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En busca del tiempo perdido

por Marcel Proust

Otros autores: Ver la sección otros autores.

Series: En busca del tiempo perdido (1-7)

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3,943433,183 (4.55)4 / 371
Marcel, joven hipersensible perteneciente a una familia burguesa de París de principios del siglo XX, quiere ser escritor. Sin embargo, las tentaciones mundanas le desvían de su primer objetivo; atraído por el brillo de la aristocracia o de los lugares de veraneo de moda (como Balbec, ciudad imaginaria de la costa normanda), crece a la vez que descubre el mundo, el amor, y la existencia de la homosexualidad… (más)
1920s (36)
Romans (28)
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"The most familiar precepts are not always the truest" -- Gisèle as Sophocles, writing to Racine.

The second volume of Proust's Great Novel(TM), À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (Within a Budding Grove, better - but more salaciously - translated as In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower) is no less magisterial than the last, although one suspects that many more people falter at the posts of this one, given as much of the book is to social commentary and increasingly oblique yet erudite discussions on art, love, culture, and human development. Truthfully, I am more excited for the work after reading this second novel, reminded as I so often am by the depth of Proust's brilliance. (One can surely believe that a man needs an editor even as one entirely supports his artistic innovations!) My review of the first volume can be found here.

Perhaps the more the great writer developed in Bergotte...the more his own personal life was drowned in the flood of all the lives that he imagined...

The second volume of In Search of Lost Time details the young narrator in his late teens, as his love for a young lady named Gilberte blossoms and fades, as his beliefs in art and human nature as shattered and newly built up, as he develops his first real platonic male friendship, and ultimately seeks to understand how he can ever become a writer. The characters of Volume One continue, primarily in the explanation of the family Swann and their tumultuous place in French society, and in Marcel's determined grandmother and his wise simpleton of a maid, Françoise. What draws me to the work is partly Proust's incredible ability to detail the development of the human consciousness. Some of his arguments, about why we fall in love, for instance, could be debated, but nevertheless he lays out his argument so meticulously, it's hard to disagree. Marcel's gradual understanding of the workings of the human heart is layered with his growing up, and with it that shocking experience of getting to know adults and social mores in ways that you had completely mistaken - or completely neglected - as children. The relationship of Odette and Swann, profiled so extensively in the book's first volume, is now placed further under the microscope, with an even less rosy hue.

We construct our lives for one person, and when at length it is ready to receive her that person does not come; presently she is dead to us, and we live on, prisoners within the walls which were intended only for her.

It's worth pointing out that Proust can be very, very funny! This is something they don't teach you in highschool or university lit class, when you are given brief excerpts of the French author to look at, but it comes through clear as a bell for the dedicated reader. True, the humour is of a wry kind no longer in vogue, but it's there, in the constant ironies the older narrator throws in when explaining the motivations of his younger self:
His head reminded one of those old castle keeps on which the disused battlements are still to be seen, although inside they have been converted into libraries."

At the same time, it's worth noting that the book is heavy going. It's well known that Proust's early attempts at getting the work published were stymied by publishers who were dubious of anyone's patience for a book that routinely runs on sentences for half a page, particularly when the sentences themselves are describing an action as simple as eating, or even as nonexistent as the vacillations of brain cells as we move from place to place by public transport. Proust is a great thinker but there is no doubt that the parts of the book that stray furthest into philosophical or artistic commentary can be the hardest, although again it is perchance they are the most rewarding. There is a beautiful quote somewhere which, alas, I cannot find, wherein an author speaks of how, after reading Proust for an extensive period of time, the memories contained within become one's own. That is part of my experience too, as I suspect it is for many. The subjectivity of memory, and the desperate wish to return there, are haunting themes pored over by many authors, but perhaps none found so much human truth as Marcel Proust. Still, I would say to readers who find themselves daunted that it is better to skim the odd 10 pages rather than give up. (At one point, a more recent translator notes, Proust himself made a marginal note on a passage in this volume stating "this is all badly written". It may just be self-doubt, but it sounds plausible!) Around each corner lurks a passage of such sublime beauty that one begins to doubt whether any literature written after 1922 could ever make such intelligent points again.

At the moment at which I entered, the creator was just finishing, with the brush which he had in his hand, the outline of the setting sun.

