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Marcel Proust

Author(s): J. Murray
Source: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan., 1926), pp. 34-43
Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association
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28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. and here and there we are struck by passages which. Sans doute il est jeune de la jeunesse de l'auteur. and in fact all life. In 1896. death. Of the few critics who took any notice of it. Mais il est vieux de la vieillesse du monde. in his preface. the book aroused very little comment. His sensitiveness to physical impression. adding that his publisher had assured him no one ever asked for it. is based. Leibni Bergson and Einstein. MARCEL PROUST.jstor. and who now. There are also the beginnings of the author's power as a psychologist. is being 'explained' in terms of Schopenhauer. Les Plaisirs et les Jours is a collection of tales. one. A few years after the publication of Les Plaisirs et les Jours. are both evident. C'est le printemps des feuilles sur les rameaux antiques dans la for8t seculaire. but would only publish it on condition that a pre- face was added by Anatole . illustrations by Madeleine Lemaire and four musical compositions by Reynaldo Hahn. wrote a few lines of such severe criticism that Proust fought a duel with him. sketches and poems. and his consciousness of the effect of sensation on him.148 on Fri..96. But besides this keynote of sadness.121... Proust wrote several short articles on Ruskin. certainly occupies a unique position in literature. Anatole France. Such is Marcel Proust. are certainly full of it if one reads them after seeing what they have de- veloped into in the later work of Proust. at the age of twenty-five. A NOVELIST who for years had the utmost difficulty in publisher and a public to take him seriously. he published an This content downloaded from 202. though he does not yet proceed to the psychological 'excavations' which will later engross him. In 1904. says of Proust's book: Son livre est comme un jeune visage plein de charme rare et de grace fine. On dirait que les pousses nouvelles sont attrist6es du passe profond des bois et portent le deuil de tant de printemps morts. all of which have that touch of disillusionment commented on by France in his preface. Proust wrote a book called Les Plaisirs et les Jours. Jean Lorrain. Eight years later. His descriptions of 'les vanites d'une ame snob' are a foretaste of the way in which he will later on lay bare the illusions on which society life. there is in this book much subtle observation of nature and humanity. No one predicted great things for its author. if they lacked interest in 1896. Proust wrote in a letter that he was always astonished that anyone should have read his book. Even in spite of those advantages.

He used Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture as a guide to Avranches. Proust regarded Ruskin as one of the greatest writers who ever lived. je partis pour Venise afin d'avoir pu avant de mourir. MURRAY 35 annotated translation of Ruskin's Bible of Amiens. 68. but to other English artists and art critics. le Vezelay ou l'Amiens de Walter Pater. and from the time of this initiation. les idees de Ruskin sur l'architecture domestique du Moyen Age. and condemns Ruskin's doctrines as being moral doctrines and not aesthetic doctrines. toucher.jstor. 3-2 This content downloaded from 202. persuade himself he was choosing it for its embodiment of truth. en des palais defaillants mais encore debout et roses. Robert de Montesquiou et Marcel Proust. This collection contains another essay en Ruskin. not only to Ruskin. etc. It was Ruskin who taught him to see things. but also a merciless critic. Hence an underlying insincerity which made Ruskin. Et mon admiration pour Ruskin donnait une telle importance aux choses qu'il m'avait fait aimer. Proust says the greatest homage one can pay to Ruskin is not to visit his grave but to go on a 'pelerinage ruskinien' to see the things he admired. voir in- carnees. Proust is not blind to the faults of Ruskin. says Proust. published under the title et Melanges.148 on Fri. Ruskin found in Proust a great admirer. approcher. p. footnote. 2 Preface to Proust's Bible d'Amiens. 96. prece troductory essay on Ruskin. and he seems to have derived great pleasure from thus studying French art through English eyes.121. it was a new heaven and a new earth which delighted the eyes of Proust. L'Univers reprit tout d'un coup a mes yeux un prix infini. le Versailles de Bonnington. Quelle interessante collection on ferait avec les paysages de France vus par des yeux anglais: les rivieres de France de Turner. but to all the great churches in Normandy and elsewhere which had been studied by Ruskin. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. is more dangerous to the mind than immoral See . Caen. In spite of this very enthusiastic admiration. This essay was reprinted in of essays and tales by Proust. Bourges. Beauvais. In his introduction to the Bible of Amiens. l'Auxerre ou le Valenciennes. Ce fut i la lettre et dans une circonstance ou je croyais mes jours comptes.' in which the author criticises Ruskin's aestheti The last essay of the book is called 'Journees de Lect reprint from the Mercure of a study written to accompany a of Sesame and Lilies.'. J. Accordingly he made pilgrimages not only to Amiens. le Fontaine- bleau de Stevenson et tant d'autres2.96. de Clermont-Tonnerre. Bayeux. This com- promise. when he chose something for its beauty. p. This tribute to the aesthetic appreciation of the English refers. qu'elles me semblaient chargees d'une valeur plus grande mrme que celle de la vie.

