this reality; travel itself is useless in recreating lost time, “Experience had taught me only to well the impossibility of attaining in the real world to what lay deep within myself; I knew that Lost time was not to be found again in my second visit to Balbec or on my return to Tansonville to see Gilberte, and that travel, which merely dangled once more before me the illusion that these vanished impressions existed outside myself, could not be the means which I sought.” “Impressions such as those to which I wished to give permanence could not but vanish at the touch of a direct enjoyment which had been powerless to engender them. The only way to savour them more fully was to try to get to know them more completely in the medium in which they existed, that is to say within myself, to try to make them translucid even to their very depths. Disappointments, “our inherent powerlessness to realise ourselves in material enjoyment or in effective action.” Swann and the septet which he was never privileged to hear. Observing physical images “a cloud, a triangle, a church spire, a stone,” with the hope that “perhaps beneath these signs there lay something of a different kind which I must try to discover, some thought which they translated after the fashion of those hieroglyphic characters which at first one might suppose to represent only material objects. No doubt the difficulty of decipherment was difficult, but only by accomplishing it could one arrive at whatever truth there was to read.” Reading the inner book of unknown symbols, “for to read them was an act of creation in which no one can do our work for us or even collaborate with us.” The difficulty of writing, the ease in finding distractions. Genius and intellect. “At every moment the artist has to listen to his instinct, and it is that makes art the most real of all things, the most austere school of life, the true last judgment.” The inner book “is also the only one which has been dictated to us by reality…the outline of the impression that is made up on us, remains behind as the token of its necessary truth…[it is the only book that really belongs to us…Only the impression…is a criterion of truth and deserves for that reason to be apprehended by the mind, for the mind, if it succeeds in extracting this truth, can by the impression and nothing else be brought to a state of great perfection and true joy.” A ray of the setting sun and a memory of Eulalie’s little room. “In fashioning a work of art we are by no means free…we do not choose how we shall make it but that it pre-exists us and therefore we are obliged…to discover it.” The falseness of realist art, of theory, of proclamations, “A work in which there are theories is like an object which still has its price-tag on it.” The ridiculousness of popular art and patriotic art.
I’ve just noticed that there is a difference in the order of certain passages in Moncrieff and Patterson — the Patterson I assigned includes a look at the library which those of who are reading Moncrieff will get to tomorrow. I hope to get everybody in sync by the weekend.
Again, there’s a lot here, most of which I am still…contemplating. Is everybody following Marcel’s mental processes? Is he right? And a question…how much experience does one need before one can go back and “recapture” it to create art?
From Howard Moss’s The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust:
The first involuntary memory occurs while Marcel is in motion and in a carriage. The streets leading to the Guermantes’s mansion disappear; he has the sensation that he is going to the Champs-Elysees with Francoise. Those past streets crowd out the present ones. Getting out of the carriage in the courtyard, he stumbles on two uneven paving stones. His body is electrified by a former self; the uneven paving stones restore Venice, the sensibility that experienced Venice. The sensation he had once felt on two uneven slabs in the Baptistery of St. Mark, repeated in this moment, selects the Venice days out of the decades of time. Entering the boudoir-library to await the conclusion of a piece that is being played, he hears a spoon knock against a plate carried by a servant. Marcel instantly becomes aware of a former experience submerging the present — the sound of the hammer of a railway worker who was tapping the wheels on a train. Marcel was riding to Paris. The train had stopped in a clearing. This sounds provides Marcel with ‘The same sort of felicity which the uneven paving stones had given me…what appeared so pleasant was the identical group of trees I had found so tiresome to observe and describe…’ A waiter brings some cakes and a glass of orangeade to Marcel in the library. Wiping his mouth with a napkin, its starched whiteness brings back what seems his entire knowledge of Balbec and the sea. ‘[The napkin] had exactly the same kind of starchiness as that with which I had attempted…to dry myself before the window the first day of my arrival at Balbec and within the folds of which, now, in that library of the Guermantes mansion, a green-blue ocean spread its plumage like the tail of a peacock.’ Soon after, the sound of water-pipes makes the entire dining-room of the Balbec hotel rise up from thepast. And, opening up a copy of Francoise le Champi in the library, the very book his mother read to him while he was falling asleep in his Combray bedroom, his childhood is revived.
An important undercurrent ties these involuntary memories together. They are all memories of journeys or places. The very distinction Marcel made earlier between ‘the name’ and ‘the place’ is here proven true on an entirely different level. We see now why a particular class of involuntary memories occured while Marcel was in motion. Each was transfigured by the velocity of the future. Places — Combray, Balbec, Doncieres, Paris, and Venice — are no longer to be found on any meaningful map except the one waiting to be unfurled within Marcel. These extra-temporal moments are the true revelation ‘which offers that deep sense of renewal only because it has been breathed before, in as much as the true paradises are paradises we have lost.'”
Moncrieff: Pages 281-292 “As I entered the library where I had been pursuing…” through “the substance of our passionate dialogue with ourselves.” Kindle locations 3610-18/3754-61
Patterson: Pages 197-199 (sorry) “An image presented to us by life brings us in reality…” through “has continued our passionate dialogue with ourselves.” Kindle locations 3622-29/3656-63