The second half of the book is perhaps more successful at retaining reader interest, although it is also slow going. Taken by his grandmother to the seaside town of Balbec for the season, Marcel makes a friend in Robert Saint-Loup, develops an idol in the artist Elstir, witnesses the complex social mores when people are taken outside of their regular society, has some odd interactions with a Baron, Charlus (which will make more sense in the sight of later novels, so I'm told), and finally meets a misty gaggle of girls who hold sway over his evolution into a lover. In this way, the fragmented nature of the whole novel becomes both an asset and a flaw. It's easy to imagine French people of the era being somewhat confused by this occasional dips into the lives of others, which would make sense once all seven novels were published, but not in the moment. And, after centuries of narrative literature, the reader is anxious to get to this young lady Albertine, whom we have heard passing mention of several times in Volume One, but she is constantly overshadowed and eclipsed until the last 100 pages. Even then, Marcel doesn't get anywhere with her that he would like! Instead, this is a novel of personal development, of the ways that the narrator comes to know the world, and himself.

Could it be that this man of genius, this sage, this recluse,this philosopher with his marvellous flow of conversation... was the ridiculous, depraved painter who had at one time been adopted by the Verdurins?

Besides the truthfulness of Proust, I also adore his run-on sentences, and the density of language presents a wonderful challenge. I have no doubt that, if I were to improve my schoolboy French, I would enjoy the works more in their mother tongue, but as that isn't a priority for me, English will have to do. I am not of the school of thought that argues Proust's sentences make no sense in English. Certainly, one must change one's preconceptions about how we use pronouns and modifiers, but it's possible. Even preferable! Open your minds, people! The third of my five reasons for such enjoyment is the complexity of character. In some ways, all non-Marcel characters in the Search betray essential qualities that fail to make them complete humans. Yet, this is precisely the point. We can never truly know another, as Marcel learns so humiliatingly with Albertine here. We the audience get the sense there is more to Saint-Loup then we thus know. By a similar notion, despite Saint-Loup's stories of his uncle Charlus' respectability, something sounds a bit fishy. A man who boasts about bashing up homosexuals and enjoys taking in young men who are down on their luck? I'm not making any allegations, Baron Charlus, but... Let's just say, based on his inability to stop gawking at our young narrator, I have a feeling we'll be learning certain secrets about this character in future volumes! So much of Proust's method of character development comes from anecdotes and moments. This is something that those of us who trained as classical actors learn. Judi Dench, playing Shakespeare's Cleopatra, was confounded by how to suggest her character's majesty, her passion, her silliness, her forethought, and her impulsiveness, all at once. The director wisely told her to play each part in the right moment. In the hands of a good actor, the audience reads each individual element at their time, and puts together a personality. So Proust does here, with everyone from the wackadoodle Verdurins to the irrational Françoise.

Gone are the kings, their ships pierced by arms,
Vanished upon the raging deep, alas,
The long-haired warriors of heroic Hellas


A couple of housekeeping notes: first, while I'm eminently satifised with the Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright translation, I was a bit confused by the Vintage editions. 14 endnotes for this entire volume? Literally 70 pages will pass full of references to artworks and plays, sometimes without even being clarified (for instance, when characters at a dinner party debate modes of literature) and we will receive no footnote. Then, suddenly, we'll have an endnote as dull as: "Arvede Barine was the pseudonym of Mme Charles Vincens, a French woman writer..." This decision seems to ally with the printing of the Reader's Guide to Proust which is included with the sixth and final volume in the series, Time Regained. So if you're thinking of embarking on this journey, best to get Volume 6 at the same time as the rest, so you can refer in detail to people, places, and themes.
Elsewhere, having read the relevant sections of two Reader's Guides on the subject, I can eminently recommend Patrick Alexander's guide for those who intend either only to skim the volumes or who are very novice readers (it is primarily plot summaries and category listings), or the wonderful David Ellsion's guide for those open to academic interpretation, and to a really grand potted history of Proust and his philosophies. There are many other great books, I'm sure, that I will read once I have finished the Search, but these two are actually structured as guides, chapter-by-chapter, which I find very worthy to consolidate my knowledge.

"I am reading Proust for the first time ...and am surprised to find him a mental defective" - Evelyn Waugh

Anyhow, it is worth stating the last two reasons I am so enamoured of Proust at this stage. There's the lyrical beauty of so many of his passages. As I said, it's not always a light read, but when one reaches a passage like the powerful description of Elstir's painting of the sea, one is illuminated both by the transcendent imagery and the philosophy underpinning it. As the boundaries between sea and land are diffused in a man-made work, as people are placed amongst the grandeur of nature and artists debate as to whether one should focus on the grandeur or the person, Marcel - and by extension, Proust, and by extension, the Western world - discovers an understanding of a world that is both larger than him and yet also contained within him. And also, perhaps most importantly, there is the feeling of inevitability about reading Proust. It is like returning home after three years spent at sea. (I have been spurred on by my Proustian year to start cataloging my own memories chronologically, in the hopes of both recalling all the moments that I have lost to the "involuntary" part of my memory, and also that I may free up some space in there!) There is a warmth, a need, a sensibility, a sense of discovery, a certainty forever bouncing off uncertainty, that plays into Proust's great Search. With my other favourite verbose writers - Pynchon, Mailer, Woolf - I tend to take a year between books to ensure I have the mental energy, and that I don't exhaust the supply. In the case of Proust, I may only give myself a week until I stumble down The Guermantes Way and find what lies next in store for Marcel, and for me.

