After Queer Theory: The Limits of Sexual Politics – James Penney

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

After Queer Theory claims that queer theory has been made obsolete by the elaboration of its own logic within capitalism. James Penney argues that far from signalling the end of anti-homophobic criticism, however, the end of queer presents the occasion to rethink the relation between sexuality and politics. The question is, how straightforward can the language of sexual politics be? Is it all, as Foucault wrote, ‘an elaborate ruse designed to have us chatter endlessly about sex, all the while further tethering ourselves to the omnipotent forces of power’?

Through a critical return to Marxism and psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan), Penney insists that the way to implant sexuality in the field of political antagonism is paradoxically to abandon the exhausted premise of a politicised sexuality.

After Queer Theory argues that it is necessary to wrest sexuality from the dead end of identity politics, opening it up to a universal emancipatory struggle beyond the reach of capitalism’s powers of commodification.

One chapter (‘The Sameness of Sexual Difference’) argues that each individual’s sexual preferences radically differ from everyone else’s. Penney wants to remind us that our idiosyncrasies should be kept in mind when linking sex with politics.  As strange as this sounds, queerness – or any sexual identity – should not be used as a starting point for political action, because otherwise we risk spreading divisive, over-militant or ‘identitarian’ sentiments. Sexual differences are ubiquitous and so ‘devoid of consequences for political thought’.

Penney examines many enlightening areas of sexual politics including perversion, sublimation, and family values

Like others of his ilk, he can’t write comprehensible English – he used adjectives as nouns., e.g.: problematic. The concluding chapter resumes where the first chapter leaves off: it examines one final thematic.

He’s certainly right that: ‘queer’ can sex up a philosophical tradition that makes for remarkably dry reading.

What planet does he inhabit when he claims: To be sure, there is no doubt that in the liberal and ‘post-oedipal’ global North, there are concrete material advantages to be gained from engaging in the queer lifestyle of which Morland and Willox speak. The queer is not only unburdened by conventional family obligations or the monogamous relationship. Also, the lifestyle values he or she embraces are inherently synchronous with the flexibility, mobility and precariousness on which contemporary capitalism so exploitatively thrives.

Some of his case studies are bizarre, though maybe I’ve lived a sheltered, vanilla life.

And what are we to make of ‘the phallus not as penis but as turd’?

However much of realty the ‘pink pound’ may be, there are young people begging on our streets after being thrown out by their parents because of their sexuality.

I had to look up: rhizomatic = an application of post-structural thought to education, it has more recently been identified as methodology for net-enabled education. In contrast to goal-directed and hierarchical theories of learning, it posits that learning is most effective when it allows participants to react to evolving circumstances, preserving lines of flight that allow a fluid and continually evolving redefinition of the task at hand

Also joissance – physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy

Introduction: After Queer Theory: Manifesto And Consequences
1: Currents Of Queer
2: The Universal Alternative
3: Is There A Queer Marxism?
4: Capitalism And Schizoanalysis
5: The Sameness Of Sexual Difference
6: From The Antisocial To The Immortal
Notes
Index

Quotations:

within groups such as ACT UP  familiar with then-emergent queer academic discourse, wasn’t especially conducive to the creative imagination of strategies for countering the effects of the deathly state-sanctioned public indifference to the crisis. As Sedgwick insightfully argues, this apparatus tended to produce a paranoid and abstract vision of power, which actually worked against the development of productive strategies of resistance. By emphasising the determinative impact of power over the creation ofpositive alternatives, the Foucaultian framework that worked against the negotiation of relations and alliances.

Unfortunately, Sedgwick’s t professed inability to imagine how her intellectual concerns might relate to dass struggle and colonial history tells us all we need to know about her deepest political convictions. In particular, her inability to see any relation between her own involvement in the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States and the obscene devastation inflicted by that same crisis, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is deeply objectionable to say the least. In fact, one begins to wonder if Klein’s writing proves so seductive for Sedgwick not because it allows her to work through or overcome the infantile affects that haunt her, but rather because it provides a sort of intellectual alibi for wallowing in them, sheltered from any reminder that they might in part be determined by forces outside the boundaries of her own limited and very bourgeois construction of her intellectual identity. In short, Klein allows Sedgwick to take the sense data of her feelings at face value, reneging on the political and analytic responsibility to question the ideological parameters that set the terms of her experience of them.

No concerted effort was made to document the candidates’ perspectives on any other issue: gun control, education, the death penalty, taxation, foreign policy or health care (generally speaking, that is beyond the specific concerns related to HIV/AIDS and reproductive rights). Only policies obviously related to civil rights for non-heterosexual citizens were meaningfully broached. This briefest of summaries makes the leaflet’s general strategy quite patent. But the devil, as they say, is in the detail. The Agenda’s members made their endorsements on the basis of results from a questionnaire circulated to New York state queers. Questions covered ‘the following topics: comprehensive civil rights protections; protecting students from anti-gay harassment in schools; funding for our health and human service needs; anti-discrimination protections in the issuing of insurance policies; funeral and bereavement leave for same-sex partners; opposition to the state anti-gay marriage bill; No concerted effort was made to document the candidates’ perspectives on any other issue: gun control, education, the death penalty, taxation, foreign policy or health care (generally speaking, that is beyond the specific concerns related to HIV/AIDS and reproductive rights). Only policies obviously related to civil rights for non-heterosexual citizens were meaningfully broached. This briefest of summaries makes the leaflet’s general strategy quite patent. But the devil, as they say, is in the detail. The Agenda’s members made their endorsements on the basis of results from a questionnaire circulated to New York state queers. Questions covered ‘the following topics: comprehensive civil rights protections; protecting students from anti-gay harassment in schools; funding for our health and human service needs; anti-discrimination protections in the issuing of insurance policies; funeral and bereavement leave for same-sex partners; opposition to the state anti-gay marriage bill; support of multicultural curriculum in our schools; age-appropriate sex education; HIV transmission prevention and counselling for the seropositive; and recognition of our relationships through domestic partnership, civil union, and/or same-sex marriage legislation’. Bear in mind for the upcoming discussion that several topics on this list express interests that extend beyond the queer community strictly speaking, however one may wish to define it, to include the citizenry or people in general: health care, women’s reproductive rights, multicultural and sex education, in particular.

On the level of its address, however, the pamphlet presupposed a specific, clearly delimited community subtracted from the whole. The members of this community expressed the interests of an explicit `we’. The issues of health care and health insurance, for instance, were approached not as concerns that raise the general question of each and every citizen’s access to the benefits they provide, but rather as a question of ‘our’ specific needs and right to protection from discrimination.

To be perfectly explicit, the health care system’s status quo is left entirely unquestioned; the frame is limited to the ambition of preventing discrimination against queers in the system as it currently stands.

The interest of the pamphlet lies in the sort of political subject it presupposes. Scandalised, I realised that it enjoined me implicitly to vote for the fiscally conservative homosexual or queer-friendly Republican (rare, but not non-existent) in favour of capital punishment and low corporate taxes, instead of the Democrat pushing for a patients’ bill of rights and the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, but who may have spoken out against gay marriage.

In sum, since the dawn of queer theory, non-libertarian and non-or post-liberal — not to mention explicitly Marxist — approaches to homosexuality have been extremely rare. Certainly, classical Marxism itself hasn’t helped matters. With the exception of a smattering of quite banal, decidedly unscientific, homophobic comments in their correspondence, Marx and Engels themselves were significantly unconcerned with homosexuality. The historical record shows that this oversight has since led many major Marxist strategists and theorists to the silly conclusion that homosexuality as such is objectively reactionary or bourgeois.

even in its most post-liberal strains, queer theory has been overwhelmingly confined within a narrow political horizon which fails to recognise how sexual rights and freedoms, not to mention the critique of this discourse of rights and freedoms, never appear at the top of the list of priorities of the most concretely disenfranchised the world over, queer and straight and everything in between.

Unjust and subtly devastating though it can surely be, the kind of homophobia queer theory talks about is a quite refined form of oppression — one that develops in comparatively benign social formations, from which the more physical forms of sexualised violence, from rape to excision to the proliferating forms of torture, have ceased to police and deform sexual relations in the widest sense.” Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, homophobia becomes part and parcel of a more generalised masculine sexual violence, which perverts the entire field of sexual relations, targeting primarily the sexual expression of women. Here, in Salafist Islam for example, it’s less a question of the direct oppressive targeting of homosexuality, however prominently this features in the programme, than .a masculine-perverse protest against the very libidinal conditions of human life as such.

consider the circumstances of a ‘badly’ educated, working-class lesbian toiling away at several part-time jobs to support her family. Or those of a young, crypto-gay Iranian man contemplating a sex-change operation so he can envision a sexual relationship without either violating religious principles he may in fact hold dear, or risk execution at the hands of the state. That either of these subjects should experience a spontaneous frisson of solidarity with a bourgeois and staunchly secularist queer movement is not nearly as obvious a contention as we might wish to think.

we agreed to allow the master signifier ‘capitalism’, with its indelible tie to Marxist economic historicisation, to be replaced by another, insidiously naturalising, term: ‘the market’. We have allowed this signifier to impose itself as an objective description of a natural law, one that conveys a direct knowledge of the economic real as such.

Certainly, there’s nothing novel today in asserting a link between the proliferation of sexual identities during the twentieth century and the expansion and globalisation of capitalist relations

the absorption by consumer society or libidinal satisfaction.’

in other words, social shame accompanied the admission in polite company of an inappropriate sexual dalliance, today shame accrues if one admits to not being interested in sexual (and back then, political) transgression; if one confesses that one’s sexual experience has never quite extended to flavours beyond vanilla.

homosexuality threatened the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie because the prospect of sexual enjoyment outside the confines of the heterosexual family unit threatened to sabotage the bourgeois state’s project to assign responsibility for the provision of social services to the private sphere, organised around the unstable institution of the patriarchal nuclear family. The Victorian working-class man had no choice but to adopt the protestant work ethic because he had a wife and family to take care- of at home, knowing full well that the state would decline to take over responsibility for the family should he prove unwilling or unable to do so himself. Bluntly, if the father is busy cruising men at the public toilets, it’s not dear who’s going to be bringing home the bacon. Properly socialist pressure on the state to provide public services then threatens to emerge.

the so-called linguistic turn of semiotics and structuralism, for Morton, is a symptom of critical theory’s regression back from historical materialist analysis. The growing emphasis on language in twentieth-century thought, on the construction and deconstruction of signification or meaning, is to be understood as part and parcel of the increasing hegemony and widening globalisation of capitalist logic. Capital superimposes an obfuscating but profit-generating cloak of empty value on the material conditions of production. Analogously, linguistic, textual and discursive modes of analysis introduce a distracting emphasis on rhetoric and representation into the more concrete political and historical problem of human need’s satisfaction.

