Read between July 13 - August 24, 2017
“I find you all equally deadly boring about the entire thing,” said the Duchesse de Guermantes, who, in social terms, was always anxious to demonstrate that she did not allow herself to be led by anyone.
My grandmother’s illness—Bergotte’s illness—The Duc and the doctor—My grandmother’s decline—Her death
She had suddenly restored to my keeping the thoughts, the sorrows that I had entrusted to her forever, since I was a child. She was not yet dead.
Perhaps, if a vacuum were created inside us and we were left to bear the pressure of the air, we should feel, for a split second before our extinction, the terrible weight that now had nothing else to neutralize its effect.
my grandmother was apparently sitting back, she had seemed to be sinking down, slithering into the abyss, desperately clinging to the cushions, which could scarcely hold back the impetus of her falling body, her hair disheveled, a distraught look in her eyes, which were no longer capable of focusing on the onrush of images their pupils could bear no more. She had seemed, even with me sitting beside her, to be plunged into that unknown world in which she had already received the blows whose marks I had noticed earlier in the Champs-Élysées, when I saw her hat, her face, her coat thrown into ...more
The sick woman makes her acquaintance with this stranger, whose comings and goings she hears in her brain.
“There is no hope for your grandmother,” he told me. “The stroke was brought on by uremia. Uremia in itself is not inevitably fatal, but this seems a hopeless case to me. I
No sooner had I started to speak than my mother’s face was stricken with a paroxysm of despair, yet a despair already so resigned that I realized she had been holding it in readiness for years against an uncertain but decisive day.
my mother went up to my grandmother, kissed her hand as though it were the hand of her God, supported her upright as far as the elevator, with infinite care which revealed, together with the fear of being clumsy and hurting her, the humility of someone who felt unworthy to touch what was for her the most precious thing she knew; but not once did she raise her eyes to the sick woman’s face. Perhaps this was to prevent my grandmother from being saddened by the thought that her daughter had been alarmed by the sight of her face.
she replied with the first in the list of those false solemn promises we are unable to keep: “Mama, you’ll soon be well again, your daughter will make sure of that.”
he could embellish the letters he wrote to his friends in his native village with a sprinkling of quotations. Indeed, he thought this would dazzle them. But since his train of thought was rather muddled, he somehow got it into his head that these poems, randomly selected from my shelves, were common currency and everyday points of reference. So much so that, in writing to these village people he hoped to stun, he interspersed his own remarks with lines from Lamartine as if they were the equivalent of expressions like “What will be will be” or merely “Hello.”
Pain is largely a kind of need felt by the organism to acquaint itself with an unfamiliar state that is troubling it, to adjust its responses to that state.
The specialist arrived, his bag packed with all the coughs and sneezes of his other patients, like Aeolus with his goatskin.1
Bergotte came every day and spent several hours with me. He had always liked to come regularly and spend a few hours in a house where he had no need to stand on ceremony. But in the past he had come in order to talk without being interrupted; now he came to sit in silence for long periods without being asked to say anything. For he was very ill—with albuminuria, like my grandmother, some people said. According to others, he had a tumor. He was growing weaker by the day; he found it difficult to climb our staircase, and even more difficult to go down.
No doubt it is often only after his death that a writer achieves fame.
writer’s work is seldom completely understood and established before the work of another writer, still relatively unknown, has begun to replace it, among a handful of exacting minds, with a new cult, different from the one that has almost ceased to command allegiance.
Only I felt not that it was the sentence that was badly constructed, but that I myself lacked the energy and agility to see it through to the end. I would make a fresh start, working really hard to reach the point where I could see the new connections between things. At each attempt, about halfway through the sentence, I would fall back defeated, as I did later, in the army, in horizontal-bar exercises. Yet I still felt for the new writer the same admiration experienced by a clumsy boy at the bottom of the class in gymnastics
Today people of taste tell us that Renoir is a great eighteenth-century painter. But when they say this they forget Time, and that it took a great deal of time, even in the middle of the nineteenth century, for Renoir to be hailed as a great artist.
To gain this sort of recognition, an original painter or an original writer follows the path of the occultist. His painting or his prose acts upon us like a course of treatment that is not always agreeable. When it is over, the practitioner says to us, “Now look.” And at this point the world (which was not created once and for all, but as often as an original artist is born) appears utterly different from the one we knew, but perfectly clear.
People foolishly imagine that the large-scale dimensions of social phenomena provide an excellent opportunity to penetrate further into the human soul; they ought, on the contrary, to realize that it is by sounding the depths of a single individual that they might have a chance of understanding those phenomena.
she could think of nothing so cruel as to snatch a desperate woman from the death she had deliberately sought and to bring her back to a life of torture.
leeches. A few hours later, when I went into my grandmother’s room, fastened to her neck, her temples, her ears, the tiny black reptiles were writhing in her blood-stained hair, Medusa-like.
In most women’s lives, everything, even the greatest sorrow, comes down to a question of “I haven’t got a thing to wear.”