And when Françoise removed the pins from the top of the window-frame, took down the cloths, and drew back the curtains, the summer day which she disclosed seemed as dead, as immemorial, as a sumptuous millenary mummy from which our old servant had done no more than cautiously unwind the linen wrappings before displaying it, embalmed in its vesture of gold. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
"Stories somehow lengthen when begun" - Lord Byron, Beppo

And so, after 11 months and 3 weeks, I find myself making the emotionally harrowing descent from Mont Proust. And, boy, has it been worth it. Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained, also translated as Finding Time Again) is the final volume of the masterful Search, and is a distinct step up from its immediate predecessors, for a few reasons. (My reviews of the previous volumes : Unum Duo Tria Quattuor Quinque Sex )

Published a few years after Proust's death, Time Regained exists in something of a draft form, and this is rampantly evident throughout. The narrative is fragmented; key characters make cameo appearances in what must surely have been pencil sketches for larger farewells; the dead return to life with alarming regularity; and some sections betray a sense of repetition that even Gertrude Stein would have hesitated at. Anyone who tells you that they can explain what Proust intended is lying however, like any good paleontologist, we can hope to reconstruct at least some of what lies at the end of Proust's search. (Walking with Proust?) And thank goodness we can.

“My great adventure is really Proust. Well-- what remains to be written after that? - Virginia Woolf

Broadly speaking, Time Regained can be separated into four sections. The first, brief chapter takes place before WWI, and is sometimes included at the end of The Fugitive instead, although I prefer it here, as in my Vintage edition. With Gilberte, the narrator (we'll call him Marcel however, as I've previously established, I don't like that name for him) returns to Combray, marking the beginning of his psychological reassessment of what has gone before. It's remarkable to think that when Proust began the novel, he could not have predicted that there would be a Great War allowing him to destroy Méséglise and to so powerfully capture the downfall of so many of his characters and the society in which they move. What this vignette shows us is the susceptibility of memory, of perspective. Marcel could not have known, all those years ago, what Gilberte truly intended as a child, nor that this valuations of people - such as the seemingly upright Saint-Loup - could be proven so incomplete with the passing of the years. The grand revelation that the two "ways" are connected is a perfect symbol of everything the novel has attempted to say. The novel constantly hints at other lives Marcel may have led: an early, happy marriage to Gilberte? An early death, perhaps? As with homosexuality and Jewishness, those two big, bad questions that academics and readers can't help asking about the narrator/author connection, I wonder how much of a role age and illness played. Proust was famously hands-on when it came to revisions, and there is certainly a level of denial in the narrator's claims that he has "totally forgotten" Albertine, and that he is perfectly happy to retreat from the world. One wonders.

A book is a huge cemetery in which on the majority of the tombs the names are effaced and can no longer be read.

The second of the four is the part that most obviously shows evidence of being a rough draft. The war years are, to a large part, glossed over, with indications that Marcel spent time in a sanatorium. We will, alas, never find out what happened to Mamma and Papa. Yet, the war actually seems a fitting if unintended conclusion to the political drama that has played out in the background of the Search, from the Dreyfus Affair to the naiveté of the aristocracy on Europe's nationalist troubles at the beginning of the 20th century. It also allows for an obvious transition point, a kind of termination shock, after which everyone has changed, and their society has changed with them. ("It is all a question of chronology.")

Various rumours are cleared up as we meet Saint-Loup, Jupien, and Charlus for the last time. The brothel sequence, in which Morel and Jupien take their "inverted" tastes to the logical extreme, is perhaps a bit silly. It feels too calculated to shock, too desperate and contrived (why exactly Marcel needs to rent a private room for a glass of cassis is beyond me) but, nevertheless, it provides a logical endpoint for the discussion of social codes-within-codes that has often dominated the story and, in the tale of Saint-Loup's sad demise (oh, that croix de guerre!) and Morel's ironic rise, he captures all the irony of a Madame Bovary with just a few, brief, moonlit images. If the novel really is like Vinteuil's septet, then this is most certainly the "da capo al fine" section. Thankfully, with the rise and fall of the war, Proust's social eye - arguably his strongest single literary skill - gets to put a little extra sharpness into his pen after quite some time in which we have focused only on the immediate concerns of the protagonist. After all these years, a younger generation are rising up in society, and what good is a war if you can't use it to forget the inconvenient facts about the past? Social status has changed for so many since the teenaged Marcel burst on to the scene, and everyone is doing their best to obfuscate their origins. Perhaps the single funniest line in the whole novel is when Madame Verdurin, continuing her rise from the bourgeoisie (to which she was once so firmly proud), describes someone with great disdain as being hopelessly "pre-war"! And, of course, Francoise continues to be the greatest comic relief character written since Shakespeare's death.