Over a century of psychoanalytic experience provides inconvenient but overwhelming evidence that even at its basest or barest, human life can only fail to limit itself to the dimension of biological or physiological need. The argument that psychoanalytic experience shows this because it’s only the bourgeoisie who ever get analysed fails, unfortunately, to convince.

Here is the basic lesson of Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1922): the essence of human life is its own excess over itself; an inhuman and immortal drive which, zombie-like, persists beyond mere biological death.’ Similarly, as Lacan argued in the aftermath of the socio-political tumult of the late 1960s, surplus value, which he translated into the neologism plus-de-jouir (surplus enjoyment), survives the socialist revolution. As impractical and politically irritating as the statement surely is, Baudrillard is entirely correct

 

The radical queer millionaire Internet pornographer who organises ‘sex-positive’ sex toy parties in his spare time (the new Tupperware?) has become one of the best emblems of contemporary capitalism.

These are the formidable forces that see us purchase that bottle of perfume or cologne despite the fact that we know better, that we’re not quite sure we even enjoy the scent. If the old project of so-called Freudo-Marxism ever had a point to make, it was perhaps that the two agendas, viewed on this level, are one and the same. Taking the literary cue from Freud, Lacan tied the destiny of the desiring subject to the vicissitudes of the tragic genre, from the desire of the destitute Oedipus ‘never to have been born’, through Antigone’s uncompromising perseverance at the limits of ate, to Sygne de Coiffontaine’s pathetic and suicidal facial tic. This tic indexes a pure negativity, an absolute ‘no’, whose possibility is carved out by the signifier, according to Lacan, in Paul Claudel’s dramaturgical trilogy. But, as Alenka Zupana’ insightfully argues, desire also belongs to the realm of comedy, here understood as the generic mode that exposes the difference between the lofty and otherworldly ambitions of desire and the inadequate objects that fail to satisfy it. This is the desire not to desire; the desire whose aim is to sabotage its own realisation, whose modus operandi is precisely to repress the knowledge of its own impossibility.

This desire is to be distinguished from what Lacan called desire’s real — the drive, that is — which does in fact deliver satisfaction. But we can only experience this satisfaction at the ego’s expense, as a consequence of the ego’s fleeting collapse.

Beyond Freud’s pleasure principle, in other words, there lies not the nihilistic negation of any future for humanity whatsoever, but rather the emancipatory affirmation of humanity’s excess over itself, an excess that is properly eternal in nature. If there’s no future, in other words, it’s because this future is not merely already (potentially) here, but also always has been, and always will be.

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In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (In Search of Lost Time Vol. 2) – Marcel Proust

ITSOYGIF 2The narrator’s memories of Paris and the Normandy seaside, at the heart of the story lie his relationships with his grandmother and with the Swann family. A meditation on different forms of love.

Proust was the first person to coin the term involuntary memory, in his novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past). Proust did not have any psychological background, and worked primarily as a writer. He viewed involuntary memory as containing the “essence of the past”, claiming that it was lacking from voluntary memory. In his novel, he describes an incident where he was eating tea soaked cake, and a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt was “revealed” to him. From this memory, he then proceeded to be reminded of the childhood home he was in, and even the town itself. This becomes a theme throughout In Search of Lost Time, with sensations reminding Proust of previous experiences. He dubbed these “involuntary memories”.

This insight has implications for the way we remember our past- it may be inaccurate, it also effects national memory – history, wars, religious beliefs (the Eucharist ‘in remembrance of…’) Once we create a memory, we, as it were, delete all other versions of an event.

Some members of our group found it ‘a lot of effort’ and not all finished it.

Yet one found it ‘sillier than expected…hilariously snobbish…a lot of energy.

Is the narrator neurotic?

The Narrator’s parents are inviting M. de Norpois, a diplomat colleague of the Narrator’s father, to dinner. With Norpois’s intervention, the Narrator is finally allowed to go see Berma perform in a play, but is disappointed by her acting. Afterwards, at dinner, he watches Norpois, who is extremely diplomatic and correct at all times, expound on society and art. The Narrator gives him a draft of his writing, but Norpois gently indicates it is not good. The Narrator continues to go to the Champs-Élysées and play with Gilberte. Her parents distrust him, so he writes to them in protest. He and Gilberte wrestle and he has an orgasm. Gilberte invites him to tea, and he becomes a regular at her house. He observes Mme Swann’s inferior social status, Swann’s lowered standards and indifference towards his wife, and Gilberte’s affection for her father. The Narrator contemplates how he has attained his wish to know the Swanns, and savours their unique style. At one of their parties he meets and befriends Bergotte, who gives his impressions of society figures and artists. But the Narrator is still unable to start writing seriously. His friend Bloch takes him to a brothel, where there is a Jewish prostitute named Rachel. He showers Mme Swann with flowers, being almost on better terms with her than with Gilberte. One day, he and Gilberte quarrel and he decides never to see her again. However, he continues to visit Mme Swann, who has become a popular hostess, with her guests including Mme Bontemps, who has a niece named Albertine. The Narrator hopes for a letter from Gilberte repairing their friendship, but gradually feels himself losing interest. He breaks down and plans to reconcile with her, but spies from afar someone resembling her walking with a boy and gives her up for good. He stops visiting her mother also, who is now a celebrated beauty admired by passersby, and years later he can recall the glamour she displayed then.

Two years later, the Narrator, his grandmother, and Françoise set out for the seaside town of Balbec. The Narrator is almost totally indifferent to Gilberte now. During the train ride, his grandmother, who only believes in proper books, lends him her favorite: the Letters of Mme de Sevigne. At Balbec, the Narrator is disappointed with the church and uncomfortable in his unfamiliar hotel room, but his grandmother comforts him. He admires the seascape, and learns about the colourful staff and customers around the hotel: Aime, the discreet headwaiter; the lift operator; M. de Stermaria and his beautiful young daughter; and M. de Cambremer and his wife, Legrandin’s sister. His grandmother encounters an old friend, the blue-blooded Mme de Villeparisis, and they renew their friendship. The three of them go for rides in the country, openly discussing art and politics. The Narrator longs for the country girls he sees alongside the roads, and has a strange feeling of unexplained memory while admiring a row of three trees. Mme de Villeparisis is joined by her glamorous great-nephew Robert de Saint-Loup, who is involved with an unsuitable woman. Despite initial awkwardness, the Narrator and his grandmother become good friends with him. Bloch, the childhood friend from Combray, turns up with his family, and acts in typically inappropriate fashion. Saint-Loup’s ultra-aristocratic and extremely rude uncle the Baron de Charlus arrives. The Narrator discovers Mme de Villeparisis, her nephew M. de Charlus, and his nephew Saint-Loup are all of the Guermantes family. Charlus ignores the Narrator, but later visits him in his room and lends him a book. The next day, the Baron speaks shockingly informally to him, then demands the book back. The Narrator ponders Saint-Loup’s attitude towards his aristocratic roots, and his relationship with his mistress, a mere actress whose recital bombed horribly with his family. One day, the Narrator sees a “little band” of teenage girls strolling beside the sea, and becomes infatuated with them, along with an unseen hotel guest named Mlle Simonet. He joins Saint-Loup for dinner and reflects on how drunkenness affects his perceptions. Later they meet the painter Elstir, and the Narrator visits his studio. The Narrator marvels at Elstir’s method of renewing impressions of ordinary things, as well as his connections with the Verdurins (he is “M. Biche”) and Mme Swann. He discovers the painter knows the teenage girls, particularly one dark-haired beauty who is Albertine Simonet. Elstir arranges an introduction, and the Narrator becomes friends with her, as well as her friends Andrée, Rosemonde, and Gisele. The group goes for picnics and tours the countryside, as well as playing games, while the Narrator reflects on the nature of love as he becomes attracted to Albertine. Despite her rejection, they become close, although he still feels attracted to the whole group. At summer’s end, the town closes up, and the Narrator is left with his image of first seeing the girls walking beside the sea.

Proust introduces some of his comic inventions, from the dull M. de Norpois to the enchanting Robert de Saint-Loup. It is memorable as well for the first appearance of the two figures who are to dominate the narrator’s life—the Baron de Charlus and the mysterious Albertine.

He is more concerned for the furniture than for the girls in a brothel.

Marcel makes quick work of Gilberte Swann. As with Swann before him, the more desperately he loves the girl, the less interest she displays in return. So he decides to put his love on ice, while maintaining his friendship with her parents.

Then, two years later, it’s off to Balbec. Marcel is now sixteen and still dependent on his mother and grandmother. He spends a seemingly endless summer at a grand hotel on the Normandy coast, watching strange places and people become familiar to him. He becomes a close friend of the Guermantes aristocrat, Robert de Saint-Loup, and of the painter Elstir (whom we met as a foolish young man belonging to Madame Verdurin’s “little clan” in Swann’s Way). He also meets the Baron de Charlus, who deigns to make a move on him, an overture which only mystifies Marcel.

More important than any of these is his acquaintance with the “little band” of girls whom he describes as adolescent, and who sometimes behave that way, but who surely are older. Indeed, two of them seem to be sitting for the bac or high-school leaving exam, which Proust passed — in economics and mathematics — just as he turned eighteen. (There is also the matter of the book’s title: some argue that “en fleur” is a reference to the menarche, which in 1900 was about fourteen for European and North American girls. Indeed, according to his grand-niece and biographer, that’s why Scott Moncrieff chose to bowdlerize Proust’s title for the book.)

Marcel focuses his adoration, first on one, then on another of these young women, but it is obvious to everyone except him that Albertine Simonet will be the love of his life.

