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Saturday May 30, 2015

An abridged version of La mort des cathédrals was published in Pastiches et Mélanges 1919 by Marcel Proust. In 1948 Gerard Hopkins translated it as The Death of Cathedrals and included it in Marcel Proust, A Selection from his miscellaneous Writings.  

Here is a note by Marcel Proust on the abridgment included in Pastiches et Mélanges and translated by Gerard Hopkins:

This is the title of an essay which I once published in the Figaro, with the object of combatting one of the clauses in the Act which set the seal upon the Separation of Church and State. It was a mediocre affair, and I reprint here only a short extract from it, to show how, even after the shortest of intervals, words change their meanings; and how, in the twists and turns of life, we can no more foresee the future of nations than we can of individuals. When I spoke of death coming to the cathedrals, I feared that France was to be transformed into a beach strewn with vast heaps of chiseled shells, emptied of the life that once filled them, and no longer bringing to the listening ear the sounds that formerly they held; mere museum-pieces, frozen and dead. Ten years have passed. Death has come to the fabric of our Cathedrals at the hands of the German armies, but not to their spirit as the result of the activities of an anti-clerical Chamber which now stands solidly united with our patriot bishops. 

Marcel Proust, A Selection from his miscellaneous Writings 1948 by Gerard Hopkins is available at AbeBooks

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/26/2015 5:34 pm
Labels: Marcel Proust

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way 1922 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

I noticed this sentence was for its expressed impossibility. Listen to a fragment from it: "...offering us an image of the unknowable..." but offering us an image of the unknowable makes it known, on one handdoesn't it. Proust's syntax is from a mostly realistic novel, À la recherche du temps perdu, 1913 - 1927. But on the other hand, we can normalize this fragment to not find it impossible and still we find it somewhat implausible with correct but self-contradicting meanings like the Narrator's loves for Albertine.

~

Proust's discusses new art, specifically music he loved, Beethoven's Late Quartets:

The reason why a work of genius (art) is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. 

...

It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.

Within a Budding Grove 1919 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 142.

The work was "not easily admired from the first", but for a "community of minds..."

~

A Proustian? With a wink, I subscribe to Groucho Marx's adage about clubs—that he wouldn't belong to any organization that would accept him as a member—yet, teasing aside, I have that specific Proustian difficulty—reading—I find little to read after reading Proust.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/22/2015 7:44 pm

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

The bold face is used to mark the subject and the verb and it marks the predicate that makes the sentence periodic.

Last Saturday I was at the Coffee Shop on 16th Street and Union Square West and I said to Sharon Girard and Marcelita Swann, two charming Proustians, "I began reading Proust because he writes difficult sentences." 

O Sharon I do agree with you; to determine the subject and the verb of a sentence helps in understanding the meaning in some of Marcel Proust's sentences; in addition, when I started reading À la recherche du temps perdu, I broke the sentence down by its parentheticals (its modifiers, its phrases, its clauses: see below) as that made the identification of subject and verb easier and the sentence more understandable.

Proust's sentence is a period, (periodos = a circuit, a race course in Greek of the time) made famous by the Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), and is not complete until "has its lady or its fairy" makes the meaning of the sentence.  

... the decline of the periodic sentence's popularity goes hand in hand with the development toward a less formal style, which some authors date to the beginning of the Romantic period (~1800) ...

From Wikipedia: Periodic sentence.

Marcel Proust's Les Plaisirs et les Jours (1896) was written more or less in the Romantic style; but let's go forward in time and backward at once before the Romantics into Proust's Grand Style writing of À la recherche du temps perdu (1913 - 1927).

 

At the age when Names,

offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould,

while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place,

force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name,

it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality,

as do allegorical paintings,

it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences,

people with marvels,

it is the social universe also;

and so every historic house,

in town or country,

has its lady or its fairy,

as every forest has its genie,

every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

Note that the 1st volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Nom and the 2nd volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Pays. We are in the 3rd volume and talk about Noms still, so important it was for Proust.

 

A l'âge où lesNoms, nous offrant l'image de l'inconnaissable que nous avons versé en eux, dans le même moment où ils désignent aussi pour nous un lieu réel, nous forcent par là à identifier l'un à l'autre au point que nous partons chercher dans une cité une âme qu'elle ne peut contenir mais que nous n'avons plus le pouvoir d'expulser de son nom, ce n'est pas seulement aux villes et aux fleuves qu'ils donnent une individualité, comme le font les peintures allégoriques, ce n'est pas seulement l'univers physique qu'ils diaprent de différences, qu'ils peuplent de merveilleux, c'est aussi l'univers social: alors chaque château, chaque hôtel ou palais fameux sa dame, ou sa fée, comme les forêts leurs génies et leurs divinités les eaux.

Le Côté de Guermantes Marcel Proust 1920, p. 3.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/19/2015 9:28 pm

We have the Narrator summarizing social personality after first reporting what his family knows and thinks about Charles Swann, thereby creating him. This is 3rd person narration—the speaker is the Narrator. 

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people.

Swann's Way Vol. 1 Marcel Proust 1913 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p. 23.

Below we have 1st person narration; the speaker is also one-in-the-same but he is reflective, and a more mature Narrator—it is a different time. He speaks about what he knows of the real and imaginary Albertine. You are inside the thought process of the Narrator.

What did I know of Albertine? One or two glimpses of a profile against the sea, less beautiful, assuredly, than those of Veronese’s women whom I ought, had I been guided by purely aesthetic reasons, to have preferred to her. By what other reasons could I be guided, since, my anxiety having subsided, I could recapture only those mute profiles, possessing nothing else? Since my first sight of Albertine I had thought about her endlessly, I had carried on with what I called by her name an interminable inner dialogue in which I made her question and answer, think and act, and in the infinite series of imaginary Albertines who followed one after the other in my fancy hour by hour, the real Albertine, glimpsed on the beach, figured only at the head, just as the actress who “creates” a role, the star, appears, out of a long series of performances, in the few first alone. That Albertine was scarcely more than a silhouette, all that had been superimposed upon her being of my own invention, to such an extent when we love does the contribution that we ourselves make outweigh—even in terms of quantity alone—those that come to us from the beloved object.

Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2,  Marcel Proust 1919 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p.  597.

"Social personality" makes sense of how characters in the novel change viewed from different points and persons. On p. 698 of Within a Budding Grove there is more 1st person narration (in the voice of the Narrator) talking about the real and imagined Gilberte and Albertine. Proust's definition of social personality is of great import to the reading of the novel and entering his fictional world. There is little fixity in real life and less in fiction factoring in unreliability both real and imaginary.

My emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/13/2015 6:17 pm

When I reflect now that, on our return from Balbec, Albertine had come to live in Paris under the same roof as myself, that she had abandoned the idea of going on a cruise, that she was installed in a bedroom within twenty paces of my own, at the end of the corridor, in my father’s tapestried study, and that late every night, before leaving me, she used to slide her tongue between my lips like a portion of daily bread, a nourishing food that had the almost sacred character of all flesh upon which the sufferings that we have endured on its account have come in time to confer a sort of spiritual grace, what I at once call to mind in comparison is not the night that Captain de Borodino allowed me to spend in barracks, a favour which cured what was after all only a passing distemper, but the night on which my father sent Mamma to sleep in the little bed beside mine.

The Captive Vol. 6, translated by Moncrieff 1929, Kilmartin 1981 and revised by Enright 1992, p. 1.

The Narrator compares the night that he and Albertine kiss (sexually attractive and spritually alluring) not with the night "that Captain de Borodino allowed (him) to spend in barracks" but the night that his "father sent Mamma to sleep" in the young Narrator's room and that occurs in the Combray section of Vol. 1, Swann's Way p. ~39 ff in the C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation edited by William C. Carter. 

It is a comparison of nights. When Albertine kisses the Narrator goodnight, which is likened to communion, a sense of belonging and of distance too. The kiss is in a sentence fragment in Vol. 6 and is compared to the night of the Goodnight Kiss which is multifaceted and encompasses ten pages of Vol. 1.

Guilt...the Narrator feels about Mamma that childhood night, "I felt that I had with an impious and secret finger traced a first wrinkle upon her soul and brought out a first white hair on her head. This thought redoubled my sobs ..." The child wanted to have Mamma kiss him goodnight but he didn't want to have her abdicate her power by sleeping in the same bedroom as him at the father's insistence.

One wants to be a child as long as one can be, growing up can be very cold. And the power of womanhood in the 19th century was less than that of manhood but certainly more than that of childhood. "At the father's insistence,"—then, was not the father the king of his castle; a king heeds no "principles" and for him there is no "rule of law"—he can say to his wife as if speaking to a vassal, "Go along with the child..." This is to specify the difference in behaviors between then and now, not to measure time past by time present.

The kiss is about growing up and has a sense of moral sweetness to it; communion comes later as the older Narrator reflects on the Goodnight Kiss episode (in the episode itself)* which contains one of the most beautiful and wistful passages in the book—it is communion itself. I will include the passage under its own entry entitled, "Sobs".

*In the writing of this piece I began to see the age (or ages) of the Narrator as continuous, not as distinct, as I'd somewhat understood the storyteller before. This enables the acrobatic Proust more free play when choosing the age (or person) to narrate from and it seems more natural in the storytelling.

 ~

Quand je pense maintenant que mon amie était venue, à notre retour de Balbec, habiter à Paris sous le même toit que moi, qu'elle avait renoncé à l'idée d'aller faire une croisière, qu'elle avait sa chambre à vingt pas de la mienne, au bout du couloir, dans le cabinet à tapisseries de mon père, et que chaque soir, fort tard, avant de me quitter, elle glissait dans ma bouche sa langue, comme un pain quotidien, comme un aliment nourrissant et ayant le caractère presque sacré de toute chair à qui les souffrances que nous avons endurées à cause d'elle ont fini par conférer une sorte de douceur morale, ce que j'évoque aussitôt par comparaison, ce n'est pas la nuit que le capitaine de Borodino me permit de passer au quartier, par une faveur qui ne guérissait en somme qu'un malaise éphémère, mais celle où mon père envoya maman dormir dans le petit lit à côté du mien.

La prisonnière Vol. 6, Marcel Proust 1923 p. 1.

My emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/3/2015 7:25 pm
Labels: Proust

It is a long time, too, since my father has been able to tell Mamma to “Go with the child.” Never again will such hours be possible for me. But of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs that I had the strength to control in my father’s presence, and that broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. In reality, their echo has never ceased: and it is only because life is now growing more and more quiet around about me that I hear them afresh, like those convent bells that are so effectively drowned out during the day by the noises of the streets that one would suppose them to have been stopped forever, until they sound out again through the silent evening air.

Swann's Way Vol. 1 Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924 and edited by William C. Carter 2014, p. 42.

Proust likens the Narrator's sobs to convent bells, not only is that simile fresh but it relates sexuality to spritually and that undercurrent flows through À la recherche du temps perdu, not to mention the church itself.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
5/2/2015 12:50 pm
Labels: Proust, Sobs

When I reflect now that, on our return from Balbec, Albertine had come to live in Paris under the same roof as myself, that she had abandoned the idea of going on a cruise, that she was installed in a bedroom within twenty paces of my own, at the end of the corridor, in my father’s tapestried study, *and that late every night, before leaving me, she used to slide her tongue between my lips like a portion of daily bread, a nourishing food that had the almost sacred character of all flesh upon which the sufferings that we have endured on its account have come in time to confer a sort of spiritual grace, what I at once call to mind in comparison is not the night that Captain de Borodino allowed me to spend in barracks, a favour which cured what was after all only a passing distemper, but the night on which my father sent Mamma to sleep in the little bed beside mine.

The Captive Vol. 6, translated by Moncrieff 1929, Kilmartin 1981 and revised by Enright 1992, p. 1.

The initial clauses, she...lives under the same roof, abandoned a cruise, sleeps 20 paces from me ... are in parataxis, consequently they have no subordination one to another, but the following phrases and clauses, ... *and that late every night, before leaving me, she used to slide her tongue between my lips like a portion of daily bread, a nourishing food that had the almost sacred character of all flesh upon which the sufferings that we have endured on its account have come in time to confer a sort of spiritual grace ... are in hypotaxis. The interrelations of structure are subordinate to one another. They can't be changed, as you can with the initial paratactic structures, or you will alter the meaning.

This sentence is what is called "... either a partial period or a compromise between the loose and the periodic sentence." Composition and Literature: A Rhetoric for Critical Writing, Rosanna Grassi 1984.

A good prose writer will seek variation between the loose, periodic and partial in sentence structures. We find it many times over in À la recherche de temps perdu.

We will talk of the comparisons the Narrator makes about this kiss of Albertine when we talk of the novel’s spiritual passages.  

Quand je pense maintenant que mon amie était venue, à notre retour de Balbec, habiter à Paris sous le même toit que moi, qu'elle avait renoncé à l'idée d'aller faire une croisière, qu'elle avait sa chambre à vingt pas de la mienne, au bout du couloir, dans le cabinet à tapisseries de mon père, *et que chaque soir, fort tard, avant de me quitter, elle glissait dans ma bouche sa langue, comme un pain quotidien, comme un aliment nourrissant et ayant le caractère presque sacré de toute chair à qui les souffrances que nous avons endurées à cause d'elle ont fini par conférer une sorte de douceur morale, ce que j'évoque aussitôt par comparaison, ce n'est pas la nuit que le capitaine de Borodino me permit de passer au quartier, par une faveur qui ne guérissait en somme qu'un malaise éphémère, mais celle où mon père envoya maman dormir dans le petit lit à côté du mien.