An hour is not merely an hour, it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates.

Next up is the single most dense section of the entire Search, as Marcel - and, I think we can all agree, Proust - lays out his extensive theory of art and creation. (It's important to note both are equally important; those critics who most savagely deride Proust for filling a novel with platitudes on art rarely seem to notice that this is really a novel about creating it.) Here is the ultimate modernist push Proust made, to create a climax that is, really, entirely passive and internal. The reason this section fascinates (even if, true, it is heavy going) is that these revelations are so important to Marcel, for Marcel. He is realising a rebellion against the so-called "literature of description", and seeking an answer to "the vision... of a person situated in the distorting perspective of Time". With each revelation about previous moments, our narrator is seeking to find whether all of that time has been truly wasted (an equally good translation for the title's "perdu", translated usually as "lost") or whether we can keep it with us, whether we can find time again. And indeed, we can all find it through art. To do so, Marcel needs to "become a mirror" and transcribe the music of all these years. As he says, "oblivion is at work within us". That's not to say that creating art is a vanity project - it may well be for La Berma, and perhaps Bergotte, and it took Elstir until his dying moments to realise otherwise - but that desire to write must come from somewhere. Marcel here seems to find that desire in his realisation of the ultimate tragedy of life: that we can't let go - "If our life is vagabond, our memory is sedentary" - but neither are we holding on in the right way. Here, more than ever, one understands that now conventional wisdom of why Remembrance of Things Past is such a bad title: Marcel may be the first truly internally-driven protagonist in literary history, but he is still driven. It's just that Albertine was never truly the fugitive; the fugitive was Time (yep, capital T, no way around it).

Profound Albertine, whom I saw sleeping and who was dead.
(What a quote, huh? What a freaking quote.)

The final fascicle of Time Regained captures surely the longest social engagement of the entire work and, to be frank, it feels it. I assume Proust would have done some pruning and elaborating before he published this section, or at least I hope so! That's not to say this section isn't gorgeous, by the way, because it is. However, it contains all the hallmarks of a reworked draft, with characters recognising one another before they've even arrived at the party, identical analogies in quick succession, fragmentary portraits that deserve more airtime, and occasionally grand statements from the narrator that haven't earned their place.

It's tragic in retrospect, but this section takes place assumedly in the late '20s, i.e. the time the volume was published, and which Proust expected he would live to see. Marcel, now a man in his 50s, is attending a reception at the home of the aged Princesse de Guermantes. It's a bit of a greatest hits package, as we are reunited one last time with the Duc, Morel, Rachael, Gilberte, Odette, Bloch, and Mme Verdurin who has completed her ascent to become the new Duchesse de Guermantes, for all the happiness it will bring her. Proust opens this section with a startling narrative conceit, that of appearing to enter a costume ball where everyone has come as the walking dead, until he realises it is simply that everyone has substantially aged. (It is clear that Marcel has been removed from society for some time, although he is also only just making the decision to truly retreat, one of many little inconsistencies that poke out from this draft volume.) While the heartbreaking final scene for Charlus is fitting, one hopes that Morel and Mme Verdurin would have received greater farewells in the finished work - although the last we see of the new Duchesse is her truly enjoying the music at the reception even as those around her engage in intrigues, a reminder of her bourgeois past, so at least that's fitting. Warming my heart is the fact that, although we don't get a farewell to Francoise, this is because she appears to be the only character who will remain in the narrator's life after he retreats from society on the final page.