One of Proust’s great themes and talents is showing character and how it may change over time. In this second volume he deals with friendship, including the curious sort of friendship that is carnal love. How do we bridge the gap between the stranger and the dear person he or she will become, as friend or lover? First,Gilberte Swann, whom Marcel first adores and then, after considerable pain, trains himself to ignore. Then there’s Robert de Saint-Loup then there is Albertine, the obsession toward which Marcel has been working all this time.

He is equally adept with the pretentious and social-climbing Bloch, whom we met in Swann’s Way  as a “precious youth,” greatly admired by the narrator. That admiration has now been qualified. Just as the homosexual Proust is often harsh in his treatment of “inverts,” so does he, the son of a Jewish mother, verge on anti-semitism in his ridicule of Bloch’s family, especially the uncle, Nissim Bernard. (Bloch’s first name is Albert, though I confess I had to look it up. Nor does he have much in the way of physical characteristics. He’s a year or two older than Marcel, though they were schoolmates at one time.)

As the title suggests, memory is a major theme of In Search of Lost Time. The author’s understanding of memory is clearly stated in this second volume, in the words of James Grieve for the Penguin Proust:

[T]he greater part of our memory lies outside us, in a dampish breeze, in the musty air of a bedroom or the smell of autumn’s first fires, things through which we can retrieve … last vestige of the past, the best of it, the part which, after all our tears have dried, can make us weep again. Outside us? Inside us, more like, but stored away…. It is only because we have forgotten that we can now and then return to the person we once were, envisage things as that person did, be hurt again, because we are not ourselves anymore, but someone else, who once loved something that we no longer care about.

Cf. translations: Scott Moncrieff “Whoever she is,” he went on, “hearty congratulations; you can’t have been bored with her. I picked her up a few days before that on the Zone railway, where, speaking of zones, she was so kind as to undo hers for the benefit of your humble servant….”

Grieve: “Well, anyway,” he said, “you deserve to be congratulated—she must have given you a nice time. I had just met her a few days before, you see, riding on the suburban line. She had no objection to yours truly, and so a nice ride was had by one and all….”

For  “ I had her pinned between my legs as though she was the bole of a little tree I was trying to climb. In the middle of my exertions, without my breathing being quickened much more than it already was by muscular exercise and the heat of the playful moment, like a few drops of sweat produced by the effort, I shed my pleasure…” (p.69) one of our members simply observed that “He came in his pants wrestling with that girl.”

When Marcel first enters the grand seaside hotel at Balbec, where he’ll meet those young girls in flower, he is awed by the majesty of the elevator boy. He tries to placate him with chatter, but “il ne me répondit pas.” Scott Moncrieff rendered this as “he vouchsafed no answer,” phrasing which appears unchanged in today’s Modern Library edition. Mr. Carter is more straightforward: “he did not answer me.” Just so!

He wrote this aged 48. Most sentences are over long.

Is there a double entendre in the scene with the lift boy: as he went on pushing and pulling the knobs and stops of his instrument.?

Like any extended summer holiday of youth, nothing really happens but it happens intensely. At first the narrator is unhappy and homesick. Later he makes a new friend and reencounters an older one, Bloch.

Bloch is a beautifully observed character. He is more worldly than the narrator (Bloch takes him to his first whorehouse, where the narrator loses his virginity), but less socially adept. Bloch is a good friend, but not a flawless one.

Bloch is Jewish. The narrator is not. The narrator thinks nothing of this difference, but others do and through their reactions and comments Proust makes apparent the casual and widespread anti-Semitism running through French life of this period. It’s a theme I understand the next book develops further.

The narrator falls in love with every girl he sees. The less he sees of her in fact, the more he falls in love. A glimpse of a woman from a moving carriage lets him fill in what he can’t see with imagination.

Although many of Proust’s close family and friends suspected that he was homosexual, Proust never admitted this. It was only after his death that André Gide, in his publication of correspondence with Proust, made public Proust’s homosexuality. In response to Gide’s criticism that he hid his actual sexuality within his novel, Proust told Gide that “one can say anything so long as one does not say ‘I’.”

In 1949, the critic Justin O’Brien published an article called “Albertine the Ambiguous: Notes on Proust’s Transposition of Sexes” which proposed that some female characters are best understood as actually referring to young men. Strip off the feminine ending of the names of the Narrator’s lovers—Albertine, Gilberte, Andrée—and one has their masculine counterpart. This theory has become known as the “transposition of sexes theory” in Proust criticism, which in turn has been challenged in Epistemology of the Closet (1990) by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and in “Proust’s Lesbianism” (1999) by Elisabeth Ladenson. Feminized forms of masculine names were and are commonplace in French.

The author does say, however, that love is more important than who you love. (p. 343)

I had to look up zoophytic (p. 436) = An invertebrate animal, such as a sea anemone or a sponge, that superficially resembles a plant; and vetiver (p. 529) = heavy, earthy fragrance similar to patchouli

ITSOYGIF 7Quotations:

From the Translator’s  (Grieve) Introduction

To win the Goncourt prize seldom requires literary genius. Cronyism, Parisian faddery and petty intrigue usually weigh more.

Inclined to see this volume as a ‘listless interlude’, Proust was surprised that ‘everyone is reading it’.’

From the narrator’s encounters with these great enigmas and temptations, Proust distils his lengthy meditations, variations on some of the most structural themes of his novel: the disparities between cognition and thing, theory and practice, desire and discovery, appearance and truth, imagination and reality. For the narrator is now coming to an awareness of life as mystery, full of passions that baffle, appearances that conceal, illusions that seem to promise, impressions that tantalize.  He has inklings of  the sheer unpredictability of beauty, the inability of words and names to capture the essences of things, the contradictions with which life replaces expectations, the discrepancy between impression and memory, his own sentimental fatalism.

that impressions, our only access to these, are inadequate to their conscious capture, that they are individual, irreplaceable by any generality, untranslatable in any word, accessible only by a freak of memory or through art.

Proust was intermittently unsure whether he was writing an essay or a novel.

His composition was often not linear; he wrote in bits and pieces; transitions from one scene to another are sometimes awkward, clumsy even. He can make heavy weather of simple movements: characters get stood roughly into position so that

the next demonstration may take place; action must be performed perfunctorily, so that protracted analysis of it may ensue

The Dreyfus Affair is made much of by some commentators on In Search of Lost Time. In fact, Proust deals with it hardly at all (in the whole novel, the name of Dreyfus occurs less often than the head waiter’s, a very minor character) and then only in its most trivial repercussions in fashionable society, such as those reflected on p. 92. More important to the novel than Dreyfus is the virulence of the anti-Semitic prejudice generally shared by the fashionable characters, of the sort satirized on p. 344 in a speech by Charlus (and perceptible, if less virulent, in Proust’s own ambivalence towards the Blochs).

ITSOYGIFFrom the text:

 He strode rapidly across the whole width of the hotel, seeming to be in pursuit of his monocle, which kept darting away in front of him like a butterfly.

As to the pretty girls who went past, from the day on which I had first known that their cheeks could be kissed. I became curious about their souls. And the universe became more interesting.

When Swann married Odette, he did not go through a process of renunciation of his former social ambitions — she had long since brought him to a state of detachment from them, in the spiritual sense of the word. And had he not been detached from them, it would have been all the more to his credit. In general, marriages which degrade one of the partners are the worthiest of all, because they entail the sacrifice of a more or less flattering situation to a purely private satisfaction — and, of course, marrying for money must be excluded from the notion of a degrading match, as no couple of whom one partner has been sold to the other has ever failed to be admitted in the end to good society, given the weight of tradition, the done thing and the need to avoid having double standards. In any case, the idea of engaging in one of those cross-breedings common to Mendelian experiments and Greek mythology, and of joining with a creature of a different race, an archduchess or a good-time girl, someone of blue blood or no blood at all, might well have titillated the artist, if not the pervert, in Swann. On the occasions when it occurred to him that he might one day marry Odette, there was only one person in society whose opinion he would have cared for, the Duchesse de Guermantes, and snobbery had nothing to do with this. Odette herself was all but indifferent to the Duchesse de Guermantes, thinking only of the people who were immediately above her, rather than of those who inhabited such a remote and exalted sphere. But at moments when Swann sat day-dreaming about what it might be like to be the husband of Odette, he always saw the moment when he would introduce her, and especially their daughter, to the Princesse des Laumes, or the Duchesse de Guermantes as she had become upon the death of her father-in-law. He had no desire to present them to anyone else; but as he imagined the Duchesse talking about him to Odette and Odette talking to Mme de Guermantes, and the tenderness the latter would show to Gilberte, making much of her, making him proud of his daughter, he could be so moved that he spoke aloud the words they would say.

My mother did not seem very happy that my father had given up all thought of a diplomatic career for me. I think she lived in the hope of seeing my nervous susceptibility subjected to the discipline of an ordered way of life, and that her real regret was not so much that I was abandoning diplomacy as that I was taking up literature. ‘Oh, look, give over,’ my father exclaimed. ‘The main thing is to enjoy what one does in life. He’s not a child any more, he knows what he likes, he’s probably not going to change, he’s old enough to know what’ll make him happy in life.’ These words of my father’s, though they granted me the freedom to be happy or not in life, made me very unhappy that evening. At each one of his unexpected moments of indulgence towards me, I had always wanted to kiss him on his florid cheeks, just above the beard-line; and the only thing that ever restrained me was the fear of annoying him. On this occasion, rather as an author, to whom his own conceptions seem to have little value, because he cannot think of them as separate from himself, may be alarmed at seeing his publishers putting themselves to the trouble of selecting an appropriate paper for them and setting them in a type-face which he may think too fine, I began to doubt whether my desire to write was a thing of sufficient importance for my father to lavish such kindness upon it. But it was especially what he said about my likings probably changing, and what would make me happy in life, that planted dreadful suspicions in my mind. The first was that, though I met new day with the thought that I was now on the threshold of life, still lay before me all unlived and was about to start the very day, not only had my life in fact begun, but the years to come and not be very different from the years already elapsed. The second, which was really only a variant of the first, was that I did not outside Time but was subject to its laws, as completely as the seasonal characters whose lives, for that very reason, had made me feel so sad when I read of them at Combray, sitting inside my wickerwork shelter. Theoretically we are aware that the earth is spinning, but in reality we do not notice it: the ground we walk on seems to be stationary and gives no cause for alarm. The same happens with Time. To make its passing perceptible, novelists, have to turn the hands of the clock at dizzying speed, to make the reader live through ten, twenty, thirty years in two minutes. At the top of a page, we have been with a lover full of hope; at the foot of the following one, we see him again, already an octogenarian, hobbling his painful daily way round the courtyard of an old people’s home, barely acknowledging greetings, remembering nothing of his past. When my father said, `He’s not a child any more, he’s not going to change his mind, etc.,’ he suddenly showed me myself living inside Time; and he filled me with sadness, as though I was not quite the senile inmate of the poorhouse, but one of those heroes dismissed by the writer in the final chapter with a turn of phrase that is cruel in its indifference: ‘He has taken to absenting himself less and less from the countryside. He has eventually settled down there for good, etc.’