La prisonnière Vol. 6, Marcel Proust 1923 p. 1.

*My Emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/27/2015 6:46 pm

From Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992), p. 592.

I was accompanying Elstir back to his villa when suddenly, as it were Mephistopheles springing up before Faust, there appeared at the end of the avenue—like a simple objectification, unreal and diabolical, of the temperament diametrically opposed to my own, of the semi-barbarous and cruel vitality of which I, in my weakness, my excess of tortured sensibility and intellectuality, was so destitute—a few spots of the essence impossible to mistake for anything else, a few spores of the zoophytic band of girls, who looked as though they had not seen me but were unquestionably engaged in passing a sarcastic judgment on me.

A playful periodic sentence. After several subordinate clauses and phrases that modify the main idea: "... there appeared at the end of the avenue— ... a few spores of the zoophytic band of girls ..." that thus completes the principle idea.

But lo and behold—behind that—two relative clauses in a loose sentence structure: "... who looked as though they had not seen me but were unquestionably engaged in passing a sarcastic judgment on me." The sentence could go on and on adding more modifiers as cumulative or loose sentences do, or have them cut from the sentence and maintain its basic meaning, which is a loose sentence’s aspect.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/27/2015 6:18 pm

Proust's sentence—from the previous blog entry entitled Madame Swann At Home that I exemplify here a second time—is a periodic sentence as many of Marcel Proust's in À la recherche de temps perdu are; but the sentence makes use of the subordination of hypotaxis, the subject of the previous entry.

Les jours où Mme Swann n'était pas sortie du tout, on la trouvait dans une robe de chambre de crêpe de Chine, blanche comme une première neige, parfois aussi dans un de ces longs tuyautages de mousseline de soie, qui ne semblent qu'une jonchée de pétales roses ou blancs et qu'on trouverait aujourd'hui peu appropriés à l'hiver, et bien à tort. Car ces étoffes légères et ces couleurs tendres donnaient à la femme—dans la grande chaleur des salons d'alors fermés de portières et desquels ce que les romanciers mondains de l'époque trouvaient à dire de plus élégant, c'est qu'ils étaient «douillettement capitonnés»—le même air frileux qu'aux roses, qui pouvaient y rester à côté d'elle, malgré l'hiver, dans l'incarnat de leur nudité, comme au printemps.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs Vol. 2, Marcel Proust (1919)

From Wikipedia: Periodic Sentence

"A periodic sentence is a stylistic device employed at the sentence level, described as one that is not complete grammatically or semantically before the final clause or phrase.

The periodic sentence emphasizes its main idea by placing it at the end, following all the subordinate clauses and other modifiers that support the principal idea.

The sentence unfolds gradually, so that the thought contained in the subject/verb group only emerges at the sentence's conclusion.

It is the opposite of the loose sentence, also continuous or running style, where the subject and verb are introduced at the beginning of the sentence.

Periodic sentences often rely on hypotaxis, whereas running sentences are typified by parataxis.

Cicero is generally considered to be the master of the periodic sentence."

On days when Mme Swann had not left the house, one found her in a crêpe-de-Chine dressing-gown, white as the first snows of winter, or, it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter—though quite wrongly, for these light fabrics and soft colours gave to a woman— in the stifling warmth of the drawing-rooms of those days, with their heavily curtained doors, rooms of which the most elegant thing that the society novelists of the time could find to say was that they were "cosily padded”*—the same air of coolness that they gave to the roses which were able to stay in the room there beside nudity, as though it were already spring.

Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992), p. 232.

I would have translated the latter portion of the sentence differently—but either way it remains a period:

*—the same air chilled the roses beside her—in spite of the Winter—which were the pinkness of their nudity in Spring.

In Proust's sentence we have a periodic structure that requires a known ending of the sentence (by the writer) in the writing of the sentence. Proust's sentence isn't complete, or makes sense, until the last word or phrase is uttered. This makes it a period. "Spring" or one of its synonyms had to be known by Marcel Proust in his drafting the sentence.  It makes the sentence easier to read by having 'a little bit of his madness', to know upon the reading of it what he supposed when he wrote it.

*My emphasis.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/26/2015 1:37 pm

At random I selected a sentence from Within a Budding Grove. It is 145 words long; not a long sentence for Marcel Proust writing À la recherche du temps perdu.

Les jours où Mme Swann n'était pas sortie du tout, on la trouvait dans une robe de chambre de crêpe de Chine, blanche comme une première neige, parfois aussi dans un de ces longs tuyautages de mousseline de soie, qui ne semblent qu'une jonchée de pétales roses ou blancs et qu'on trouverait aujourd'hui peu appropriés à l'hiver, et bien à tort. Car ces étoffes légères et ces couleurs tendres donnaient à la femme—dans la grande chaleur des salons d'alors fermés de portières et desquels ce que les romanciers mondains de l'époque trouvaient à dire de plus élégant, c'est qu'ils étaient «douillettement capitonnés»*—le même air frileux qu'aux roses, qui pouvaient y rester à côté d'elle, malgré l'hiver, dans l'incarnat de leur nudité, comme au printemps. 

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, Marcel Proust (1919)

 

On days when Mme Swann had not left the house, one found her in a crêpe-de-Chine dressing-gown, white as the first snows of winter, or, it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter—though quite wrongly, for these light fabrics and soft colours gave to a woman— in the stifling warmth of the drawing-rooms of those days, with their heavily curtained doors, rooms of which the most elegant thing that the society novelists of the time could find to say was that they were "cosily padded”—the same air of coolness that they gave to the roses which were able to stay in the room there beside nudity, as though it were already spring.

Within a Budding Grove translated as by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992); the page number, p. 232, is from the Modern Library Edition. 

In 1907, when Proust was 36, letters from friends about his articles in Le Figaro mention complimentarily his sentence length. It seems that a new style—a new voice—for Marcel Proust involved the lengthening of his sentences

In comparison let's look anecdotally at Les Plaisirs et les Jours, Proust's collection of prose poems and novellas published 11 years earlier when he was 25.

Skipping the science we may say, as his contemporaries said, "we have a good idea" that M. Proust has changed his writing style. Even though I haven't read Les Plaisirs et les Jours completely it has sentences that—as a rule of thumb—are shorter than those in À la recherche du temps perdu.

According to William C. Carter, his biographer, Proust replies in 1907 to a confident, Mme Strauss, and he wishes he could be more succinct as she is in her writing—one thinks that already his style must have changed as apologies always come after the fact.