As to those numerous arguments in which Ruskin shows a liberal use of imagination curiously allied to scientific facts. but as a reality more important than life itself. only that his early love for him was more spontaneous. his admiration of Ruskin had undergone a change. This reality being one. feel for yourself. was not the Religion of Beauty. de Clermont-Tonnerre. and a page of Ruskin is for each of his readers and for Ruskin himself a kind of 'trompe-l'eil. This content downloaded from 202. is really more personal in his expression than the man who goes through the discipline of re-creating in his own mind the thought of another. between pictures. When Ruskin says God used bright colours in creating pure and precious things and dull colours for harmful things. says Proust. op.' he answers that this discipline increased his power of understanding and his critical faculty. cit. Whenever Ruskin became acquainted with a new school of architecture. poetry. He does not say that Ruskin has ceased to interest him. laws. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. and this work never roused any enthusiasm in Proust at all.148 on Fri.36 Marcel Proust doctrines sincerely professed. and he abhors the kind of half- sincerity which is content with a one-sided view of the truth.. To the critic who says: 'What can it matter to you what Ruskin feels.jstor. Proust's style is 1 Letter to M.. 148. reality is not one but manifold. that brings to light one's own thought. He says it is a psychological error and a sophist's argument to suppose that the man who strives to make his mind a void. Sesame and Lilies is in his opinion the worst thing Ruskin ever wrote. whereas Proust says painting can rival literature only on condition that it is not in itself literary. By the time Proust was translating Sesame and Lilies.' Ruskin's doctrines had no effect whatever on Proust. of 'living through' the experience of another. 'Mon amour pour Ruskin dure. because he regarded beauty not merely as an object of joy. it was as great an event in his moral life as a divine revelation would be in the life of a Christian. In his preface to the Bible of Amiens. Seulement quelquefois rien ne le re- froidit comme de lire Ruskinl. i. Proust scorns their filtility.96. Proust is reminded of Bernardin de Saint Pierre who said God divided melons into slices so that men could eat them more easily. For Proust. In fact Proust says (and in his case it is obviously true) that it is this process of . but Proust admits his indebtedness to the spiritual discipline he imposed upon himself under the guidance of Ruskin.e. etc. but simply Religion. p. as has so often been said. in order to owe nothing to outside influence.' The principal religion of Ruskin. statues.121. Leon Belugou (1906) quoted by E. he sees no difference between the various ways of representing it.

4 Sodome et Gomorrhe. for instance. presque si organique et visc6rale qu'on ne savait pas a chacune de ses reprises si c'etait celle d'un theme ou d'une nevralgie' (La Prisonniere. or the mental restlessness caused by the peculiar shape of a room 2. not only by the number of passages where Pr very great appreciation of architectural beauty. but there the comparison ends. . p. I.. owing to the torment he suffered when. Proust also was influenced to an extraordinary extent by physical impressions. as. p. in new surroundings. He sometimes felt as if he were directly influenced by the presence of inanimate objects.148 on Fri. for example. p. This content downloaded from 202. to become acquainted with a new set of sensations. xxxIII. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. whenever he records a new sensation. or the overwhelming physical sensation produced by certain pieces of music3. but their mode of procedure is very different. between a cause and its effect. J. for Ruskin. Ruskin's biographer says of No man was more sensitive than he to physical impressions f nature. 188. ii... a sensation which gives him aesthetic pleasure. between on another. si vague. for indeed physical and spiritual light was to him the s was there a man who lived more largely in the contemplation of of lake and flowers and profonde. so to speak.121. puts it under the microscope.96. He was even reluctant at times to expose himself to new impressions. when he talks of the hostility of certain purple curtains. 78). radii and oth terms are commonly used by Proust when he is analysing describing society. he felt overwhelmed by 'l'ame des choses' over which he says we must superpose 'l'ame qui nous est familiere' before we can regain our tranquillity of mind4. MURRAY 37 not unlike Ruskin's. Angles and surfaces. 3 'Une phrase. vol. 37. but also tendency on his part to use metaphors reminiscent of the of architecture. on experiencing. were first him as geometrical diagrams and then expressed in la sometimes betrays the technical origin of the mental ima The one thing Ruskin and Proust had in common was tiveness to physical sensation.jstor. Introduction. 2 ' Ma pensee s'efforcait pendant des heures de se disloquer. between one trait of character and another. p. and 1 Library edition of Ruskin's works. as. writings there is nothing to remind us of Ruskin. etc. de s'etirer en hauteur pour prendre exactement la forme de la chambre ' (Du Cote de chez Swann. al struck. It looks as if certain relationships. circles. goes on to muse over it with the purpose of a moralist and the fancy of a poet. whereas Proust. si interne. 13). This sensitiveness to physical impression is the common starting point of both Ruskin and Proust.