My father, in an attempt to forestall any criticism we might have to make about his guest, said to my mother:

`I must say old Norpois was rather “old hat”, as you two say. When he said it would “not have been seemly” to ask a question of the Comte de Paris, I was afraid you might burst out laughing.

— Not at all, my mother replied. I’m full of admiration for a man of his calibre and his age who hasn’t lost that simple touch. All it shows is a fundamental honesty and good breeding.

In fact, his wife had married him, against much opposition from within her family, because he was a ‘charmer’. The general effect of this person of superlative refinement may be judged from the fact that he had a silky fair beard, a pretty face, an adenoidal pronunciation, bad breath and a glass eye.

ITSOYG 4It must be supposed in many marriages, such subservience of the outstanding to the is the rule, for one need only think of the opposite case, that of “fled wives who smilingly defer to their crass boor of a husband crushes their nicest conceits, then gush with loving indulgence inept buffoonery which he thinks is humour.

I also went on telling myself that Gilberte did not love me, that I had known this for ages, that I could see her whenever I liked and that, if I preferred not to see her, I would eventually forget her. But these thoughts, like a medication which has no effect on certain disorders, were quite ineffectual against what came intermittently to my mind: those two close silhouettes of Gilberte and that young man, stepping slowly along -the avenue des Champs-Elysées. This was a new pain, but one which would eventually fade and disappear in its turn

she probably lived in ignorance of all the regrets I invented for her to feel, and thought not only much less about me than I about her, but much less than I pretended she thought about me in my moments of private communion with the fictitious Gilberte, when I longed to know her real intentions towards me and pictured her as spending her days doting on me.

in accordance with her pious expertise in the rites and liturgy of such things, Mme Swain’s ways of dressing were linked to the season and the time of day by a bond that was necessary and unique) the flowers on her soft straw hat and the little bows on her frock seemed a more natural product of May than any flowers cultivated in beds or growing wild in the woods; and to witness the thrilling onset of the new season, I needed to lift my eyes no higher than Mme Swann’s sunshade, opened now and stretched above me like a nearer, more temperate sky, full of its constantly changing blue. Though subordinate to none, these rites were honour-bound, as was consequently Mme Swann herself, to defer to the morning, the springtime and the sunshine, none of which I ever thought seemed flattered enough that such an elegant woman should make a point of respecting them, of choosing for their pleasure a frock in a brighter or lighter material, its lower neckline and looser sleeves suggesting the moist warmth of the throat and the wrists, that she should treat them as a great lady treats the common people whose invitation to visit them in the country she has cheerfully condescended to accept, and for whose special occasion,

if she unbuttoned or even took off and asked me to carry the jacket that she had originally meant to keep buttoned, I discovered in the blouse she wore under it a host of details of handiwork which might well never have been noticed, after the manner of those orchestral parts which the composer has worked with exquisite care, although no ears among the audience will ever hear them; or else in the sleeves folded over my arm I picked out and studied, for the pleasure of looking at them or for the pleasure of being pleasant, this or that tiny detail, a strip of cloth of a delightful shade, or a mauve satinet normally unseen by any eye, but just as delicately finished as any of the outer parts of the garment, like the fine Gothic stonework hidden eighty feet up a cathedral, on the inner face of a balustrade, just as perfectly executed as the low-relief statues in the main doorway, but which no one had ever set eyes on until an artist on a chance visit to the city asked to be allowed to climb up there, walk about at sky-level and survey a whole townscape from between the twin steeples.

ITSOYGIF 3The wife of an elderly banker, after hesitating between various possible exposures for her husband, had settled him in a deck-chair facing the esplanade, sheltered from wind and sun by the bandstand. Having seen him comfortably installed there, she had gone to buy a newspaper which she would read aloud to him by way of diversion, one of her little absences which she never prolonged for more than five minutes, which seemed to her quite long enough but which she repeated at fairly frequent intervals so that this old husband on whom she lavished an attention that she took care to conceal should have the impression that he was still quite alive and like other people and was in no need of protection.

… whenever society is momentarily stationary, the people who live in it imagine that no further change will occur, just as, in spite of having witnessed the birth of the telephone, they decline to believe in the aeroplane. Meanwhile the philosophers of journalism are at work castigating the preceding epoch, and not only the kind of pleasures in which it indulged, which seem to them to be the last word in corruption, but even the work of its artists and philosophers, which have no longer the least value in their eyes, as though they were indissolubly linked to the successive moods of fashionable frivolity. The one thing that does not change is that at any and every time it appears that there have been “great changes.”

Let but a single flash of reality – the glimpse of a woman from afar or from behind – enable us to project the image of Beauty before our eyes, and we imagine that we have recognised it, our hearts beat, and we 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.

… the interplay of their eyes, animated with self-assurance and the spirit of comradeship and lit up from one moment to the next either by the interest or the insolent indifference which shone from each of them according to whether her glance was directed at her friends or at passers-by, together with the consciousness of knowing one another intimately enough always to go about together in an exclusive “gang,” established between their independent and separate bodies, as they slowly advanced, an invisible but harmonious bond, like a single warm shadow, a single atmosphere, making of them a whole as homogenous in its parts as it was different from the crowd through which their procession gradually wound.

Our virtues themselves are not free and floating qualities over which we retain a permanent control and power of disposal; they come to be so closely linked in our minds with the actions in conjunction with which we make it our duty to practise them that if we come to engage in an activity of a different kind, it catches us off guard and without the slightest awareness that it might involve the application of those very same virtues.

The idea that one has long held of a person is apt to stop one’s eyes and ears; my mother, for three whole years, had no more noticed the rouge with which one of her nieces used to paint her lips than if it had been wholly and invisibly dissolved in some liquid; until one day a streak too much, or possibly something else, brought about the phenomenon known as super-saturation; all the paint that had hitherto passed unperceived was now crystallized.

Fashions change, being themselves begotten of the desire for change.

Finally, if I went to see Berma in a new play, it would not be easy for me to assess her art and her diction, since I should not be able to differentiate between a text which was not already familiar and what she added to it by her intonations and gestures, an addition which would seem to me to be embodied in the play itself; whereas the old plays, the classics which I knew by heart, presented themselves to me as vast and empty walls, reserved and made ready for my inspection, on which I should be able to appreciate without restriction the devices by which Berma would cover them, as with frescoes, with the perpetually fresh treasures of her inspiration.

The doctor … advised my parents not to let me go to the theatre. … The fear of this might have availed to stop me, if what I had anticipated from such a spectacle had been only a pleasure which a subsequent pain could offset and annul. But what I demanded from this performance—as from the visit to Balbec and the visit to Venice for which I had so intensely longed—was something quite different from pleasure: verities pertaining to a world more real than that in which I lived, which, once acquired, could never be taken from me again by any trivial incident—even though it were to cause me bodily suffering—of my otiose existence. At most, the pleasure which I was to feel during the performance appeared to me as the perhaps necessary form of the perception of these truths.

Whereas I had hated them for their cruelty, their consent made them now so dear to me that the thought of causing them pain stabbed me also with a pain through which the purpose of life appears to me as the pursuit not of truth but of loving-kindness, and life itself seemed good or evil only as my parents were happy or sad.

Believing the language to be less rich in words than it is, and her own ears less trustworthy, the first time that she heard anyone mention York ham she had thought, no doubt,—feeling it to be hardly conceivable that the dictionary could be so prodigal as to include at once a ‘York’ and a ‘New York’—that she had misheard what was said, and that the ham was really called by the name already familiar to her.

All that I grasped was that to repeat what everybody else was thinking was, in politics, the mark not of an inferior but of a superior mind.

If one has lost sight for a score of years of all the people on whose account one would have liked to be elected to the Jockey Club or the Institute, the prospect of becoming a member of one or other of those corporations will have ceased to tempt one. Now fully as much as retirement, ill-health or religious conversion, protracted relations with a woman will substitute fresh visions for the old. There was not on Swann’s part, when he married Odette, any renunciation of his social ambitions, for from these ambitions Odette had long ago, in the spiritual sense of the word, detached him.

It is because they imply the sacrifice of a more or less advantageous position to a purely private happiness that, as a general rule, ‘impossible’ marriages are the happiest of all.

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In Love and War – Alex Preston

(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)INAW

Esmond Lowndes has been sent down from his Cambridge college after being caught in bed with another man. His father, a senior blackshirt, has found him a job establishing a fascist radio station in Italy. If the idea is to keep Esmond’s mind off hanky-panky, it doesn’t work. After walking in on his maid’s daughter naked, he ends up having nightly threesomes with her and her sometime boyfriend Gerald.

Goad’s speech with frequent ‘Humm’ is infuriating.

I well remember the paintings in the Uffizi which he mentions.

The Anglican chaplaincy is unusually high church (though St. Mar’s Florence does advertise high mass nowadays) and mention of ‘The Peace’ is anachronistic. (Similar to his attempts in ‘The Revelations’)

And why would a Roman Catholic cardinal give an Anglican chaplain a role?

I had to look up ‘pelf’ = money, especially when gained in a dishonest or dishonourable way; puttees = strips of cloth, which were worn wrapped around the lower leg in a spiral pattern, from the ankle up to below the knee. They provide ankle support and prevent debris and water from entering the boots or pants; kepis = a French military cap with a horizontal peak.

