7. mai 2013

Dagens Proust

På den engelske bloggen www.litkicks.com fant jeg mye interessant Proust-stoff. Et utdrag fra DETTE innlegget gir en innføring i verket generelt og i de to første bindene spesielt (på engelsk er det syv bind, på norsk tolv, men "underavdelingene" er de samme).

Let’s take an overall look at the seven volumes of the novel and how they relate to each other. The only way you can discover this is by reading the work from beginning to end, and then the architecture of the books makes sense. But if you are starting out with volume one, you are going to spend a significant amount of time reading the entire novel. It might be nice to get a sense of where you are going, so that when you reach the end, you will have a better insight into what the work means.

First and foremost, the series of volumes that comprise In Search of Lost Time, as it is now called, follows the growth of the protagonist, M. (also identified as Marcel in one section of the work), from his childhood at Combray through his seaside vacations at Balbec, culminating in his excursions into the literary and social world of Paris. He falls in love, experiences its joys and agonies, and then the freedom that comes with time and forgetfulness after love ends. The novel encompasses World War One and its aftermath, and addresses one of the great political events of its day, the Dreyfus Affair. Along the way, M. struggles to establish himself as a writer. He has always had the desire to write a great work of literature, but his indolence and lack of self-confidence prevent him. Finally, near the end of the last volume, he experiences a series of unconscious memory flash-backs. These bring back events from his past with such clarity that he realizes that he can mine his past and transform it into compelling fiction. He decides to write the massive work that we have just read. The novel thus circles back upon itself, the ultimate story-within-a-story. Proust likened it to the Mille et Une Nuits, our Thousand and One Arabian Nights, which was one of his favorite texts.

In Search of Lost Time is not composed simply of beautiful descriptive passages and interesting characters. The work also discusses major themes. Some of these are: the persistence of memory, the complexity and bitterness of love, and the preference of imagination to reality. Memory, we find, can be called out involuntarily and then used to serve art. Love, that is, Proustian love, is filled with jealousy and suspicion, and the desire for the lover to subjugate the loved one. No major character in the novel has a selfless, non-possessive love for another, and in fact love is often likened to an illness, which is painful during its course, and only "cured" by time. Imagination in Proust's world always paints a brighter picture than reality. The young hero obsesses for months about seeing the actress Berma (a thinly disguised Sarah Bernhardt) perform in Racine's play Phedre. He imagines the beauty and drama of the scenes. But when he sees the actual performance, although wonderful, it does not reach the levels that he had set for it in his imagination, and he is disappointed. Some of the major themes are discussed at soirees or at the salon of the Verdurins. The Verdurins are a nouveaux riche couple with more money than taste, and the members of their circle often serve as a foil for Proust's ideas. The themes are also examined during the constant ruminations of the protagonist, M.

So this is what you are getting yourself into with Proust. Part philosophical treatise, part discussion of art and literature, part psychological analysis of love and other human behavior, In Search of Lost Time follows the history of France from the Belle Epoque to the aftermath of World War One, with the subsequent rise of the bourgeoisie and the decline of the aristocracy. Thrown in for good measure are wicked satires of the various social classes and their mores, and deft skewering of the pompous. All of this is framed by the coming of age story of young M, who enters the world of literature and art and struggles to make his mark.

Swann's Way opens with the reflection of an older narrator looking back at how he used to fall asleep when he was a child, staying at his Great Aunt’s house in Combray, where his family took their spring (and often summer) vacations. He thinks back to that time, when sometimes he would drop off to sleep in an instant, while other times he would fall asleep, then wake up, and spend the night pondering some issue close to his heart. But his most anxious moments came when his mother was not able to come upstairs and give him a kiss goodnight. It is here that we see the fine line that separates the narrator from the protagonist known as M. The narrator is omniscient, is of mature age, and also has his own set of opinions on different characters, art, and society. M., the subject, wends his way through the story, and ages appropriately. I would place him at about eight years old in the "Combray" section of Swann's Way. The narrator reflects back on a subterfuge that the protagonist pulled off to get his mother to give him a kiss good night, and it is the stuff of 007 espionage mixed with commedia dell'arte farce. His mother is being detained, at the hero’s bedtime, over coffee with their neighbor, Charles Swann. The hero despairs of getting his good night kiss, so he writes a letter to his mother begging her to come upstairs for an important reason that he cannot put in writing. He then entrusts the family cook, Francoise, to deliver the letter, although he is unsure if she actually will deliver it. Finally, Francoise assures him that the note was delivered. He now lives in the agony of waiting for his mother to come to his room, and he will not be able to sleep until she does. He also faces grave consequences if his father discovers the plot and disapproves. He waits. Finally, his parents bid farewell to Swann and come upstairs to bed. M. is terrified: what will happen? Waiting on the landing, he sees his mother and throws himself upon her. Her response: "Off you go at once. Do you want your father to see you waiting here like an idiot?" He implores her again, "Come and say goodnight to me." Then he sees his father’s candle. "Go back to your room. I will come." His mother says. But it was too late. His father was upon them. M. mutters to himself "I'm done for."