The ponderings on old age seem to go on for some time, often repeating themselves, suggesting that Proust was uncontrollably - and reasonably - fascinated by the subject as he entered his 50s himself, a dying man living like a hermit in his cork-lined room (I suppose you could argue that this is a deliberate literary technique to present the narrator as aged and forgetful but this seems overly generous and also, I would think, a way of writing that hadn't really been invented yet). However, they are constantly delightful, and indeed much of this section is light-hearted, suggesting to me yet again that the popular image of the depressive, wilting Proust is in fact only one aspect of his personality. Two portraits particularly stand out. The ageing Odette who, like so many others, has forgotten Marcel's own early years in the haze of her memory (fairly reasonably; after all, he was no-one special to her!), now mistakes his minor successes for true fame, and takes the time to exaggerate events from her early life for his benefit. Describing her new place as the constantly demeaned mistress of the "magnificent ruin" that is the Duc de Guermantes, Proust speaks thus: "She was commonplace in this role as she had been in all her others. Not that life had not frequently given her good parts; it had, but she had not known how to play them". Can this man write, or can this man write? And, perhaps the best scene of the entire second half of the Search takes only a few pages, as Berma - the character I least expected to see receiving such narrative focus in the closing chapter - hosts the world's saddest dinner party. It's a testament to the great skill Proust had developed over the course of writing his magnum opus that a conflict between two fairly minor characters, taking us from location to location, from past to present to future, can at all times seem so razor-sharp, so thematically apt, and so dimensional. There is certainly an air of tragedy underlying everything, though. Our protagonist at last finds his way, but this newfound focus on genealogy couldn't but remind me of that other original protagonist, Charles Swann. In an earlier volume, it was mentioned that the late Swann wished to leave three things behind: good memories in friends, his child, and his name. Well, his name is barely known at all by the new generation, his ageing friends hold some good memories although they're largely fictionalised (and often bowdlerised) from reality, and his child - who, having married twice, no longer even bears his name - has largely renounced him. (Marcel says of Gilberte early on that she is "like one of those countries with which one dare not form an alliance because of their too frequent changes of government.")

A few of those old bugbears return to haunt us in the final pages. First, Marcel decides that the logical next step in his life would be to take Gilberte and Robert's 16-year-old daughter, Mlle de Saint-Loup, as his next mistress (um...?), and Gilberte indicates that Robert would probably have preferred a son given his homosexual tendencies (ummmmmmm....?). And then Marcel becomes obsessed with death in the same way he once obsessed over jealousy and, before that, over kisses from his mother. Well, at least he's consistent! The problematic nature of parts of the novel should not be neglected by serious readers, and I hope I have not, but they only add to my desire to reread, and to study more of Proust's life, to better capture all the complexities of this man and his work. The final pages, as the narrator agonises about whether death will take him before he finishes his great work, are sobering given Proust's untimely end, but they also enlighten and enrapture, as Marcel realises that over the course of his life, his book was "perpetually in the process of becoming".

(On a housekeeping note, this Vintage imprint includes the substantial A Guide to Proust which catalogues the Characters, Real-Life Persons, Places, and Themes of the novel with handy breakdowns of key moments. It's by no means a complete concordance, but it's a satisfyingly researched appendix to the volumes, and I really appreciate its inclusion - not that it makes up for the frustrating lack of annotations! I appreciate the complexity of such things but, for a work written in a vastly different society in a different language a century ago, there were many areas of discussion and reference where the knowing voice of an expert would have helped me, and many others with which I was familiar, but which I suspect most people of my generation would not be. In this "do more with less" era, I appreciate why publishing houses issue these bare-bones editions, but it is a cheap shortcut now that will only lead to an incomplete map in the future, as young people struggle with the Everest that is four centuries of art and literature in an age when such things are already less and less valued. Simply put, the cost of a world without introductions and endnotes is too much for Western culture to afford.)

How many great cathedrals remain unfinished!

As I finished the last page of this 3,000-page masterpiece, I achieved a truth that I'm sure everyone has felt who has finished Proust: one never finishes Proust. This world created, these philosophies explored: they will never leave me. It may be several years before I read the Search again, but I know that I will. I chose to embark upon the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright translation because it is the foundation text upon which most Proust criticism is written, but next time I look forward to devouring the new 21st century translations. The layers to the Search are historical, biographical, emotional, psychological, literary and, it seems, are endless. When at last, the narrator sits down to write, he at last understands "this notion of Time embodied, of years past but not separated from us", and it is one of the most beautiful revelations I have yet had the privilege to read in all of literature. That final image of the Duc de Guermantes on the ever-growing stilts that we all wear in this life, is indelibly etched upon my memory. Much like the young Marcel and Gilberte in the pink hawthorn grove, I feel as if I have witnessed countless signs I have only just begun to comprehend. Yet also, like an evening salon with the Verdurins or a walk by the seaside in Balbec, this year of reading Proust has only been a part of my life, a tiny aspect of that tapestry of memory, that web created between our mind and the world. Proust mentions in this volume that all art, particularly good art, is on some level only what the reader makes of it. Less charitably (with due credit to the wonderful 182 Days of Proust) Schopenhauer said "Books are like a mirror. If an ass looks in, you can't expect an angel to look out". Indeed, I can only agree - with both of them! Over the past year, I have connected so much of my own life to what Proust writes about, and conversely I have connected much of Proust's search to my own. Reading Proust has been bewildering, delightful, uplifting, heartbreaking, philosophical, and occasionally infuriating. But, whatever else it may have been, I know I have not wasted Time. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
Take your time with this one. It's rich, deep, and has a lot to say. ( )
  medwyn1066 | Nov 28, 2023 |
ALL'OMBRA DELLE FANCIULLE IN FIORE