Proust was schooled in rhetoric as were all schoolboys at his level in the late 19th century. Rhetorically, Proust made his sentences longer—but by not turning his back on classical rhetoric and Cicero as was the Romantic mode of the day—with the usage of hypotactic parentheticals (I suspect their usage is innate in a writer—but even if it's not—we should call this rhetorical syntax by its name: hypotaxis); an opposite of sorts is called parataxis and they may be best defined by examining their difference: 

In hypotaxis, the sentences, clauses and phrases are subordinated and linked. However, in parataxis the phrases, clauses and sentences are not subordinated or coordinated.

From Literary Devices

My source for the following two examples is Richard A. Lantham's Analyzing Prose 1983. From Gaius Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC) a famous example of parataxis,

Veni, vidi, vici. [I came, I saw, I conquered

and from Ernest Hemingway's Farewell To Arms 1929:

Now in the fall the trees were all bare and the roads were muddy. I rode to Gorizia from Udine on a camion. We passed other camions on the road and I looked at the country. The mulberry trees were bare and the fields were brown. ...

No subordination, everything is equal.

From the quoted passage of À la recherche du temps perdu above is an example of hypotaxis,

... it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter ...

One clause is subordinated to another; there are dependencies of phrase and inequality of syntax is the norm.

It appears that people who describe a hierarchical situation: a youth describing growing up; an aristocracy; a social milieu of which one finds people above one and people below, can make use of hypotaxis and Marcel Proust has described all three.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/22/2015 1:12 pm

Another feature of Proust’s article was more remarkable still: he twice mentioned arriving home to see his parents, who were, of course, no longer living. This article and “Sur la lecture” contain the earliest known manifestations of the first- person voice that was to become the Narrator’s. If the author had begun to feel at home with the voice and persona of the Narrator, he had still not found the story in which his hero was to live and breathe. The voice we begin to hear in “Impressions de route en automobile” belongs no longer to Proust the man but to the storyteller, the voice behind the Narrator’s.

Marcel Proust, A Life, William C. Carter Loc 9209

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/21/2015 12:14 pm
Labels: Carter, Proust

 

Poster on the departure of the painting from Austria

According to Austrian sources, in her will, Adele Bloch-Bauer asked her husband to donate the Klimt paintings to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death. She died in 1925 from meningitis. When the Nazis took over Austria, her widowed husband had to flee to Switzerland. His property, including his Klimt paintings, was confiscated. In his 1945 testament, Bloch-Bauer designated his nephew and nieces, including Maria Altmann, as the inheritors of his estate.

The painting was seized by the Nazis during the Anschluss, and later put on display in the Austrian State Gallery.

In 2000, following administrative impedance by the Austrian authorities to her claims for restitution of the seized works, Maria Altmann sued Austria in US Court for ownership of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and other paintings from her uncle's collection. As Bloch-Bauer's pictures had remained in Austria, the Austrian government took the position that the testament of Adele Bloch-Bauer had determined that these pictures were to stay there. After a court battle, binding arbitration by a panel of Austrian judges established in 2006 that Maria Altmann was the rightful owner of this and four other paintings by Klimt.

In June 2006 the work was sold for US $135 million to Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie in New York City, at the time a record price for a painting. It has been on display at the Neue Galerie since July 2006.

Some in the art world criticized the heirs' decision to sell all of the restituted paintings: specifically, New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman described the heirs as "cashing in," and thus transforming a "story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust" into "yet another tale of the crazy, intoxicating art market." Kimmelman wrote: "Wouldn’t it have been remarkable (I’m just dreaming here) if the heirs had decided instead to donate one or more of the paintings to a public institution?"

Maria Altmann's story is dramatized in the 2015 film Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren as Maria and Ryan Reynolds as her lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg (grandson of Arnold Schoenberg, the composer).

From Wikipedia

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/17/2015 5:39 am

One of the good things about going to the slaughterhouse is that I'm in the truck for five-hours, to and fro. This Wednesday—as almost always—I listened to Neville Jason's reading of Marcel Proust's Remembrance Of Things Past—the Moncrieff translation. Specifically I listened to Volume 2, Within a Budding Grove, where the narrator is at the hotel in Balbec musing about the "Simonet girl". I don't know why I remember this passage from previous readings, but I do:

I stepped out of the lift, but instead of going to my room I made my way further along the corridor, for before my arrival the valet in charge of the landing, despite his horror of draughts, had opened the window at the end, which instead of looking out to the sea faced the hill and valley inland, but never allowed them to be seen because its panes, which were made of clouded glass, were generally closed. I made a brief halt in front of it, time enough just to pay my devotions to the view which for once it revealed beyond the hill immediately behind the hotel, a view that contained only a single house situated at some distance, to which the perspective and the evening light, while preserving its mass, gave a gem-like precision and a velvet casing, as though to one of those architectural works in miniature, tiny temples or chapels wrought in gold and enamel, which serve as reliquaries and are exposed only on rare and solemn days for the veneration of the faithful. But this moment of adoration had already lasted too long, for the valet, who carried in one hand a bunch of keys and with the other saluted me by touching his sacristan’s skull cap, though without raising it on account of the pure, cool evening air, came and drew together, like those of a shrine, the two sides of the window, and so shut off the minute edifice, the glistening relic from my adoring gaze.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleursMarcel Proust (1919); translated as Within a Budding Grove by Moncrieff (1924), Kilmartin (1981) and Enright (1992); the page numbers, 521-522, are from the Modern Library Edition.

Proust describes for the reader what the Narrator sees through the windows with his eyes. In his article for Le FigaroSentiments filiaux d'un parricide he mentions eyes are important to understanding the past. 

Our eyes play a greater part than we are prepared to admit in that active exploration of the past to which we give the name of memory. If, when someone is scrutinising an incident of his past in an endeavour to fix it, to make it once again a living reality...

Proust had no camera, that I know of. Recall that Virginia Woolf's great aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), an early photographer—being described as the Annie Leibowitz (1949...) of her day—was given her first camera in 1863 when she was 48 years old. He didn't need a camera, Proust made pictures with the assemblage of his words.

Proust's language is eye-ready; it is as if he'd first taken a photograph of what he describes. Among many other things memory—according to Proust—has the distinctness of uniting the past with the present. We hear him tell it of a real person that he met, Princess Mathilde, in his Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide (1907),

It was that she saw: something we shall never see. At such moments, when my glance met hers, I got a vivid impression of the supernatural, because with a curious and mysterious nearsightedness, and as the result of an act of resurrection, she was linking past and present.

By most accounts Proust began writing À la recherche du temps perdu in 1908, but its subject seems to have been his whole life. All writing done is in the past; we read it in the present as that present too slips into the past and that is a marvelous subject for a novel. 

The valet in charge of the landing had opened the window... then the Narrator tells us: 

I made a brief halt in front of it, time enough just to pay my devotions to the view... 

The Narrator specifically and people in general had a horror of draughts: evil and sickness were brought in on them, they thought. Why didn't the Narrator say something about the open window to the valet? Perhaps it was anomalies like this, and then, the creative-strange comparison to a divine experience when he saw the house in the landscape through the open window that make me remember the scene. Maybe these oddities are my madeline and lime blossom tisane?