Torture is graphically described – I don’t think I would have lasted hong.

The author: I did a lot of skinny dipping when researching In Love and War. There’s some skinny dipping in the novel but I probably did more than I needed to.

Quotations:

`I never show my work to anyone; Douglas says. Writing’s like shitting. If someone’s cheering you on, it’s hard to get going, but give it time and space and it’ll come. And by the way, if you don’t eat well, you won’t shit well: He pauses. ‘Did you love this chap?’

Esmond turns to look out over the river. It is past eleven. A gentle breeze is blowing, stirring the hillside and making tight waves on the surface of the water.

historian in The Spectator who has identified only twenty-nine years since the Roman Empire when a war wasn’t being fought somewhere in the world. We lurch from crisis to crisis and we learn nothing from history.

By the end of 1940, all Europe will be German, soon after, all of the globe will fly the Glorious Swastika. I burnt your degenerate books, your limp-wristed writing because I knew the risk they’d pose for you in the coming years. (I suggest you burn this letter, too.) We – the British Union, those of us who have remained faithful to the cause – will be at the forefront of Nazi Britain and we can’t have bad eggs amongst us. I hope you see that, Esmond.

Douglas was right: Fascism is just a refuge from the powerlessness of love.

The talk at the Berensons’ was all of the war, of how Italy won’t be ready for combat for at least another three years. No auto­motive industry, an agricultural economy. They’ll have to sit it out with the tea and oranges, as pa would say, as the north falls apart. It looks to be a lengthy thing, none of that Panglossian “It’ll be over by Christmas” stuff this time.

He said it was the writer’s duty to speak for those who couldn’t speak, who were trapped or overlooked or oppressed. He said, in times like these, novels should be written with broken fingers, and all poets’ eyes should – be black.

I have always loved beauty and the gender of those I love matters to me as little as their shoe size. It seems odd to me that so many humans limit themselves, slavishly. For now, it is Ada.

We only know ourselves, he’d said, in crisis. Character is theoretical until we act. I think today, Esmond, you beheld yourself Not quite the hero your father was, eh?

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In Love and War – Alex Preston

INAW(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

Esmond Lowndes has been sent down from his Cambridge college after being caught in bed with another man. His father, a senior blackshirt, has found him a job establishing a fascist radio station in Italy. If the idea is to keep Esmond’s mind off hanky-panky, it doesn’t work. After walking in on his maid’s daughter naked, he ends up having nightly threesomes with her and her sometime boyfriend Gerald.

Goad’s speech with frequent ‘Humm’ is infuriating.

I well remember the paintings in the Uffizi which he mentions.

The Anglican chaplaincy is unusually high church (though St. Mar’s Florence does advertise high mass nowadays) and mention of ‘The Peace’ is anachronistic. (Similar to his attempts in ‘The Revelations’)

And why would a Roman Catholic cardinal give an Anglican chaplain a role?

I had to look up ‘pelf’ = money, especially when gained in a dishonest or dishonourable way; puttees = strips of cloth, which were worn wrapped around the lower leg in a spiral pattern, from the ankle up to below the knee. They provide ankle support and prevent debris and water from entering the boots or pants; kepis = a French military cap with a horizontal peak.

Torture is graphically described – I don’t think I would have lasted hong.

The author: I did a lot of skinny dipping when researching In Love and War. There’s some skinny dipping in the novel but I probably did more than I needed to.

Quotations:

`I never show my work to anyone; Douglas says. Writing’s like shitting. If someone’s cheering you on, it’s hard to get going, but give it time and space and it’ll come. And by the way, if you don’t eat well, you won’t shit well: He pauses. ‘Did you love this chap?’

Esmond turns to look out over the river. It is past eleven. A gentle breeze is blowing, stirring the hillside and making tight waves on the surface of the water.

historian in The Spectator who has identified only twenty-nine years since the Roman Empire when a war wasn’t being fought somewhere in the world. We lurch from crisis to crisis and we learn nothing from history.

By the end of 1940, all Europe will be German, soon after, all of the globe will fly the Glorious Swastika. I burnt your degenerate books, your limp-wristed writing because I knew the risk they’d pose for you in the coming years. (I suggest you burn this letter, too.) We – the British Union, those of us who have remained faithful to the cause – will be at the forefront of Nazi Britain and we can’t have bad eggs amongst us. I hope you see that, Esmond.

Douglas was right: Fascism is just a refuge from the powerlessness of love.

The talk at the Berensons’ was all of the war, of how Italy won’t be ready for combat for at least another three years. No auto­motive industry, an agricultural economy. They’ll have to sit it out with the tea and oranges, as pa would say, as the north falls apart. It looks to be a lengthy thing, none of that Panglossian “It’ll be over by Christmas” stuff this time.

He said it was the writer’s duty to speak for those who couldn’t speak, who were trapped or overlooked or oppressed. He said, in times like these, novels should be written with broken fingers, and all poets’ eyes should – be black.

I have always loved beauty and the gender of those I love matters to me as little as their shoe size. It seems odd to me that so many humans limit themselves, slavishly. For now, it is Ada.

We only know ourselves, he’d said, in crisis. Character is theoretical until we act. I think today, Esmond, you beheld yourself Not quite the hero your father was, eh?

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Kiss of the Spider Woman (film)

kotsw-filmIncluded among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

Having read the novel, we realized very little was omitted from the movie, though some say that it’s “not like the book.” It lacks the tenderness between the two men which occurs in the book. However, the camp and stylised ending is such as Molina would have loved.

We wondered if the movie was ‘real’. I wasn’t but was made for inserting into this film, as the age of its actors testify.

The film begins, not unlike Un Chant d’Amour (Jean Genet’s classic, homoerotic, 1950 prison short), with the camera fixed on the wall of their jailhouse cell. We hear Molina’s voice, rapturously describing the star of his movie. “She’s not a woman like all the others,” he utters, along with the assertion that she is waiting for a “real man” like none she has ever met before. A circular camera pan slowly reveals the setting; we see the prison bars, a clothesline with feminine garments, pictures of glamorous movie stars on the wall, and finally Molina – wrapping a towel around his head to suggest a turban. He is dressed in a kimono, his feet, lady-like, step gracefully across the floor as he mimes the heroine stepping into her bath. Molina is exotic and sensual, and completely out of place in the grim prison setting.

The film version is, in many ways, more accessible than the original novel. The film is more tightly constructed because Molina tells the stories of several different movies in the book, beginning with Val Lewton’s classic 1942 Cat People. Only one of these films was emphasized in the movie and that was the Nazi film, whose central theme of betrayal mirrors Molina and Valentin’s situation, making Spider Woman a model of effective film adaptation. It’s easy to lose interest in Molina’s long monologues when reading the book; in the film his monologues come to life when illustrated by those campy clips.

Hector Babenco agonized all through rehearsals over how William Hurt would ever find the gay character in himself. To help Hurt tackle the part, and because author Manuel Puig was not available, Babenco put him with Patricio Bisso, who was set to play the small role of Molina’s friend Greta and design the film’s costumes. Bisso is gay, had been in jail himself, and was close to his mother, like Molina in many ways. Hurt toured Sao Paulo with him, often visiting gay cinemas, looking for clues to the character. Bisso got fed up translating the films for him and started making up the stories instead. Bisso later said Hurt used him as a “sacrificial lamb” for his process, playing cat and mouse games with him to get a sense of how Molina would react in similar circumstances. During one such session, Hurt took Bisso to a nice restaurant, but Bisso couldn’t eat because Hurt’s prodding and game-playing had made him cry.

Vito Russo was very critical of Kiss Of The Spider Woman in The Celluloid Closet and so were many other queer reviewers. Most of their criticisms however aren’t valid unless, like them, you refuse to see the film as anything but just another portrayal of a stereotypical screaming queen who dies in the last reel. Yes, Molina does die at the end, in much the same way as the heroine of the Nazi film, but it is all too probable that he won’t be alone and that Valentin will share the same fate. For that reason, it’s unfair to lump Spider Woman in the same category as an overblown, homophobic melodrama like Reflections In A Golden Eye. Besides, don’t most of Shakespeare’s leading men bite the dust in the last act too?

Kiss Of The Spider Woman was a radical, almost subversive, film on its first release as it explored concepts of gender roles and the question of what it ultimately means to be a man during a time when Rambo was the established norm of hyper-masculinity on the silver screen. Ponder too what it was like to watch two men kiss – not a common sight in a mainstream film during the 1980s. Kiss Of The Spider Woman broke much new ground and it still holds up today as one queer cinema’s milestones.

The movie Kiss of the Spider Woman deviates from Manuel Puig’s book in some very important ways that change the entire feel of the story.  Firstly, in the movie it is initially obvious what the setting and the characters are because the viewer can see the jail cell and see Molina and Valentin talking.  There are even scenes outside the cell and also scenes where Molina and Valentin see other prisoners.  The book takes a far more subtle approach opening with a description of a movie, but the reader does not even know what is being described.  Nothing is outright said in the book until chapter eight when the format deviates from Molina and Valentin’s dialogue to prisoner descriptions.  Knowing and understanding what is going on from the outset in the movie changes the mystery and confusion and ultimately does not allow the viewer to understand Molina and Valentin’s emotions and motivations in the same way.

Another important deviation is that in the movie version Molina only tells one film to Valentin — the Nazi propaganda one.  In the book he tells Valentin around five.  The story of political violence seemed to strike a chord with Valentin which may explain why that story was the one told, but cutting out the panther woman story negatively affected Molina’s characterization.  The panther woman, and his identification with her, helps the reader understand who Molina is and without that his character development in the movie lacked.

The cell block scenes were filmed in a prison that had been shut down. Scenes outside the prison were filmed on location in Sao Paulo.

kotsw-film-2Luis Molina: The nicest thing about feeling happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again.

[first lines] Luis Molina: She’s… well, she’s something a little strange. That’s what she noticed, that she’s not a woman like all the others. She seems all wrapped up in herself. Lost in a world she carries deep inside her.