PARTE PRIMA - INTORNO ALLA SIGNORA SWANN

Ma la ragione principale, ed applicabile, questa, all’umanita’ in generale, era che le nostre stesse virtu’ non sono qualcosa di libero e fluttuante, di cui serbiamo la disponibilita’ permanente; esse finiscono per associarsi cosi’ strettamente, nel nostro animo, con le azioni in occasione delle quali ci siamo fatti un dovere di esercitarle, che, se sorge per noi un’attivita’ d’altro ordine, essa ci prende alla sprovvista, senza che neppure ci sfiori l’idea che potrebbe comportare la pratica di quelle stesse virtu’. (354)

Ma - come al viaggio a Balbec, al viaggio a Venezia, che avevo tanto desiderato - cio’ che io chiedevo a quella matinee, era ben altro che un piacere: erano verita’ appartenenti ad un mondo piu’ reale di quello in cui vivevo, e la cui conquista, una volta compiuta, non avrebbe potuto essermi tolta da incidenti insignificanti, pur se dolorosi per il mio corpo, della mia oziosa esistenza. Tutt’al piu’, il piacere che avrei provato durante lo spettacolo mi appariva come la forma forse necessaria della percezione di quelle verita’; (362)

I nostri desideri interferiscono via via fra loro, e, nella confusione dell’esistenza, e’ raro che una felicita’ giunga a posarsi esattamente sul desiderio che l’aveva invocata. (397)

Senza dubbio, in queste coincidenze tanto perfette, quando la realta’ si ripiega e aderisce a quel che abbiamo tanto a lungo sognato, ce lo nasconde interamente, si confonde con esso, come due figure uguali e sovrapposte che ne formano una sola, mentre invece, per dare alla nostra gioia tutto il suo significato, vorremmo conservare a tutti i punti del nostro desiderio, nel momento stesso in cui li raggiungiamo - e per essere piu’ certi che siano proprio loro - il prestigio d’essere intangibili. E il pensiero non puo’ nemmeno ricostituire l’antico stato per confrontarlo con quello nuovo, perche’ non ha piu’ il campo libero: la conoscenza che abbiamo fatto, il ricordo dei primi minuti insperati, le parole che abbiamo udite, sono li’ a ostruire l’ingresso della nostra coscienza, e dominano la via della nostra memoria ben piu’ che quelle della nostra immaginazione, retroagiscono sul nostro passato, che non siamo ormai padroni di vedere senza tener conto di loro, assai piu’ che sulla forma, rimasta libera, del nostro avvenire. (434-5)

Senza dubbio i nomi sono disegnatori pieni di fantasia, e ci danno delle persone e dei paesi schizzi cosi’ poco somiglianti da farci provare spesso una specie di stupore quando ci troviamo davanti, invece del mondo immaginato, il mondo visibile (che del resto non e’ il mondo vero, perche’ i nostri sensi son privi del dono della rassomiglianza quanto lo e’ l’immaginazione, cosicche’ i disegni finalmente approssimativi che e’ possibile ottenere dalla realta’ sono differenti dalle cose viste, almeno quanto queste lo erano dalle cose immaginate). (443)

Non si ritrovava pero’ nel linguaggio di Bergotte una certa luminosita’ che, nei suoi libri come in quelli di qualche altro autore, modifica spesso nella frase scritta l’apparenza delle parole, senza dubbio perche’ proviene da grandi profondita’ e non raggiunge coi suoi raggi le nostre parole nelle ore in cui, aperti agli altri dalla conversazione, siamo in una certa misura chiusi a noi stessi. (446)

E’, nell’amore, uno stato anormale, capace di dare subito, alla circostanza apparentemente piu’ semplice e che puo’ sempre capitare, una gravita’ che di per se’ la circostanza non comporterebbe. A rendere tanto felici e’ la presenza nel cuore di qualcosa di instabile, che perpetuamente ci sforziamo di trattenere e di cui non ci accorgiamo quasi piu’, finche’ non viene spostato. In realta’, c’e’ nell’amore una sofferenza permanente, che la gioia neutralizza, rende virtuale, rinvia, ma che puo’ in ogni momento diventare quel che sarebbe da molto tempo se non si fosse ottenuto cio’ che si sperava: atroce. (468)