the greatest innovation is Proust's conception of memory itself.121. when the book appeared. de Clermont-Tonnerre. It would be very difficult indeed to give a summary of the eleven volumes which constitute A la Recherche du Temps Perdu2. From the first volume to the last. that his success was really assured and that he began to count as a writer. What Proust aims at is a mental reconstruction of his past. A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.. and yet. on the other hand. He tries to recapture all the forgotten sensations that constitute his past life. op. paradoxical as it may seem. from this time on. in a Belgian review. At least one volume of A la Recherche du Terps Perdu remains to be printed. Edmond Rostand. was much in favour in French society. Finally. in reconstituting the past. however. This content downloaded from 202. Through the influence of Leon Daudet and in spite of much hostility. April). He had great difficulty in finding a publisher.148 on Fri. there is often a greater revelation of truth in a page of Proust than in a whole volume of Balzac. mais je ne comprends pas l'interft qu'il peut y avoir a lire trente pages sur la fa?on dont un monsieur se retourne dans son lit avant de s'endormir. cit. Proust published the first volume of his great work. after going through Du C6te de chez Swann.96. entitled Le Temps Retrouve. it is not conscious memory but involuntary memory that is the most important factor. oblivion is a necessary factor.38 Marcel Proust makes a physiological and psychological study of it in which moral values have no place. 169 f. It is not the things we have always remembered of the past that keep the past alive in us. L'Art Moderne (1914. besides the final section. if the past is to be brought back to us with its original clearness. Proust obtained the Prix Goncourt for his novel and. and not by an act of the intelligence at all. wrote a favourable criticism'. having been completely forgotten. said of Proust: 'C'est un des plus puissants cerveaux de la litterature fran9aise. are recalled in all their original vividness by some trivial sensation. there is as much action as Balzac might relate in twenty pages. in one volume or more. when Proust published the next two volumes entitled A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs. Another publisher offered to print part of it.' as his work has been called. In 1913. But it was not till 1919. as the first volume is called. but Proust refused. Hence. He main- tains that. 2 The whole series has not yet appeared.' Another writer. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor. it is the things which. most people thought it scarcely readable. . A memory which we have 1 See E. The reader of one publishing firm. said: Je ne sais pas si je suis bouche e l'dmeri. In this 'novel of memory. Francis de Miomandre.

la meilleure. J.' affects u as the original episode'. is 'dug up. mais lui. la derniere reserve du passe.. the sum of whi the history of that period of the past to which they be other . i This content downloaded from 202. sait nous faire pleurer encore..121. when he happened to taste the peculiar and l flavour of a 'madeleine' dipped in tea. The whole of the is the outcome of this one sensation. A c of fatigue brought back the same sensations as he had in or after that walk. c'est justement ce que no (parce que c'etait insignifiant et que nous lui avions ainsi laiss6 tout pourquoi la meilleure part de notre memoire est hors de nous. dans un souf l'odeur de renferme d'une chambre ou dans l'odeur d'une premiere fla nous retrouvons de nous-meme ce que notre intelligence. et qu'il aimait ce qui nous est maintenant grand jour de la memoire habituelle. Ou plut6t no verions plus. nous ne les retrouverons plus.96. having been buried. MURRAY 39 always had with us grows paler and paler as time go memory which. So th retrouve' is not merely the past brought back to mind.148 on Fri. n'avaient ete soigneusement enferme meme qu'on depose a la Bibliotheque nationale un exemplaire d'un li risquerait de devenir introuvable' (A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs. seen in its true significance and not as our perception o represented it to us. n'en ayant p dedaigne. Hors de nous? En nous... si quelques mots. returning home very tired an He had no need to make a pilgrimage to see the garden h or the road his parents always chose for their walk. he us long walks with his parents. celle qui quand t semblent taries. so that by a flash of involuntary turn the 'temps perdu' into 'temps retrouve. the peculiar sensation of waking up afte sleep prolonged by fatigue brought back to Proust th during his stay in the little country town of Combray. where our stored-up past may from be revealed by a flash of involuntary memory. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. Proust sets himself to a certain phase of his childhood. In the first volume of his work. Hence the truth the distorted image we have of the content of the prese but only in our mind.. the resurrection of with it a whole mass of other sensations. les images du passe palissent peu il ne reste plus rien d'elles. but our past free passions and deceptions that blinded us. This part of his past w recalled by conscious memory. Memory resuscitates our past. mais derobee a nos propres regards. souffrir a nouveau p sommes plus nous. long after his conscious memory rec 1 'Ce qui nous rappelle le mieux un etre.' Moreover to the true essence of life through memory rather than ception. dans un oubli plus ou moins prolo cet oubli seul que nous pouvons de temps a autre. retrouver l'etre que n placer vis-a-vis des choses comme cet etre l'Ntait. but came back to him sudd years after.