[last lines]  Valentin Arregui: I love you so much. That’s the one thing I never said to you, because I was afraid of losing you forever.

Marta: That can never happen now. This dream is short, but this dream is happy.

Luis Molina: No matter how lonely she may be she keeps men at a distance.

Valentin Arregui: She’s probably got bad breath or something.

Valentine Arregui: You only know the reality that was stuck up your ass!

Luis Molina: Why should I think about reality in this stink hole? That’s like “Why should I get more depressed that I already am?”.

Valentine Arregui: You’re worse than I thought! Do you use these movies to jerk yourself off?

Luis Molina: [Crying] If you don’t stop, I will never speak to you again!

Valentin Arregui: Stop crying! You sound just like an old woman!

Luis Molina: [Whimpering] It’s what I am! It’s what I am!

Valentin Arregui: [Forcing Molina’s legs apart] What’s this between your legs, huh? Tell me, “lady”!

Luis Molina: It’s an accident. If I had the courage, I’d cut it off.

Valentin Arregui: You’d still be a man! A MAN! A MAN IN PRISON! JUST LIKE THE FAGGOTS THE NAZIS SHOVED IN THE OVENS!

Luis Molina: This girl’s finished.

Valentin Arregui: What girl?

Luis Molina: Me, stupid!

Valentin Arregui: Molina, you would never understand.

Luis Molina: What I understand is me offering you a bit of my lovely avocado and you throw it back in my face.

Valentin Arregui: Don’t talk like that! You’re just like a…

Luis Molina: A what? Go on, say it. [Arregui pauses]

Valentin Arregui: [to Molina] Shaddap! You damn faggot!

Valentin: ”Your life is as trivial as your movies”

Molina: ”Unless you have the keys to that door, I will escape in my own way, thank you.”

Valentin: ”I can’t afford to get spoiled.”

Molina: ”What kind of a cause is that, a cause that won’t let you eat an avocado?”-

You’re not cold taking your clothes off?

– How good you look . . .

– Ah . . .

– Molina . . .

– What?

– Nothing . . . I’m not hurting you?

– No . . . Ow yes, that way, yes.

Secret Policeman: [to Molina] You faggot piece of shit! You fell in love with that bastard?

Valentin Arregui: [Violently separating Molina’s legs] What’s this between your legs, eh? Tell me, “lady”!

Luis Molina: It’s an accident. If I had the courage I’d cut it off.

Valentin Arregui: You’d still be a man. A MAN! A man in prison! Just like the faggots the Nazis shoved in the ovens!

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Kiss Of The Spider Woman by Manuel Puig

kotsw2

One member described the book as having four layers which all wove together: the dialogue between the two main characters; the films; the amusing sections in italics and the accompanying footnotes.

Some members had read the book before and / or had seen the film adaption. One of these members commented that, on second reading and knowing the ‘surprise’, the book doesn’t have the same impact as it had on the initial read. However another member had forgotten about the twist and was pleasantly surprised by it, despite having read the book before.

Another added that this time round they struggled with the novel and another that they were ‘conscious’ they had to finish the book whilst reading it. Yet another didn’t think they were going to reach the end of the novel and another still commented that they were engaged with the story initially, but that their engagement wore off as the story progressed.

Having seen and loved the film, but not having read the book, One member found the first half of the book hard going, but was struck by the skilful evocation of the novel, the power of its storytelling and noted its political angle. Another, who had neither read the book nor seen the film, stated that they found it difficult to perceive the novel as a film.

Two of the stylistic devices employed by the author, the inclusion of numerous explanatory footnotes and the lengthy retelling of film plots, prompted a lot of discussion; both seemed to divide the group.

Whilst one member felt that the lengthy film plots partially eclipsed the narrative of the main story, with another stating that the ‘films’ “didn’t half go on”, another, being a film lover, really enjoyed the inclusion of the film plots, especially the different things picked up from the films by Molina.

It was noted that the stories told by Molina were taken from real films and the plots were supposedly pertinent to the main narrative of the novel, however, this was not understood or appreciated in full by the group.

One member claimed to have been made really angry by the footnotes, feeling they were wasting their time by reading them and gave up. Another member quickly realised they didn’t add much to the story and didn’t bother reading them. Conversely, another member found them to be a playful literary device, that they were fun.

It was revealed part way through the discussion, to some surprise, that, whilst some of the notes were factual, others were just made up. Most of the group had trusted the footnotes and had believed them to be as factually sound as they appeared. Indeed it was felt that the content of the footnotes would have easily duped the Argentinian readers of the time, due to the predominant culture, who would have believed every word of them. One member wondered how much the author himself believed the footnotes.

A member asked whether the footnotes matched the story in some way and questioned whether the story drove the footnotes, or whether it was the other way round.

Referencing the American novelist John Foster Wallace, a member suggested Puig employed this literary trope in order to convey a number of intertwined things, without detracting from the novel itself.

As far as the overall style of the book was concerned; one member expressed their annoyance of the italicised passages, the stream of conscious narrative and the repetitive use of nouns, such as ‘the mother’ and ‘the man’.

The novel was summed up by a member who claimed that the author was trying to be too clever in the novel. Another countered that this attempt wasn’t very effective as most of the group didn’t understand it.

There was a lot of interest in the relationship between the two main characters, with one member commenting that they were really interested in the dialogue between them. Other members found the relationship touching and moving, that their care for each other, dealing with shit, willingly suggests a great deal of affection or love between the two.

It was thought that the conflict between the characters got in the way of their relationship and the emotions they felt about each other. Yet another opinion was that it easy to get caught up in the polarity of the betrayal and the love the characters had for each other, but these things are just the nature of humanity.

The reason for Molina’s incarceration was raised and it was felt that he was imprisoned on trumped up charges, as he doesn’t seem the kind to go for minors (the start/stop relationship with the waiter Molina periodically references indicates this). It was also noted that he didn’t protest his innocence throughout the novel, nor show any anger about the charge or punishment.

Valentine was considered by some to be a vessel for political change; however, Valentin’s ability to look after and to have sex with Molina was his opportunity to transcend his political stance. One member added that the ‘gay man’ of the novel is far more revolutionary than the revolutionary prisoner. Another mentioned the exchanges between the characters towards the end of the novel, noting that Valentin was exploiting the situation just as much as Molina; that the political end was more important than his own feelings towards Molina.

It was however concluded that both characters were shafted by the system. One member added that the monitoring report was sinister, yet funny, that everything was written factually as if they had no idea what was going on.

We also saw the film.

Quotations:

She has her legs crossed, her shoes are black, thick high heels, open toed, with dark-polished toenails sticking out. Her stockings glitter, that kind they turned inside out when the sheen went out of style, her legs look flushed and silky

“Your reality, isn’t restricted by this cell we live in. If you read something, if you study something, you transcend any cell you’re inside of”

“The nicest thing about feeling happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again.”
“- But you have to reason it out then and convince yourself.
– Yes, but there are reasons of the heart that reason doesn’t encompass.”
“–And the good thing about feeling happy, you know, Valentin? …It’s that you think it’s forever, that one’s never ever going to feel unhappy again.”
“- And what’s so bad about being soft like a woman? Why is it men or whoever, some poor bastard, some queen, can’t be sensitive too, if he’s got a mind to?

– But if men acted like women there wouldn’t be anymore torturers.”
“Say it, like a woman, that’s what you were going to say”

kotsw“I think that I have to know more about you, that’s what, in order to understand you better. If we’re going to be in this cell together like this, we ought to understand one another better, and I know very little about people with your type of inclination”

“Valentin, I’m telling you. I don’t want to hear a word of it. Not where they are, not who they are, nothing!”

“Marta, how much I wish it with all my heart, let’s hope that he may have died happily”

“the only one who knows for sure is him, if he was sad or happy to die that way, sacrificing himself for a just cause, because he’s the only one who will ever have known”

Yes, and I don’t care if you laugh…..it makes people laugh to say it, but what’s got to happen more than anything…is change in the world.”

. and I fought, from the moment I possessed a little understanding of things . . . fought against the exploitation of my fellow man . . . And I’ve always cursed all religions, because they simply confuse people and prevent them from fighting for any kind of equality . . . but now I find myself thirsting for some kind of justice . . . divine justice. I’m asking that there be a God . . . Write it with a capital G, Molina, please . . .

. . . a God who sees me, and helps me, because I want to be able, someday, to walk down streets again, and I want that day to come soon, and I don’t want to die.

kotsw3Valentin on embroidering

“If you can embroider, why can’t I too?”

Molina on the cold/prison

“The cold wakes her up. Just like us”

Valentin’s Marxist-feminist view on Irena’s mother

“I see her as impeccably attired…she has that…little touch of coquetishness”

Molina on escapism/forgetting about the cell

“until you brought this up I was feeling fabulous, I’d forgotten about this filthy cell”

Molina’s post-modernist awareness on fiction/cliff-hangers

“you have to do it that way with the public otherwise they’re not satisfied. On the radio they always used to do that to you. And now on the TV soaps”

Valentin’s dedication to the political struggle

“there’s no way I can live for the moment, because my life is dedicated to the political struggle”

Molina on feminimity

“and what’s so bad about being soft like a woman?”

Warden’s enquiry about Valentin

“Have we softened him up a little?”

Valentin finally softening up a little

“I want you to…give me…some word of comfort”

Molina on the two roles switching in love-making scene

“Or like I wasn’t me anymore. As if now…I were you”

Molina on ebroidering

“well, to some extent I have to embroider a little”

Molina’s femininity in reference to he and his friends

“…queens…”

Valentin’s masculinity

“Don’t call me Valentina, I’m no woman”

Molina’s highly romanticized description

“he caressed the lettuce leaves, and the tomatoes, but nothing softly about it- how can I put it? They were such powerful moment, and so elegant and soft, and masculine at the same time”

Valentin on Molina as the spider woman

“You, you’re the spider woman that traps men in her web”

Police document on Molina

“Of the wounded, Molina expired”

Valentin’s final thoughts

“This dream is short but this dream is happy”

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The Confessions of AUBREY BEARDSLEY: A Novel by DONALD S. OLSON

tcab2(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

How self-indulgent. If I was his priest I’d insist ion a maximum of one side of A4.