Stavo per attraversare una di quelle congiunture difficili di fronte a cui accade, in generale, di trovarsi a piu’ riprese nella vita, ed alle quali, benche’ non si sia cambiato carattere ne’ natura - la nostra natura che crea lei stessa i nostri amori, e quasi le donne che amiamo, e perfino le loro colpe - non si fa mai fronte nella stessa maniera ogni volta, vale a dire ad ogni eta’. In quei momenti la nostra vita e’ divisa e come distribuita in una bilancia, su due piatti opposti che la contengono totalmente. Nell’uno, c’e’ il nostro desiderio di non dispiacere, di non apparire troppo umili all’essere che amiamo senza riuscire a comprenderlo, ma che riteniamo piu’ abile lasciare un po’ da parte perche’ non abbia quella sensazione di credersi indispensabile che lo allontanerebbe da noi; nell’altro c’e’ una sofferenza - e non una sofferenza localizzata e parziale - che, al contrario, potrebbe calmarsi solo se, rinunciando a piacere a quella donna e a farle credere che possiamo privarci di lei, tornassimo a cercarla. (470-1)

Del resto, se prima di andare dalla signora Swann cercavo sempre di accertarmi dell’assenza di Gilberte, questo dipendeva forse, oltre che dalla mia risoluzione d’essere in rotta con lei, da quella speranza di riconciliazione che si sovrapponeva alla mia volonta’ di rinuncia (ben poche rinunce sono assolute, almeno per continuita’, in quest’animo umano una delle cui leggi, rafforzata dall’inopinato affluire di ricordi diversi, e’ l’intemittenza) e mi mascherava quel che aveva di troppo crudele. Quella speranza, sapevo bene quanto fosse chimerica. (475)

Di modo che - cosi’ almeno pensavo allora - si e’ sempre distaccati dagli altri esseri; quando si ama, si sente che quell’amore non porta il loro nome, potra’ rinascere in futuro, avrebbe potuto, anche in passato, nascere per un’altra e non per lei; e, nel tempo in cui non si ama, se ci si rassegna filosoficamente a quanto c’e’ di contraddittorio nell’amore, e’ solo perche’, allora, quell’amore di cui si parla con disinvoltura non lo si prova, quindi non lo si conosce, giacche’ la conoscenza in questo campo e’ intermittente e non sopravvive alla presenza effettiva del sentimento. (490)

E poiche’ la durata media della vita - la longevita’ relativa - e’ molto maggiore per i ricordi delle sensazioni poetiche che non per quelli delle sofferenze del cuore, dopo tanto tempo che sono svanite le pene che provavo allora a causa di Gilberte, e’ sopravvissuto loro il piacere che provo, ogni volta che voglio leggere, in una specie di quadrante solare, i minuti compresi fra mezzogiorno e l’una e un quarto di un mese di maggio, nel rivedermi conversare cosi’ con la signora Swann, sotto il suo ombrello, come sotto il riflesso di un pergolato di glicini. (511-2)



PARTE SECONDA - NOMI DI PAESI: IL PAESE

Fugitive beaute’
dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’Eternité?

Fuggitiva bellezza,
il cui sguardo m’ha fatto rinascere improvviso,
non ti rivedro’ piu’ che nell’Eternita’?

(Baudelaire, 565)

Proust … da leggere per avere un’idea di tutto quello che perdiamo quando osserviamo, pensiamo, o semplicemente amiamo.

Quando subivo il fascino di un volto nuovo, quando l’aiuto di un’altra fanciulla mi faceva sperare di conoscere le cattedrali gotiche, i palazzi e i giardini d’Italia, mi dicevo tristemente che il nostro amore, in quanto amore di una determinata creatura, forse non e’ qualcosa di veramente reale perchè, se associazioni di fantasticherie piacevoli o dolorose possono legarlo per qualche tempo a una donna fino a farci pensare che sia stato ispirato da lei in modo necessario, in compenso, se ci svincoliamo volontariamente o a nostra insaputa da quelle associazioni, l’amore, come se fosse invece spontaneo e provenisse solo da noi, rinasce per darsi a un’altra donna. (513)

Ecco perché la parte migliore della nostra memoria e’ fuori di noi, in un soffio piovoso, nell’odore di rinchiuso di una camera o nell’odore di una prima fiammata, … (513)

La carrozza della signora di Villeparisis correva. Avevo appena il tempo di vedere la ragazzetta che veniva nella nostra direzione; eppure - poiché’ la bellezza degli esseri non è come quella delle cose, e sentiamo che è propria di una creatura unica, cosciente e volitiva - appena la sua individualità, anima vaga, volontà a me sconosciuta, si dipingeva in una piccola immagine prodigiosamente ridotta, ma completa, in fondo al sua sguardo distratto, subito, misteriosa risposta di pollini preparati per i pistilli, sentivo germinare in me l’embrione altrettanto vago, altrettanto minuscolo, del desiderio di non lasciar passare quella ragazza senza che il suo pensiero prendesse coscienza della mia persona, senza impedire ai suoi desideri di andare verso qualcun altro, senza fissarmi nelle sue fantasie e impadronirmi del suo cuore. (565)