op. we should be relieved of many fears. 152. We suffer pangs of regret when we think of the future. Louis de Robert quoted by E. but. Odette. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. Romance could not exist if. then these past sensations can again exercise a great power over us. because the Swann who dreaded certain events was not the same person as the Swann who later on peacefully lived through those same events.148 on Fri. a lover could become for an instant his future self and look on the object of his idealisation with the eyes he will have when he is longer in love2. first with his muscles and then afterwards with his conscious memoryl. If we can only recapture the past by recapturing the actual sensa- tions belonging to it. This content downloaded from 202.' This was finally discarded in favour of ' Du c6te de chez Swann. should ever become anything less than the most powerful factor in his life. 163. which then filled all his thoughts. at some future date.96. an denies its existence as an absolute . Thus we renew our acquaintance for a moment-not only with the vivid reality of the past. but with a forgotten phase of our own personality. cit. It is only because we 1 One of the titles Proust had thought of for this first volume was ' Jardins dans un tasse de the. the desire to remain in love had also gone.121. As our memory is so defective. i. But if by any chance we are brought into contact with the whole framework of sensations in which our past joys and sorrows are stored away. Swann. p. Proust concludes that our past joys and griefs are not always in our possession. because for the time being they instal within us.jstor. violently in love with a young woman. de Clermont-Tonnerre. the being we were at the time when they first affected us. p. this love. if we could realise this unceasing change that goes on in us.40 Marcel Proust of the period in question. Proust reduces love at most to a mere series of 'inte mittences' of the heart. but at the same time we should be robbed of many illusions. because we place in it our present selves with our present desires and our present susceptibilities. Usually we do not take this into account.. was occasionally tormented by the idea of how insufferable life would be if. at the time of his infatuation. it is only on rare occasions that we get a glimpse of any of the countless past variations of our personality. As a matter of fact. 2 Sodome et Gomorrhe. It is as if he remembered. One of Proust's heroes. by the time this passion had ceased to dominate him. It is only through this knowledge of ourselves revealed in those occasional flashes of involuntary memory that we realise the con- stant change that is going on in us. as it were. so that a state of things which Swann could only picture with agony (and which would have caused him agony had it happened at that time) came about without disturbing him in the slightest. He regards it as something relative.' See let to M.

