“Where is my Marcel?” I said getting ready to exit the airplane and looking for my volume of “In Search of Lost Time. The Way by Swann’s”.
I have heard about “In Search of Lost Time” from a friend a long time ago. He said its author, Marcel Proust, was a sort of hikikimori who never left his home while writing this seven volumes novel. Interesting. Its title intrigued me as well and I had a feeling that there will be time when I will read this novel.
This is the time.
This novel is far more complex than I imagined. Though for now I have only finished reading its first volume there are some aspects which really impressed me.
While reading this novel, I remembered something that Virginia Woolf said “What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken” and many times I wondered how difficult it is to express this unspoken. It seems to me Marcel Proust had a very special gift, was observant and sensitive enough to express those very vague almost invisible and unspoken, yet important intrinsic edges of human soul.
Also, there are many references and associations to real places, people, painting (that guy totally looks like God in Capela Sistina ), music(oh dear, music can mess with our feelings!), novels and writers in this novel. I went on exploring and discovered many of them for the first time (you can have a look at some I collected).
The narrator goes forth and back in time, remembers his family and neighbors, stops to appreciate hawthorns in a church, evokes hawthorns, dreams about distant places he would like to visit one day as well as further traveler’s disappointment which may come with it, swims in memories past and memories future.
What is a memory? There are many studies and speculations on memory and how it defines us as human being. Memory is a wonderful treasure, it can bring us joy and happiness of things past, yet it is also a cunning bastard, it can make our heart ache when we least expect it. Most importantly, memory keeps us sober in the present.
Reading this books feels like reading a poem. Were I a poet, I would write a super long ode dedicated to this beautiful language and why not, several love sonnets to Marcel Proust! On the other hand, it feels strangely familiar as if the author spoke directly to me. He goes on wondering about very familiar feelings and emotions, love and everything which comes with it.
Since I read a translation of “In Search of Lost Time” I went on checking some passages in original and other languages. Beauty remains.
“Mais, quand d’un passé ancien rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l’odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout le reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l’édifice immense du souvenir.”
In English (which I read):
“But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.”
“Mas, quando nada subsiste de um passado antigo, após a morte dos seres, após a destruição das coisas, apenas o cheiro e o sabor, mais frágeis mas vivazes, mais imateriais, mais persistentes, mais fiéis, permanecem ainda por muito tempo, como almas a fazer-se lembradas, à espera sobre a ruína de todo o resto, a carregar sem vacilações sobre a sua gota quase impalpável o edifício imenso da memória.”
Marcel Proust is one of those writers I would have like to meet in person, but I guess space and specially time he lived in is different from mine. I am so happy he shared his vision with the world and looking forward to continue my adventure in search of lost time.