I liked the idea hat he took up drawing as it was subversive his aunt’s puritanism.

But did they have polytechnics in those days?

Quotations:

Mother is merciless. ‘You gave up a headmistress-ship at the Polytechnic ?????

…was our time for fanciful reverie; finally we would see the red-tiled spire of our beloved church high on the hill, and sometimes would even run there.

Yes, there was something slightly illicit about the Annunciation, which of course only added to its charm. Though it was very High Anglican, it reverberated with that quite peculiar and almost aristocratic sympathy one associates with English Roman Catholics.

One felt almost an outlaw going there — an impression heightened by the situation of the church: it was built into a road of small brick and flint houses, and one entered directly from the street, without the hallowing prelude of a porch. The noticeboard outside had for me the glamour of a theatre bill; it listed all the mysterious ceremonies that took place within — nones, compline, confessions.

A sense of renegade superiority reigned within. The church was not old, but the steady chant of an ancient liturgy made it seem so. Architecturally it was eccentric, with a heavy wooden roof like an inverted ship’s hull, and exposed beams and plastered walls that betrayed affinities with the Aesthetic Movement of the sixties and seventies. We loved it, I’m sure, for its beauty — or what we saw as beauty then. The Pre-Raphaelites had left the artistic stamp of their respectability in the east window, where a dusky blue panel of the Annunciation by Rossetti was flanked by a couple of Burne-Jones designs executed by William Morris. I would direct my gaze towards those panels with their lead outlines and stare until I seemed to merge myself with them. Father Chapman considered the windows as ‘necessary luxuries’, splendid examples of Art serving the greater glory of God.

Father George Chapman, now deceased, was the Annunciation’s priest-in-charge, and there was some quality in him that drew people to the confessional like bees to honey. He was a tall gaunt man, who looked as though he were being consumed by his own spiritual fervour; his pale eyes had the feverish sparkle of a confirmed  …, and one believed him to be party to those secrets whispered only between the dying man and his God.

Mabel and I longed to go to confession. It was too tantalizing, the sight of all those people entering a mysterious cupboard where the sins of the world were whispered, revealed and absolved. I’d watch, fascinated, as the sweetest-looking people in Brighton made their way to that dark closet of repentance. What had they done that was wrong? Why did they feel compelled to confess? I wonder if there may not be something in the determinedly bluff and unemotional English character that secretly craves the luxurious darkness of a confessional, and the voluptuous comfort that comes from admitting guilt and casting off an accumulated load of sin.

You may not have known, Father, that Brighton was the home of the Catholic Revival in England. Yes, in churches throughout the town the oath of Royal Supremacy was being questioned and gorgeous Eucharistic vestments flaunted. The more daring churches even adopted the Eastward Position. Low churches, such as Aunt Pitt attended, were appalled, indignant and intolerant of anything that even suggested that Scarlet Whore, Rome, with all her pomp and finery. The converts to Catholicism were called perverts. Fierce words and fulminations on the subject of Popery were hurled from many a pulpit. But there in the Annunciation we would sit, Mabel and I, for hours on end, morning and evening, intoxicated by the solemn mystical odour of frankincense, the chanted refrains of ancient Latin texts, the intricate rituals of the Mass, and Father Chapman himself, who was publicly dying.

Aunt Pitt, as I have already mentioned, did not permit reading unless it was edifying or instructional. Novels and poetry were incomprehensible to her; for us, they were life, and we were aghast to think that from now on we would be without them. Of course, she was perfectly furious when she discovered that I was hiding a novel that Father Chapman had given me to read, and I had a lot to do to convince her of the story’s elevated moral tone

tcoabthat area between the Strand and Regent sing Soho, St James’s and Whitehall, that most at of our dear British Empire, was in fact nothing more than a walking whorehouse. Men, women, children: everyone was openly for sale.

The strange thing about it was not that it existed, but that it was never. talked about, never written about, and never shown in modern pictures. It did not conform to the Official Version of English Life as seen on the walls of the Royal Academy, and so it was ignored as the material of art. Yet there it was, not so far from the sacred portals of the RA itself: filthy, glamorous, lewd, pestilential, flea-bitten, pox-ridden, utterly criminal; an unseen obscene London that set my pulse hammering and my cock throbbing in nervous sympathetic excitement.

Those teeming London pavements, filled with their sweet, stink­ing, garish assortment of human characters, all going about the business of making money and spending it — all of us living in what Shelley called ‘the dream of life’! Those filthy streets, churned to mud by the incessant crush of omnibuses, drays, cabriolets, broughams, landaus, hansom cabs, fire wagons, funeral carriages; whose crossings were swept by wretched ragged children; whose edges were so variously crowded with men wearing shiny top-hats and costermongers hawking their wares; with rich elegant women unable to dress themselves without a servant’s help sweeping past shivering penniless flower-girls; where clergymen encased in starch and broadcloth rubbed shoulders with ruffians wearing moleskin waistcoats! How I loved the stew of London!

My eyes would meet other eyes — those of a smiling child-minx, no more than ten, yet powdered and rouged like a seasoned whore

— ‘Wanting a bit of company, sir?’; those of a drunken gap-toothed harridan, whispering that she’d lift her skirts in a nearby alley for a glass of gin; those of a half-starved seamstress, whose feverish orbs hopelessly cried out, ‘Save me!’; those of a clever unscrupulous maid, searching restlessly for a male conspirator.

I looked, but never bought, storing up memories to fuel my nocturnal cock-chafings. Yes, there in Pimlico, too, urged on by my friend the Fever, surrounded by my family, I continued my copious outpouring of seed; visions of whores and pretty girls from the halls danced in my head as I pounded my insatiable organ to the spurting froth of its inevitable conclusion.

We chose St Barnabas as our church in Pimlico, not because of its convenience, but because it was the most ritualistic and fashion­able Anglo-Catholic church in the metropolis. St Barnabas, where the ethereal tones of ancient Gregorian chants were heard through a fragrant cloud of incense, provided Mother with a tie to Brighton in the person of the Reverend Alfred Gurney, a former curate at one of her favourite churches there.

I suspect Mother was a little bit in love with Alfred Gurney, the vicar of St Barnabas, but who could blame her? He had a long cleft beard, tender blue eyes, and was immensely rich. He was a man of strong and sudden contrasts, a scholar in church ritual who wore riding breeches under his cassock so that he could take a quick canter in the park whenever the mood struck. He was a spiritualist, an occasional poet, a collector of drawings, and a music-lover who could describe a Wagner concert conducted by Richter with the kind of enthusiastic passion that women found irresistible. He also had the great grace to include us — Mother, Mabel and me — as guests at his sumptuous Sunday luncheon-parties. The Reverend Alfred Gurney’s luncheons were far more inspiring, I must say, than his sermons.

These feasts were held in the Clergy House next door to the church after the late service, and provided us with our first entree into London society. The other guests, all relatives or artistic friends of Mr Gurney, might include his brother Willie, his sister-in-law, his niece, the textile Halifaxes, the Reverend Gerald Sampson and his younger brother Julian, an art dilettante. Since these were all potential patrons, I began to carry with me a portfolio of my latest drawings.

One afternoon the talk at the luncheon-table turned to Rossetti, a collection of whose drawings Mr Gurney owned and proudly displayed on his walls. In years gone by, the Reverend had come to know the Pre-Raphaelite artist and his poetic sister; and that afternoon he began to tell us stories of Rossetti’s last hours — how Rossetti’s lifelong fear of being alone, for instance, was exacerbated in his final illness to the point where he would keep a friend with HIm all through the night, begging him not to leave until dawn, when finally he would be able to sleep; and how even in his last days, unable to rise from his couch, he would feebly stretch out his brush and touch a canvas with it. The luncheon guests reverentially murmured ‘How beautiful!’ to every anecdote, but my secret response was quite different. None of it sounded the least bit beautiful to me; awful, rather, pathetic and terrifying. Where healthy people get the idea that death is beautiful and ennobling, I shall never know.

Afterwards Julian Sampson sidled up to me and asked if I would show him the contents of my portfolio. ‘With pleasure,’ I said, and we found a spot some way off from the others.

Recently I heard rumours that Julian Sampson has fallen prey to one of the many devilish cults that seem to be springing up, as the century wanes, like fetid fungi on the trunk of a decaying tree; even then, eight years ago, he evinced a fascinated interest in a sub rosa world that one could only whisper about at Gurneyesque luncheon-parties. A middle-sized man of great elegance, Julian would have been remarkably good-looking were it not for the slightly degenerate Hanoverian cast to his features. The pampered son of a rich colonel and the grandson of the Comte de Meric de St-Martin, his life had been dedicated to useless pleasures of all sorts. He had studied art, and occasionally wrote on the subject, so I was honoured when he directed his gaze at my drawings.

Thanks to Mr Gurney’s collection of Rossettis, my drawings at that time showed signs of incipient Pre-Raphaelitism, and were mostly concerned with beatific subjects — at least, those drawings that I brought with me to the Clergy House. Other subjects, such as the courtesan Manon Lescaut, and the adulteress Emma Bovary, culled from my secret reading, never accompanied me.

`You have a clever hand,’ said Julian, as he examined my various celestial beings strumming lutes and bearing lilies. ‘I wonder . . He pursed his lips thoughtfully. ‘I wonder if you would be interested in a small commission from me — to do a drawing — but not of any heavenly creature.’ He laughed softly at some private joke. ‘Heavens, no, not heavenly — classical, rather.’

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Queens by Pickles

QPAnyone who was ‘on the scene’ in the mid 1980s will recognise these (stereo)types, like the leather queen who carries a motorcycle helmet but travels by taxi to The Colerherne, the vicar who justifies visiting gay bars as being an opportunity for pastoral work.

One of our members said: I enjoyed Queens in a voyeuristic sort of way and as an historical record of an era. My memories of living in Lambeth predate the time Pickles was writing, being the early 1970s, when my haunts and hunting ground
centred on Kings Road and Vauxhall, but also included The Salisbury in St Martins Lane where much of Queens is based. Such a Grand gay meeting place for intellectual, theatre, church, opera, suited and booted Queens in those days, as well as working class lads and 6th Formers on a day trip to London. There was a wider spread of social and economic class than you could find anywhere else in London.
Members of Parliament, priests of all denominations and lawyers chatting with  builders and soldiers (always lots of soldiers) without any judgement or malice. We were all there for the same reason and it felt safe……but with just a hint of risk.