The scene closes when the valet...

...came and drew together, like those of a shrine, the two sides of the window, and so shut off the minute edifice, the glistening relic from my adoring gaze.  

And the Narrator enters his psychedelic room of maritime reflections.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/15/2015 4:37 pm

After several days in a 4 foot square jug to facilitate bonding, the ewe and her newborn lamb(s) are taken to a communal pen where 30 ewes might abide along with their plus or minus 50 lambs. Play begins in earnest here.

But the warmth of the sun always attracts sheep on a chilly Spring morning.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/3/2015 2:26 pm
Labels: Lambing 2015

Almost two years after his beloved father had died of natural causes ago, Henri Van Blarenberghe shot and killed his eighty-year-old mother then committed suicide in January of 1907. Because he knew Henri Van Blarenberghe, Marcel Proust was asked by Gaston Calmette, the editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, to write an article about the tragedy.

Proust has included letters written by the murderer in his article, Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide; they give Proust's impressions a degree of reality—you can judge for yourself the sincerity of Henri Van Blarenberghe. 

Below, being informational rather than instructive as Proust was, I have included letters between Gaston Calmette and him about the writing, publishing and censuring of that article in Le Figaro.

  ~~~

Filial Sentiments Of A Parricide

Le Figaro, 1 February 1907

When, some months ago, Monsieur Van Blarenberghe died, I remembered that my mother had known his wife very well. Ever since the death of my parents, I have become (in a sense which this is not the place to discuss) less myself and more their son. Though I have not turned my back on my own friends, I very much prefer to cultivate theirs, and the letters which I write now are, for the most part, those I think they would have written, those they can no longer write. I write, in their stead, letters of congratulation, letters, especially, of condolence, addressed to friends of theirs whom I scarcely know. When, therefore, Madame Van Blarenberghe lost her husband, I wanted her to receive some small token of the sadness which my parents would have felt. I remembered that, many years before, I had occasionally met her son at the houses of mutual friends. It was to him, now, that I wrote, but in the name, so to speak, of my vanished parents rather than in my own. I received the following reply. It was a beautiful letter, eloquent of filial affection. I feel that such a piece of evidence, in view of the significance which it assumes in the light of the drama which followed so hard upon its heels, and of the light which it throws upon that drama, ought to be made public. Here it is:

Les Timbrieux, par Josselin

(Morbihan)

September 24, 1904

My Dear Sir,

It is a matter of regret to me that I have been so long in thanking you for your sympathy in my great sorrow. I trust that you will forgive me. So crushing has been my loss that, on the advice of my doctors, I have spent the last four months in travelling. It is only now, and with extreme difficulty, that I am beginning to resume my former way of life. 

However dilatory I may have been, I should like you to know that I deeply appreciate your remembering our former pleasant relations, and that I am touched by the impulse that led you to write to me—and to my mother— in the name of those parents who have been so untimely taken from you. I never had the honour of knowing them, except very slightly, but I am aware how warmly my father felt for yours, and how pleased my mother always was to see Madame Proust. It shows great delicacy and sensibility on your part thus to convey to me a message from beyond the grave.

I shall shortly be back in Paris, and if, between now and then, I can overcome that desire to be left to myself which, up to the present, I have felt as the result of the disappearance of one in whom my whole life was centred, and who was the source of all my happiness, it will give me much pleasure to shake your hand and talk with you about the past.

Yours, most sincerely,

H. Van Blarenberghe

 

I was much touched by this letter. I felt full of pity for a man who was suffering so acutely—of pity, and of envy. He still had a mother left to him, and in consoling her could find consolation for himself. If I could not respond to the efforts he wished to make to bring about a meeting, it was because of purely material difficulties. But, more than anything else, his letter made pleasanter the memories I had of him. The happy relationship to which he referred had, as a matter of fact, been the most ordinary of social contacts. I had had few opportunities of talking to him when we had happened to meet one another at dinners, but the intellectual distinction of our hosts had been, and still was, a guarantee that Henri Van Blarenberghe, beneath an appearance that was slightly conventional, and representative more of the circle in which he moved than of his own personality, concealed an original and lively nature. Among the strange snapshots of memory which our brains, so small and yet so vast, collect by the thousand, the one that is clearest to me when I rummage among those in which Henri Van Blarenberghe appears, is that of a smiling face, and of the curious amused look he had, with mouth hanging half open, when he had discharged a witty repartee. It is thus that I, as one so rightly says ‘see’ him, always charming, always moderately distinguished. Our eyes play a greater part than we are prepared to admit in that active exploration of the past to which we give the name of memory. If, when someone is scrutinising an incident of his past in an endeavour to fix it, to make it once again a living reality, we look at his eyes as he tries to recollect, we see that they are emptied of all consciousness of what is going on around him, of the scene which, but a moment earlier, they reflected. ‘You’re not there at all,’ we say: ‘you’re far away.’ Yet, what we see is but the reverse side of what is going on within his mind. At such moments the loveliest eyes in all the world are powerless to move us by their beauty, are no more—to misinterpret a phrase of Wells,—than ‘Time Machines’, than telescopes focussed upon the invisible, which see further the older we grow. When we watch the rusted gaze of old men wearied by the effort to adapt themselves to the conditions of a time so different from their own, grow blind in an effort to remember, we feel, with extraordinary certainty, that the trajectory of their glance, passing over life’s shadowed failures, will come to earth not some few feet in front of them— as they think—but, in reality, fifty or sixty years behind. I remember how the charming eyes of Princesse Mathilde took on a more than ordinary beauty when they became fixed on some image which had come unbidden to the retina when, in memory, she saw this or that great man, this or that great spectacle dating back to the early years of the century. It was that she saw: something we shall never see. At such moments, when my glance met hers, I got a vivid impression of the supernatural, because with a curious and mysterious nearsightedness, and as the result of an act of resurrection, she was linking past and present.

Charming and moderately distinguished. Those are the words I used when thinking back to my memories of him. But after his letter had come I put a few added touches to the picture thus preserved, interpreting as evidence of a deeper sensibility, of a less wholly ‘social’ mentality, certain ways he had of looking, certain characteristics, which might lend themselves to a more interesting, a more generous ‘reading’ that the one I had at first accorded him.