a quelquefois le genre de vdritd. Ce que nous en avons oubli6 avoir dit. So man actions prove only the 'puissance anesth6siante de l'habi proceed from motives long since dead.96. reste ignore de notre plus proche voisin. there seems to be no stable element in our perso solid foundation.' along with an outworn motive. It is difficult to get in touch with what we o but it is just as difficult to know our present selves. I1 peut du reste arriver que ce qui n'a pas te transcrit soit quelque trait irr6el que nous ne voyons que par complaisance et que ce qui nous semble ajoute. but gives us an insight into ch showing people at the most ordinary moments of their lives. Our id own personality and of our own conduct is obscured in so ma our imagination. In a crisis we surpas and what we do in such a moment is not characteristic of . He never concentrates on the great ep events of a person's life. and dwell- ing on an important action. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. etc. De sorte que cette dtrange epreuve qui nous semble si peu ressemblante. Proust sometimes asks wh sonality really exists at all. are obviously off the stage. our vanity. The being we are at this m doomed to a speedy destruction and will be replaced by totally different beings. or whether it does not reduce it to the ebb and flow of sensations. J. mais si essentiellement que cela nous echappe. This content downloaded from 202.1 In fact.148 on Fri. the part played by illusion is enor together with the constant changing that goes on and the ext difficulty in knowing ourselves. nous appartienne au contraire. p. he gives us for example a minute analysis and interpretation of an insignificant gesture or statement made by one 1 Ce que nous nous rappelons de notre conduite. Hence Proust ignores 'action' as it is un by most novelists. certes. it is impossible to interpre character by studying merely his principal actions. in fact to Proust. 244). the kind of actio it used to give rise. mais profond et utile d'une photographie par les rayons X' (Le Cotg de Guermantes. so to speak. Instead of leading up to. In fact Proust is always on his guard against accepting any action or attitude as being in any way characteristic. Personality is therefore not a fixed reality but is as u shifting sands. our own preconceived idea. MURRAY 41 forgetful or ignorant of the extent to which we are creature that the illusion of love is possible. owing to that inabilit us to 'scrap. ou meme ce que nous n'avons jamais dit. va provoquer l'hilarite jusque dans une autre plankte et l'image que les autres se font de nos faits et gestes ne ressemble pas plus A celle que nous nous en faisons nous-meme. There is a constant succession of b deaths going on within the personality of each of us.jstor. ou tant6t au trait noir correspondrait un espace vide et A un blanc un contour inexplicable. i. peu flatteur. qu a un dessin quelque ddcalque rat6.' Owing to this instability. only a baffling 'relativity. oth idea of us.121.

Proust is not a theorist.121. owing to the intensity of our subconscious mental life and chiefly to the very imperfect and vague realisation we have of it. je n'en ai gubre envie. ' I serait possible que j'aille demain chez les Verdurin.' But he goes no further than to trace the relation- ship of cause and effect and to lay bare the illusions and deceptions in which our conscious life is immersed. for instance. n.' who can reduce personality to a very vague.96. examination of 'the dustbin of the subconscious mind. 2 Sodoile et Gomorrhe. ' J'irai demain chez les Verdurin. brings to light greater discoveries about the person concerned. This content downloaded from 202. 12. p. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. In fact. who can sum up his views on the subject by calling love a 'sentiment qui (quelle qu'en soit la cause) est toujours erron6. Proust finds a source of knowledge in such trivial details as an irrelevant answer. there would seem to be nothing left. with all the psycho- logical tunnelling to which it leads. though he never read Freud. but Proust is content to investigate facts without fitting them into explanatory theories.' Anagramme enfantin de cet aveu. Albertine employait toujours le ton dubitatif pour les resolutions irrevocables1. if sordid.' Cette hesitation apparente signifiait une volont6 arrte6e et avait pour but de diminuer l'importance de la visite tout en me l'annongant. shadowy thing dependent on sensations and the caprice of 1 La Prisonniere. Proust. Take. frequently provides Proust.148 on Fri. car j'y attache une extrAme importance. He deals only with facts and not with general notions or generalised interpretations. c'est absolument certain. than the study of any so-called character- istic . C'est ainsi que ce soir elle m'avait lance d'un air negligent ce message destine h passer presque inaper9u. He explores the dark alleys of our subconscious mental life and sometimes derives valuable information from a useful. or a seemingly unimportant amendment casually added to a chance remark. shows a parallel with him in certain details of method.' of the touching up of a statement after it has been first made.42 Marcel Proust of his characters. the study of 'un acte manque. with valuable data on which to work. the passage in La Prisonniere where the hero Marcel is trying to get tile truth from the vague contradictory remlarks of Albertine: Parfois l'ecriture oil je d6chiffrais les mensonges d'Albertine sans 6tre ideographi- que avait simplement besoin d'6tre lue h rebours. je ne sais pas du tout si j'irai. when he reduces one by one all our values in life to a mere deception of the senses. as well as modern psychologists. p. 118.jstor. When Proust has laid bare the illusions on which life is based. and so is a stranger to the Freudian theories. A man who can assert that sometimes 'l'amour nait comme certaines maladies nerveuses de l'explication inexacte d'un malaise p6nible2. and the study of this one detail.

in the world of him this sense of being in th everything else he had expe which he loved to hear. This content downloaded from 202. 82.121. This permanen than grasps. 28 Apr 2017 13:24:09 UTC All use subject to http://about. que le neant que j'avais trouv que si ma vie me semblait vaine. LEEDS. . 1 La Prisonniere.jstor.96. MURRAY 43 memory. to face the emptin seems to touch something w which. J. he s cornme la promesse et la preuve q doute. our valuation. unlike love and everyt a lasting value. our impulses. is obviously prepared emotions. p.148 on Fri. du J.