“Forgive me for disturbing your sleep.” “I wasn’t asleep,” I answered as I awoke. I said this quite genuinely. The great modification brought about by awakening is not so much our entry into the clear life of consciousness as the loss of all memory of the slightly more subdued light in which our mind had been resting, as in the opaline depths of the sea. The halfveiled thoughts on which we were still drifting a moment ago involved us in quite enough motion for us to refer to them as wakefulness. But, then, our awakenings themselves involve an interruption of memory. A short time later, we ...more
When I returned I found myself in the presence of something like a miracle. Accompanied by a subdued incessant murmur, my grandmother seemed to be singing us a long, happy song, which filled the room, rapid and musical.
Perhaps the breath, imperceptibly, like the wind breathing into the stem of a reed, was mingled in this song with some of those more human sighs that, released at the approach of death, suggest impressions of pain or pleasure in those who can no longer feel, and which came now to give a more melodious stress, but without changing its rhythm, to the long phrase, which rose higher and higher, then descended, before issuing forth again from the lightened chest in its search for oxygen. And after reaching such a pitch, sustaining itself so vigorously, this song, mingled in its voluptuousness with ...more
stopped; the doctor moved away from the bedside. My grandmother was dead. A few hours later, Françoise was able for the last time, and without causing pain, to comb that beautiful hair, which was only slightly graying and had thus far seemed much younger than my grandmother herself.
A visit from Albertine—The prospect of a wealthy marriage for some of Saint-Loup’s friends—Guermantes wit and the Princess of Parma—A curious visit to M. de Charlus—I fail increasingly to understand his character—The Duchesse’s red shoes
Robert had asked for an assignation with the young woman on my behalf. She would be delighted to dine with me, she had told him, on one of the days she was spending in Paris before returning to Brittany.
had written at once to Mme de Stermaria to propose any evening that would suit her up to Friday.
Time presses, and yet it seems as though we were trying to gain time by speaking about things that are utterly alien to the one thing that preoccupies us.
It is no doubt the case that women with a smattering of culture, marrying wellread men, receive such expressions as part of their dowry. And shortly after the metamorphosis that follows the wedding night, when they start paying calls and becoming distant with their old friends,
in the way that baby goldfinches model their twitter on that of their parents and so turn into true goldfinches themselves.
But above all, just as writers, when their hands are tied by the tyranny of a monarch or of poetic convention, by the strict rules of prosody or state religion, often achieve a power of concentration they would not have had under a system of political freedom or literary anarchy, so Françoise, by not being free to respond to us in an explicit manner, spoke like Tiresias and would have written like Tacitus.
am going to discover the taste of the unknown rose in Albertine’s cheeks.
And since the circles through which we are able to make things and people pass in the course of our existence are not that numerous, perhaps I shall be able to consider my own in some sense fulfilled when I have taken the blossoming face to which I had given pride of place out of its distant setting, brought it on to this new plane, and at last have knowledge of it through the lips.”
discovered, from these abominable signs, that I was finally in the process of kissing Albertine’s cheek.
I was rather like a woman who takes infinite precautions as long as she has a lover and, from the day she breaks with him, leaves his letters lying about the place, at the risk of disclosing to her husband a guilty secret that ceased to alarm her the minute she ceased to harbor it.
Oriane de Guermantes
And in the end, if it is true that in general the difficulty of attaining the object of desire increases that desire (the difficulty, not the impossibility, for that suppresses it entirely), then, with a desire that is purely physical, the certainty that it will be realized at a definite point on the horizon is hardly less of a stimulant than uncertainty—almost as much as the anxiety of doubt, the absence of doubt makes waiting for inevitable pleasure intolerable, because it turns the period of waiting into an endless series of imagined fulfillments and, by the frequency of our anticipated ...more
a carpet of dull white mist hanging gaily in the sunlight, thick and soft as spun sugar.
At my feet lay the card and envelope, discarded like the wad in a firearm after the shot has been fired.
How many of them there are in our memories, how many more have we forgotten—those faces of girls and young women, all of them different, which we have endowed with charm and the frenzied desire to see them again, simply because they eluded us at the last minute!
Pretending that I could not see very well as I held out my plate while she helped me to potatoes, I took her bare forearm in my hand as if I were guiding it. Seeing that she made no attempt to withdraw it, I began to fondle it; then, without a word, I drew her whole body close, blew out the candles, and told her to grope about me for some money.
I took note of this, I felt a sense of inspired exhilaration, which might have resulted in something had I remained alone and so avoided the detour of the many futile years I was yet to spend before discovering the invisible vocation which is the subject of this book.
Is it because we relive past years not in their continuous sequence, day by day, but by fixing our memory on the coolness or sunshine of one particular morning or evening spent in the shade of some isolated setting, enclosed, static, arrested, lost, remote from everything else, and because the changes gradually effected not only in the world outside but in our dreams and in our developing personality, changes that have carried us along through life from one phase to a wholly different one without our noticing, are therefore nullified, that, if we relive another memory taken from a different ...more
“Dignus est intrare.”