But something quite the contrary to punishment occurs. When his mother tells his father what had happened, the father, instead of getting angry and punishing the boy, says to his wife "Go along with him, then. You said just now that you don’t feel sleepy, so stay in the little room for a while, I don’t need anything." More than just getting a good night kiss, he gets his mother to spend the night with him. His grandmother had bought him a collection of books by Georges Sand and others. The books were a little "old" for the young Marcel, but his grandmother would rather have M. read substantive and well-written books than light reading, which she considers to be like candy and bad for his mind. His mother unwraps the book Francois le Champi by Georges Sand, and reads it to him. Marcel is enchanted by the story, and also gets a sense of the style of the author. A near disaster becomes a literary awakening.

But the remembrances of these sleep events are a bit grey, as if they have faded into the black and white distant past. The next event in the novel turns these grey events to Technicolor. The narrator was beginning to wonder if his memories of Combray were dying out, if even some were already dead. Then, one cold and dreary afternoon he returns to his mother's house in Paris. She has made him an infusion of tea, and has offered him a little cake called a Madeleine, which is molded to resemble a scallop shell. He unconsciously dips the Madeleine into the tea, and sips the tea from the spoon in which he had dipped the morsel of cake. Then: "no sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped…An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin." He attempts to recreate the sensation, with diminishing results. Then suddenly the memory is revealed to him. He used to take these little cakes dipped in tea at Combray on Sunday morning, when he visited his Aunt Leonie. Suddenly, he experiences a flash back of memory, where he can see the town of Combray in color. He can see the square, the flowers in Swann's garden, and water-lilies on the river Vivonne. The petit Madeleine has opened the floodgates of his memory.

In the next chapter, "Combray", we enter completely into M.'s early life, all the places vivid with colors and sounds. We now see the protagonist as a young boy in this country town, and the cast of provincial characters that populate it. Some of the characters are not just provincials, however, and they go on to span the entire length of the novel. We have begun our journey through M.'s life.

We then encounter a novel-within-a-novel, "Swann in Love." The story takes place long before the hero's childhood, so the narrator recounts it in third person. This story shows us the character of Charles Swann, a wealthy stockbroker who has exquisite taste in art and who is much sought after by the smart aristocratic set of the Faubourg Saint-Germaine. He is a personal friend of the Prince of Wales, and is a member of the prestigious Jockey Club. Swann, despite having much better prospects, falls in love with a beautiful courtesan, Odette de Crecy. Odette is not really his type, and definitely beneath his social standing, but he falls in love with her nonetheless. Swann attempts to possess her completely, but he cannot. This leads to several years of agony, jealousy, and despair as Swann attempts to dominate this woman who constantly deceives him. He likens his love at one point to a disease, and hopes that he will die to free himself from the pain. Finally, the love passes, and Swann is well again.

"Swann in Love" introduces the theme of Proustian love. It is love that is based on jealousy and the desire for possession. During the love affair, one partner is consumed with jealousy and suspicion for the other. The blissful moments are few and far between, as jealousy constantly interrupts the lover's bliss. This model of love will be repeated several times within the span of In Search of Lost Time. "Swann in Love” also introduces "the petit clan" -- the salon of Mme Verdurin, which is used for comic relief throughout the work, as well as a sounding board for Proust's theories on art, music and literature.

3 kommentarer:

Odette de Crécy sa...

Så når du under sier at:

"Jeg er ute etter å oppleve verket som leser, ikke løse det som en intellektuell oppgave"

Føler du at du er i ferd med å forstå deg ihjel på Proust nå?

Tehme Melck sa...

He-he, en betimelig kommentar. Men jeg føler at jeg har kontrollen. Artig omsider å møte den "virkelige" Odette de Crécy, forresten.

Odette de Crécy sa...

Hehe ...


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