Brain Pain discussion

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
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Proust ISOLT Vol 2 Budding Grove > Discussion - Week Seven - ISOLT Vol 2 - pp. 368 - 425 (425-492)

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Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Week Seven – Feb. 27
[NOTE: These two bites are grouped together because of the short number of pages]

This discussion covers:

7. The little gang of girls (sometimes this whole section is called ‘Seascape, with Freize of Girls’)
Penguin: 368-405
Vintage: 425-467
First paragraph: "That day, as for some days past, Saint-Loup had been obliged to go to Doncières..."

8. Elsir
Penguin: 405-425
Vintage: 467-492
First paragraph: "Presently Saint-Loup's visit drew to an end. I had not seen that party of girls again on the beach."


Andreea (andyyy) | 60 comments Finally we actually get to see the girls in flower in whose shadow we were supposed to be sitting all along! That's a rather confusing sentence, hmm, well, it's an extremely confusing novel. If A la recherche du temps perdu were a symphony this is the movement about adolescent love - we've already seen family/child love, adult romantic love (Swann and Odette) and child(ish) love (the Narrator and Gilberte in the first part of the book), but now the Narrator is

passing through one of those periods of our youth, unprovided with any one definite love, vacant, in which at all times and in all places—as a lover the woman by whose charms he is smitten—we desire, we seek, we see Beauty. Let but a single real feature—the little that one distinguishes of a woman seen from afar or from behind—enable us to project the form of beauty before our eyes, we imagine that we have seen her before, our heart beats, we hasten in pursuit, and will always remain half-persuaded that it was she, provided that the woman has vanished: it is only if we manage to overtake her that we realise our mistake.

Such a beautiful passage, Proust's prose, despite its many ramblings, does occasionally throw up something very much akin to poetry.

Beside that, and since we were talking of symphonies, we start to get a lot more plastic imagery at the same time as we're introduced to a painter character - and that's something interesting to watch out for. Together, Elsir, Bergotte and Vinteuil for a "trinity" of "artist" characters which kind of represent the three different arts - painting, literature and music - throughout the novel. We've already seen numerous references to paintings so far in the novel, but I think Proust might be moving towards something else - something more? A lot of writers have tried to define novels by comparing them with paintings and/or music. Henry James' essay on The Art of Fiction which directly draws parallels between painting and novel writing comes to mind automatically because I've read it recently, but there are other examples - especially, I think, French readers would have thought of calligrams when thinking about literature as a visual art form. They were quite popular in the 19th and early 20th century, Guillaume Apollinaire was an especially successful at writing them and published a whole book just with calligrams. In English poetry, the only poet I can think of who had a similar interest in poetry as a visual art form is George Herbert. But maybe I'm missing something, I'm not that versed in English language modern(ist) poetry. Either way, it seems like always, at the back of the text in Proust there seems to be a concern with the modern(ist) novel/literature. Maybe also with signs? Since we're talking so much about them in Derrida - who knows.


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