When, somewhat later, I asked him to tell me about one of the staff of the Eastern Railway (Monsieur Van Blarenberghe was Chairman of the Board) in whom a friend of mine was taking an interest, I received the following reply. It had been written on the 12th of last January, but, in consequence of my having changed my address, unknown to him, did not reach me until the 17th, that is to say, not a fortnight, barely eight days, before the date of the drama.

48, Rue de la Bienfaisance

January 12, 1907

Dear Sir,

Thinking it possible that the man X . . . might still be employed by the Eastern Railway Company, I have made enquiries at their offices, and have asked them to let me know where he may be found. Nothing is known of him. If you have the name right, its owner has disappeared, leaving no trace. I gather that he was, in any case, only temporarily in their employ, and that he occupied a very subordinate position. I am much disturbed by the news you give me of the state of your health ever since the premature and cruel death of your parents. If it is any consolation, let me tell you that I, too, have suffered physically as well as emotionally, from the shock of my father’s death. But hope springs eternal . . . What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know, but it is my dearest wish that it may bring some alleviation to you as well as to me, and that in the course of the next few months we may be able to meet. I should like you to know how deeply I sympathise with you.

Yours sincerely,

H. Van Blarenberghe

 

Five or six days after receiving this letter, I remembered, one morning on waking, that I wanted to answer it. One of those unexpected spells of cold had set in which are like the high tides of Heaven, submerging all the dykes raised by great cities between ourselves and Nature, thrusting at our closed windows, creeping into our very rooms, making us realise, when they lay a bracing touch upon our shoulders, that the elements have returned to attack in force. The days were disturbed by sudden changes in the temperature, and by violent barometric shocks. Nor did this display of Nature’s powers bring any sense of joy. One bemoaned in advance the snow that was on the way, and even inanimate objects, as in André Rivoire’s lovely poem, seemed to be ‘waiting for the snow’. A ‘depression’ has only to ‘advance towards the Balearics’, as the newspapers put it, Jamaica has only to experience an earthquake tremor, for people in Paris who are subject to headaches, rheumatism and asthma, and probably lunatics as well, to have a crisis—so closely linked are nervous temperaments with the furthest points upon the earth’s surface by bonds whose strength they must often wish was less compulsive. If the influence of the stars upon some at least of such cases be ever recognised (see Framery and Pelletean as quoted by Monsieur Brissaud) to whom could the lines of the poet be held to be more applicable :

Et de longs fils (soyeux) l'unissent aux étoiles? 

(René-François Sully-Prudhomme, 1839-1907)

No sooner was I awake than I sat down to answer Henri Van Blarenberghe. But before doing so, I wanted just to glance at Le Figaro, to proceed to that abominable and voluptuous act known as reading the paper, thanks to which all the miseries and catastrophes of the world during the past twenty-four hours—battles that have cost the lives of fifty-thousand men, crimes, strikes, bankruptcies, fires, poisonings, suicides, divorces, the shattering emotions of statesmen and actors alike—are transmuted for our own particular use, though we are not ourselves involved, into a daily feast that seems to make a peculiarly exciting and stimulating accompaniment to the swallowing of a few mouthfuls of coffee brought in response to our summons. No sooner have we broken the fragile band that wraps Le Figaro, and alone separates us from all the miseries of the world, and hastily glanced at the first sensational paragraphs of which the wretchedness of so many human beings ‘forms an element’, those sensational paragraphs the contents of which we shall later retail to those who have not yet read their papers, than we feel a delightful sense of being once again in contact with that life with which, when we awoke, it seemed so useless to renew acquaintance. And if, from time to time, something like a tear starts from our gorged and glutted eyes, it is only when we come on a passage like this : ‘An impressive silence grips all hearts: the drums roll out a salute, the troops present arms, and a great shout goes up—“Vive Fallières At that we weep, though a tragedy nearer home would leave us dry-eyed. Vile actors that we are who can be moved to tears only by the sorrows of Hercules, or, at a still lower level, by the State Progresses of the President of the Republic! But on this particular morning the reading of Le Figaro moved me to no easy responses. I had just let my fascinated eyes skim the announcements of volcanic eruptions, ministerial crises and gang-fights, and was just beginning to read a paragraph, the heading of which, ‘Drama of a Lunatic’, promised a more than usually sharp stimulus for my morning faculties, than I suddenly saw that the victim of this particular episode had been Madame Van Blarenberghe, that the murderer, who had later committed suicide, was the man whose letter lay within reach of my hand waiting to be answered. ‘Hope springs eternal. .. What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know, but it is my dearest wish that it may bring some alleviation to you as well as to me . . .’ etc. ‘Hope springs eternal! What the year 1907 may have in store for me I do not know ! ’ Well, life’s answer had not been long delayed. 1907 had not yet dropped the first of its months into the past, and already it had brought him his present—a gun, a revolver, a dagger, and that blindness with which Athene once struck the mind of Ajax, driving him to slaughter shepherds and flocks alike on the plains of Greece, not knowing what he did. ‘I it was who set lying images before his eyes. And he rushed forth, striking to right and left, thinking it was the Atrides whom he slew, falling first on one, then on another. I it was who goaded on this man caught in the toils of a murderous madness, I who set a snare for his feet, and even now he is returned, his brow soaked in sweat, his hands reeking with blood.’ Madmen, in the fury of their onslaught, are without knowledge of what they do, but, the crisis once past, then comes agony. Tekmessa, the wife of Ajax, said: ‘His madness is diminished, his fury fallen to stillness like the breath of Motos. But now that his wits are recovered, he is tormented by a new misery, for to look on horrors for which no one but oneself has been responsible, adds bitterness to grief. Ever since he realised what has happened, he has been howling in a black agony; he who used to say that tears are unworthy of a man. He sits, not moving, uttering his cries, and I know well that he is planning against himself some dark design.’ But when with Henri Van Blarenberghe the fit had passed, it was no scene of slaughtered flocks and shepherds that he saw before him. Grief does not kill in a moment. He did not fall dead at sight of his murdered mother lying there at his feet. He did not fall dead at the sound of her dying voice, when she said, like Tolstoy’s Princesse Andrée: ‘Henri, what have you done to me! what have you done to me!’ . . . ‘On reaching the landing of the stairs between the first and second floors, they’, said the Matin (the servants who, in this account— which may not have been accurate—are represented as being in a panic, and running down into the hall four steps at a time) ‘saw Madame Van Blarenberghe, her face contorted with terror, descending the first few stairs, and heard her cry out: “Henri! Henri! what have you done”. Then the wretched woman, her head streaming with blood, threw up her arms and fell forward on her face. The terrified servants rushed for help. Soon afterwards, four policemen, who had been summoned, forced the locked door of the murderer’s room. There were dagger wounds on his body, and the left side of his face had been ripped open by a pistol shot. One eye was hanging out on the pillow.’ I thought, reading this, not of Ajax. In the ‘eye hanging out on the pillow’ I saw, remembering that most terrible act which the history of human suffering has ever recorded, the eye of the wretched Oedipus . . . ‘and Oedipus, rushing forth with a great cry, called for a sword . . . With terrible moaning he dashed himself against the double doors, tore them from their sunken hinges, and stormed into the room where he saw Jocasta hanging from the strangling rope. Finding her thus, the wretched man groaned in horror and loosened the cord. His mother’s body, no longer supported, fell to the ground. Then he snatched the golden brooches from Jocasta’s dress and thrust them into his open eyes, saying that no longer should they look upon the evils he had suffered, the miseries he had caused : and, bellowing curses, he struck his staring eyes again and again, and the bleeding pupils ran down his cheeks in a rain, in a hail, of black blood. Then he cried out, bidding those who stood by to show the parricide to the race of Cadmus, urging them to drive him from the land. Ah! thus is ancient felicity given its true name. But from that day has been no dearth of all the evils that are named among men; groans and disasters, death and obloquy.’ And, thinking of Henri Van Blarenberghe’s torment when he saw his mother lying dead before him, I thought, too, of another wretched madman, of Lear holding in his arms the body of his daughter, Cordelia :

She’s dead as earth . . .

No, no, no life.

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life

And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more.

Never, never, never, never, never ...

Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,

Look there, look there!

In spite of his terrible wounds, Henri Van Blarenberghe did not die at once. I cannot but think abominably cruel (though there may have been purpose in it. Does one really know what lay behind the drama? Remember the Brothers Karamazov) the behaviour of the Police Inspector. ‘The wretched man was not dead. The Inspector took him by the shoulders, and spoke to him “Can you hear me? Answer” . . . The murderer opened his one remaining eye, blinked a few times, and relapsed into a coma.’ I am tempted to address to that brutal Inspector the words uttered by Kent in that same scene of King Lear from which I have just quoted, when he stopped Edgar from bringing Lear round from his fainting fit:

Vex not his ghost! let him pass: he hates him

That would upon the rack of this tough world

Stretch him out longer.

If I have dwelt upon those great names of Tragedy, Ajax and Oedipus, I wish the reader to understand why, and why, too, I have published these letters and written this essay. I want to show in what a pure, in what a religious, atmosphere of moral beauty this explosion of blood and madness could occur, and bespatter without soiling. I want to bring into the room of the crime something of the breath of Heaven, to show that what this newspaper paragraph recorded was precisely one of those Greek dramas the performance of which was almost a sacred ceremony; that the poor parricide was no criminal brute, no moral leper beyond the pale of humanity, but a noble example, a tender and a loving son whom an ineluctable fate—or, let us say, pathological, and so speak the language of today—had driven to crime, and to its expiation, in a manner that should for ever be illustrious. I find it difficult to believe in death’, wrote Michelet in a fine passage. True, he was speaking only of a jelly-fish, about whose death—so little different from its life—there is nothing incredible, so that one is inclined to wonder whether Michelet was not merely making use of one of those hackneyed ‘recipes’ on which all great writers can lay their hands at need, and so serve to their customers, at short notice, just the dish for which they have asked. But if I find no difficulty in crediting the death of a jelly-fish, I do not find it easy to believe in the death of a person, nor even in the mere eclipse, the mere toppling of his reason. Our sense of the continuity of the human consciousness is too strong. A short while since, and that mind was master of life and death, could move us to a feeling of respect; and now, both life and death have mastered it. It has become feebler than our own, which, for all its weakness, can now no longer bow before what so quickly has become almost nothing. For this, madness is to blame, madness which is like an old man’s loss of his faculties, like death itself. What, the man who, only yesterday, could write the letter that I have already quoted, so high-minded and so wise, is today . . .? And even—to move for a moment to the lower level of those trivial matters which, nevertheless, are so important—the man who was so moderate and so sober in what he asked of life, who loved the little things of existence, answered a letter with such charm, was so scrupulous in doing what was demanded of him, valued the opinions of others, and wanted to appear in their eyes as someone, if not of influence, at least of easy friendliness, playing the social game so sensitively, so loyally . . . These things, I say, are very important, and, if I quoted, a while back, the first part of his second letter, which really concerned only my personal affairs, it was because the practical good-sense which it displays, seems even more at variance with what afterwards occurred than does the admirable and profound melancholy expressed in its final lines. Often, when a mind has been brought low, it is the main limbs of the tree, its top, that live on, when all the tangle of its lower branches has been eaten away by disease. In the present case, the spiritual core was left intact. I felt, as I was copying those letters, how very much I should have liked to be able to make my readers realise the extreme delicacy, nay, more—the quite incredible firmness of the hand which must have been needed to produce such neat and exquisite calligraphy.

What have you done to me! what have you done to me! If we let ourselves think for a few moments we shall, I believe, agree that there is probably no devoted mother who could not, when her last day dawns, address the same reproach to her son. The truth is that, as we grow older, we kill the heart that loves us by reason of the cares we lay on it, by reason of that uneasy tenderness that we inspire, and keep for ever stretched upon the rack. Could we but see in the beloved body the slow work of destruction that is the product of the painful tenderness which is the mainspring of its being, could we but see the faded eyes, the hair against whose valiant blackness time had so long been powerless, now sharing in the body’s general defeat and suddenly turned white; could we but see the hardened arteries, the congested kidneys, the overworked heart; could we but watch courage failing under the blows of life, the slowing movements, the heavy step, the spirit once so tireless and unconquerable, now conscious of hope gone for ever, and that former gaiety, innate and seemingly immortal, so sweet a consort for sad moments, now finally withered—perhaps, seeing all this in a flash of that lucidity now come too late, which even lives spent in a long illusion may sometimes have, as Don Quixote once had his—perhaps, then, like Henri Van Blarenberghe when he stabbed his mother to death, we should recoil before the horror of our lives, and seize the nearest gun, and make an end. In most men these painful moments of vision (even assuming they can gain the heights from which such seeing is possible) soon melt in the early beams of the sun which shines upon the joys of life. But what joy, what reason for living, what life, can stand up to the impact of such awareness? Which is true, it or the joy of life? Which of them is the Truth? 

From Marcel Proust, A Selection of his Miscellaneous Writings selected and translated by Gerard Hopkins, 1948 p. 177.