Se pensassimo che gli occhi di una ragazza simile non sono che una brillante rotella di mica, non saremmo avidi di conoscere e di unire a noi la sua vita. Ma sentiamo che quel che brilla in quel disco riflettente non è dovuto unicamente alla sua composizione materiale; che sono, a noi ignote, le nere ombre delle idee che quell’essere si fa a proposito delle persone e dei luoghi che conosce - prati degli ippodromi, sabbia dei sentieri per cui, pedalando attraverso campi e boschi, mi avrebbe trascinato quella piccola Peri, più seducente per me di quella del paradiso persiano - e anche le ombre della casa in cui sta per tornare, i progetti che fa o che altri hanno fatto per lei; e soprattutto che e’ lei, con i suoi desideri, le sue simpatie, le sue repulsioni, la sua oscura e incessante volontà. (625)

Ma, a questa prima incertezza, se le avrei o no viste quel giorno stesso, veniva ad aggiungersene una più grave, se le avrei riviste mai, perché, insomma, ignoravo se dovessero partire per l’America o ritornare a Parigi. Bastava questo per farmi cominciare ad amarle. Si può provare simpatia per una persona. Ma per scatenare quella tristezza, quel sentimento di irreparabile, quelle angosce che preparano l’amore, ci vuole - ed è forse questo, più che una persona, l’oggetto vero e proprio che la passione cerca appassionatamente di attingere - il rischio di una impossibilità. (652)

… mi sentii perfettamente felice, perché, grazie a tutti i dipinti che erano intorno a me, sentivo la possibilità di sollevarmi a una conoscenza poetica, feconda di gioie, di molte forme che fino allora non avevo isolate dallo spettacolo totale della realtà. (653)

I suoi occhi, anche fissi, davano l’impressione della mobilità, come avviene in quei giorni di gran vento in cui l’aria, benché invisibile, lascia percepire la velocità con cui esso passa sullo sfondo dell’azzurro. Per un momento i suoi sguardi incrociarono i miei, come quei cieli erratici dei giorni di bufera che si avvicinano ad una nuvola meno rapida, la costeggiano, la toccano, la sorpassano. Ma non fanno conoscenza e si allontanano l’uno dall’altra. (669)

Se, nel suo gusto del divertimento, Albertine aveva qualcosa della Gilberte dei primi tempi, e’ perché una certa somiglianza esiste, pur evolvendosi, fra le donne che amiamo successivamente, somiglianza dovuta alla fissità del nostro temperamento, perché è lui a sceglierle, eliminando tutte quelle quelle che non ci sarebbero al tempo stesso opposte e complementari, cioè atte a soddisfare i nostri sensi e a far soffrire il nostro cuore. Sono, queste donne, un prodotto del nostro temperamento, un’immagine, una proiezione rovesciata, un “negativo” della nostra sensibilità. (696-7)

Erano riunite intorno a me; e tra i loro visi poco lontani l’uno dall’altro, l’aria che li separava tracciava sentieri d’azzurro, come segnati da un giardiniere che ha voluto mettere un po’ di spazio per potersi muovere in mezzo a un boschetto di rose. (704)

Anche la conversazione, che è il modo di espressione dell’amicizia, e’ una divagazione superficiale, che non ci fa acquisire nulla. (706)

Il volto umano e’ davvero come quello del Dio di una cosmogonia orientale, tutto un grappolo di visi giustapposti su piani diversi e che non si vedono contemporaneamente. (713)

Quanto all’armoniosa coesione in cui si neutralizzavano da qualche tempo, per la resistenza che ognuna opponeva all’espansione delle altre, le diverse onde sentimentali propagate in me da quelle fanciulle, si spezzò in favore di Albertine… (714

I GUERMANTES



  NewLibrary78 | Jul 22, 2023 |
Reading this was a memorable experience. It keeps reverberating with me. It will be a source for inspiring observations about our brief lives and their fading memories.
  ivanfranko | Jan 30, 2023 |
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Marcel, joven hipersensible perteneciente a una familia burguesa de París de principios del siglo XX, quiere ser escritor. Sin embargo, las tentaciones mundanas le desvían de su primer objetivo; atraído por el brillo de la aristocracia o de los lugares de veraneo de moda (como Balbec, ciudad imaginaria de la costa normanda), crece a la vez que descubre el mundo, el amor, y la existencia de la homosexualidad

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