~~~

On the day that Proust read his article, Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide, that appeared in Le Figaro on the 1st of February in 1907, he wrote to Gaston Calmette, Le Figaro's editor-in-chief, that he had sent the article off to Le Figaro without an ending the previous morning, however to the proofs which came to him later that day he added an ending which he felt closed the article.

The final paragraph (the same one that was censured) came with a warning that cut what Le Figaro may cut, it should not cut this addition that closes the article. Understandably, Proust was upset when he read his truncated article in the newspaper the next day. He quotes the last paragraph that was added in his letter to Gaston Calmette. (see below)

Before reading Le Figaro's report of the parricide's deed, entitled Drama of a Lunatic, Proust knew the vulgarity of the world where he found himself living. Le Figaro, being a mercantile enterprise, was read by the common man as well; yet Proust published where he could hope to catch the rare eye of people who were as sensitive as he was. Everybody, no matter who they were, read Le Figaro.

The sub-editor of Le Figaro, M. Cardane, who censured Proust's closure remarked, "Does Monsieur Proust imagine that anyone will trouble to read his article besides himself and the few people who know him?"

Rather than concentrate wholly on Shakespeare or the ancient Greek playwrights (Proust is rich in the artistic allusions he makes) I want to discuss another matter untouched that I feel influences this article and the writing of À la recherche du temps perdu.

Vulgarity was as prevalent a century ago as it is today; now it is approached in a manner of understanding, then one could blatantly state it and even publicly in Le Figaro. Of course, no one accused of being vulgar would own up to it; to be vulgar was like being evil today: it is the other who is evil or vulgar—certainly not me or my friends, except perhaps in an odd jest that self-incriminates the doer as Proust does when he opens Le Figaro "to proceed to that abominable and voluptuous act known as reading the paper". He  tongue and cheek confesses to this vulgar act and with his morning coffee.

Proust is uncomprehending of the vulgar depiction in the initial report in Le Figaro of Henri Van Blarenberghe called Un drame de la folle. Proust mentions that with his writing in the article, "I want to bring into the room of the crime something of the breath of Heaven, to show that what this newspaper paragraph recorded was precisely one of those Greek dramas the performance of which was almost a sacred ceremony; that the poor parricide was no criminal brute, no moral leper beyond the pale of humanity, but a noble example, a tender and a loving son whom an ineluctable fate..." Perhaps not here, not this, but the vulgar inverts (or if you will, fashion changes into its opposite)—what was once vulgar becomes fashionable: look at denim pants, what was once working attire becomes high-fashion garb and very expensive today; and recently in menswear, sneakers can be worn with suits, according to the fashion section of the New York Times, that arbiter of today's taste reports. And I'm sure that you could list what was once fashionable that has now become passé or vulgar.

In his correspondence below Marcel Proust  explains the desire for possession of the tombs of the parricides, Oedipus and Orestes.

~~~

Marcel Proust

Selected Letters

Volume 2  1904-1909

 

To Gaston Calmette

[Friday, 1 February 1907]

Dear Sir,

My deep sense of your kindness and my gratitude received an even more direct and more powerful, almost crushing reinforcement when I saw just now your charming Figaro encumbered by the compact mass of my unwieldy article, and all the other articles, all the news, all the light flotilla of telegrams from every point of the compass held up by the enormous convoy to which your infinite kindness had accorded this special precedence of which I so unscrupulously took advantage.

One thing distresses me, however, because it increases even more the disproportion between the unworthiness of the article and your delightful benevolence. The only thing I had indicated to M. Cardane as being essential was omitted, though I said that he could cut anything he liked rather than these last few lines. I had indeed in my hurry sent off the article in the morning without an ending. I added one on the proofs, a paragraph in which I gathered my reins, my scattered steeds, at once hurtling and floundering, straying. The article ended thus: 

‘Let us remember that for the ancients there was no altar more sacred, surrounded with more profound superstition and veneration, betokening more grandeur and glory for the land that possessed them and had dearly disputed them, than the tomb of Oedipus, at Colonus, and the tomb of Orestes at Sparta, that same Orestes whom the Furies had pursued to the feet of Apollo himself and Athene, saying: “We drive from the altar the parricidal son.”’

Thus the word parricide, having opened the article, closed it. The article was given a sort of unity thereby. I dare not ask for an insertion tomorrow to the effect that a printing accident scuppered the final lines. Who will remember it all tomorrow? But to the extent that it may have made the article even more unworthy of the kindness which you so divinely bestow on its author, I am very unhappy, for nothing could be more distressing to me than to make you repent of your benevolence towards your grateful and devoted.

Marcel Proust

 

~~~ 

From Gaston Calmette

LE FIGARO

26 rue Drouot

[Friday, 1 February 1907]

 

Your article was very fine, my dear contributor and excellent friend. Don’t worry about those few lines: they frightened Cardane who thought they showed insufficient disapprobation for the unfortunate parricide’s deed. Cardane was undoubtedly wrong: but there is not a reader who will not thank you and re-read your article with an enchanted heart.

Yours ever,

Gaston Calmette

~~~  

To Gaston Calmette

102 boulevard Haussmann

[Friday evening 1 February 1907]

Dear Sir,

Forgive me! It’s my last letter! First of all it’s too kind of you to have replied to me and I shan’t dare write again. Secondly, if what I thought was the clumsiness of a make-up man, a compositor (the omission of my ending), was the deliberate act of a severe moralist (M. Cardane) I have nothing to say. Or rather I have: I have this to say to M. Cardane (but I don’t know whether I’m supposed to know about his indignation—please don’t bother to write and tell me, we’ll talk about it when I see you), that one of his colleagues on the, Journal des Débats of old, St-Marc Girardin, who was not known for his immorality, wrote in his Cours de littérature dramatique some very edifying pages on the Greeks’ belief that the city which safeguarded the ashes of Oedipus and Orestes would always be victorious. He saw this as the effect of the high philosophy the Greeks which required that the crime of these parricides, ever involuntary, should be punished in their lifetime, but that in order re-establish a higher justice, since they had been involuntarily guilty, their memory should be honoured, consecrated. In my case the severe M. Cardane (who is, by the way, so kind and charming) must be aware all the wars which Athens and Sparta waged in order to lay hands on the bodies of Oedipus and Orestes of whom the oracles had predicted that they alone could ensure the greatness of their cities. I don’t want to bore you by quoting a passage from Herodotus on one of these oracles although it’s extremely interesting.

All the same, to take me for an apologist for parricide is a bit much! Forgive this self-defence which is not meant too seriously as I quite take the point of your letter and realize that M. Cardane didn’t mean to censure me. But the tragedy of Oedipus at Colonus which revolves exclusively around the military glory which the possession of Oedipus remains would bring to the Athenians has made these questions popular, so topical, that I’m sure that if my article had arrived at Le Figaro a little earlier, at an hour when one has a bit more time remember the Greek tragedians, M. Cardane would have judged my ending in a diametrically opposite way. Dear Sir, please don’t bother write to me; forget me in order to forgive me, and believe me.

Your infinitely grateful and devoted,

Marcel Proust

 

Selected Letters Volume 2 1904-1909, edited by Philip Kolb, 1989 translated by Terrance Kilmartin  p. 249-251

Also I would like to thank William C. Carter and his marvelous biography: Marcel Proust: A Life, 2002-2013, Loc 8773 ff; he was my guide but is in no way responsible for my opinions. But I'd like to quote him, "Many friends wrote to express their admiration for 'Sentiments filiaux.' To close friends Marcel expressed serious doubts about his talent. He did not trust this new voice."

Boldface type is either my emphasis or an addition.

Finally, Sharon thank you for your kind letter and for the patience to read mine; excuse me for my comment on your reference as I was already thinking of Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
4/2/2015 8:54 pm