The descriptions of behaviour and language – high camp as much as Polari – are accurate and bring back wonderful memories. There was an excitement about crossing the threshold of the Salisbury – like emerging from the back of the Wardrobe into another world.
Queens is a surface description of a very special time, after the decriminalization of homosexuality and before AIDS.  The Law had changed, but public opinion was lagging behind. We were free, but still sought the Sanctuary of safe havens (or even Heaven).This book features a diary, some descriptions and some dramatisation of dialogues.

There’s Kevin from Leeds who dislikes London- having lived in Leeds I agree with him.

It was “lambasted by the gay press for its allegedly ‘negative’ portrayal of London’s gay community”. Part of the controversy was due to the depiction of characters in the novel. Many are lonely, bored or superficial. The author’s own interviews contributed to the controversy, both for his insistence that he needn’t present an affirmative picture of gay life in London and also for his unwillingness to publicly come out.

The novel has been described as “a funny, and kind of mean, taxonomy, of gay types in London in the Thatcher years.” Instead of names, the author often refers to characters by their position in gay life: Clone, Opera Queen, Northern Queen, Leather Queen, City Queen, Rent Boy, Insidious Queen. The author also accepts the names that gay men use for each other: Doris Mavis, Gloria.

As our member, above said: The reaction against the book came from the newly politicized wing of the Gay movement – the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) who sought to paint a different public image of homosexuals.  CHE meetings were not meant to be about sex or finding a fuck; they were sometimes quite serious; a sort of WI for Puffs,   The agendas were about Campaigning and Politics, but there was also a fair smattering of exchanging knitting patterns and cooking recipes, CHE resented Pickles picture of homosexuality based 100% on sex,

Queens is an important social history; a Picture Post painting; an accurate record of a small centre of homosexual life in London at the time. In the rest of the country. there was no Salisbury and cottaging was the easiest way to meet and to pick up guys,
It does not matter that Pickles avoids any deep analysis or intellectual debate.
Enjoy it for what it is. I did.

However, not all ‘Opera queens’ are Tories – one of our former members was rabidly socialist. Mind you, he did claim that ‘Opera is the highest art form.’ (Elsewhere, the author wrote: Opera lovers are to opera what rioting football fans are to the Cup Final: an undesirable element. Almost all of them are boring to distraction, bourgeois vultures so utterly sedentary in their theatrical tastes that it is not surprising to hear their unconsidered applause acknowledging the most dreadful performances. An evening at the opera is still regarded as a special treat, something to do whether informed about it or not. Thus it is that the audience presents a bizarre conjunction of total ignorance and programmed knowledge: the young merchant bankers striving to impress some pale English virgin, as if Covent Garden were on the same circuit as Ascot and the fourth of June; old Tory crows, bejewelled as if it were an official reception or exclusive fascist function.)

It’s relentlessly ‘vinegary’, insidiously snide and I didn’t care much for ‘the plates’ – pictures.

Most of the pubs described have gone. Maybe there should be pink plaques.

Despite the many desperate people described, we get a happy ending. However, although Ben’s diaries started well we can predict that it will become depressing f his romance breaks up and he goes back on the scene.

Jonathan Black wrote: Stephen Pickles keeps on cropping up in my life. When I arrived in Oxford he was already a star. Out of all the scores of dandified young men milling around the Radcliffe Camera and the King’s Arms, trying to draw attention to themselves and to promote themselves as the new Brian Howard – model for Anthony Blanche, the flamboyant one in Brideshead Revisited – Pickles was IT. Very handsome in an Italian sort of way with a great leonine mane, he was decidedly glamorous and very famous – known always as just ‘Pickles’. His waspish witticisms were widely repeated and it was rumored that he’s already designed the sets for an opera in London. I hardly dared speak to him.

Years later we’d see each other in Soho. We shared a fascination for Soho and Fitzrovia bohemianism – Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Derek Jarman, Julian Mclaren-Ross – the model for Xavier Trapnel in Dance to the Music of Time – Dan Farson and Jeffrey and Bruce Bernard. Pickles was right at the centre of this – he had a flat above a delicatessen in Old Compton St and a regular seat at the right end of the bar in the Coach and Horses while I was the  boy from the provinces with his nose up against the window. – though I did get some kind of foothold when I became Farson’s publisher.

Pickles then published a book, a book of conversations overheard in pubs, called Queens. It showed an ear for dialogue like, say, Michael Frayn, Julian Mclaren-Ross or Alan Bennett. It’s a kind of masterpiece. (That’s a phrase Colin Wilson used of my own book. I don’t know if he meant to damn with faint praise, but that’s not what I mean – merely that Queens is unclassifiable. It’s not clear what kind of book it is at all.)

Georgia de Chamberet wrote: When I changed jobs, Pickles became my boss. He was a tough but inspirational teacher, and a perfectionist when it came to editing. ickles was divinely charming and witty — and fiercely protective of his privacy. His wickedly funny book, Queens, published in 1984 by Quartet, featured a photo of him on the cover as a wildly handsome young man. I remember a bleak period when Pickles lost friends to AIDS. Derek Jarman came to visit once or twice; he had incredibly clear, almost electric blue eyes, and was beautiful and gaunt like an effigy on a tomb. Pickles was a Soho man, and a regular at the Coach and Horses pub, immortalised in the play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

QP2 Quotations:

 Young queens have a special affection for these visits, using the loo as a convenient meeting place where they can lisp and giggle while helping their friends with cosmetic advice. It is also the centre of operations for many queens, a place to review tactics and commiserate over failures. In the queen’s world the lavatory is no mere convenience: it is almost a shrine.

Queens have become so used to standing around that the shock of a verbal approach finds them with only one idea they can articulate — sex. Queens who want to talk have something wrong with them, and it is probably that they are attempting to give casual sex a little more significance.

 OPERA QUEEN. You like Wagner! What a surprise. I thought you’d prefer disco music, actually. From your appearance, that is. Appearances can be very deceiving though, can’t they?

Have you seen The Ring?

If he asks where the bike is, I’ll say it’s at the garage, or I had a bad smash-up!

Beer guts or pigeon chests — who would want to go to bed with that? What’s the point of being gay if you’re ugly?

At other times they linger beneath fluorescent light, thinking it makes them look tanned and glamorous — especially if they are wearing white. These areas are avoided by queens with dandruff. Otherwise they would have to endure remarks like ‘Is it snowing outside?’

Barmen are the most popular queens in Heaven, and their queenery knows no bounds. Like all people in a position to serve, they can choose to oblige or not, as the mood takes them. It is this aspect of the job which they relish. The slightest offence may be taken, whether it be at your waving a twenty-pound note, or informing him that you have been waiting ten minutes and the guy he is serving has just walked in. The fact that the lucky guy is some American porn star’s double explains but does not help matters. Nostrils flaring, your public servant will either make very heavy weather of slamming down a can of Colt, or simply never look in your direction again and go about his chores. These involve emptying ashtrays and wiping down the counter, neither of which is done too frequently, unless he likes domestic order. Some barmen are trained little housewives, some are not. But if their lacking efficiency does not commend them, which is quite unlikely since they all turn into efficiency queens, their looks cannot fail. Almost all the barmen are handsome, chunky or cute. It is a prerequisite, and accounts for some of their arrogance. If you are going to trap a few individuals behind a bar knowing that everybody is going to have to look at them at least once in a night, it shows impeccable taste and good business sense to employ attractive men and boys. Given the amount of attention they receive, it is hardly surprising that it goes to their heads, along with the power they wield. Most of them would gladly wear T-shirts bearing the slogan: ‘If I’m not perfect, throw me away’ — some with more justification than others.

I wish Sam or somebody would turn up. Heaven’s such hell when there’s no one to talk to.

KATE. They’re foreigners, from America. Here to see the sights.
BLANCHE. Well, they haven’t seen me yet, dear.

KATE. I said the sights, love. Not the ruins!

But I just couldn’t have done it! So we got up quite early, because he had to do some work, and went out for breakfast to a cafe in Soho. I must say I don’t like them cwasson things. French rubbish. There’s nowt like jam on toast, is there?!! It was full of trendy types, right stuck up. I can live without all that at nine in the morning!

GEOFFREY. Oh! That fairy thing — Undine, wasn’t it?

OPERA QUEEN. ‘Undone’, more like. Appalling! All those old bags rolling about on Bakofoil, with bits of tinsel in their wigs, trying to be water-nymphs! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!.

GEOFFREY. Wasn’t the hero called Hildebrand, or something? I can remember the bit where she goes to the wedding.

OPERA QUEEN. It was a few tatty banners and shields, wasn’t it?

GEOFFREY. And he turns into ice — do you remember? That heap of see-through plastic was thrown over him when the lights went out, and when they came on we were supposed to know he’d turned into ice! Talk about tat!

They have a shop in the West End, but keep a lot of stuff at home. So it’s a bit like a shop, really. At the weekends they toddle off to their country cottage — well, not cottage, but converted church or something. Very House and Garden, dear!

GEOFFREY. I’ve never liked antique dealers. There’s something vulgar about them, isn’t there? And they always think they’re a cut above everybody else. They’re only shopkeepers, when all’s said and done!

It all looks so bleak when the lights go up, and everybody ages about twenty years!

THOMAS. Good evening!

CHRISTOPHER. Hello!

THOMAS. May I join you? You look rather alone, and out of place here.

CHRISTOPHER. I was just finishing my drink. I wouldn’t say you had a great deal in common with the clientele. It’s not exactly a synod, is it?

THOMAS. Ah! Now there you’d be correct. You’re obviously an educated sort of man. A teacher? Or perhaps a journalist, I’d say!

CHRISTOPHER. Quite close, really. And yourself?

THOMAS. The church!

CHRISTOPHER. Really?

THOMAS. You sound surprised. I suppose it is rather odd, meeting a cleric in here, but I duck in occasionally for a G and T.

CHRISTOPHER. You’ve been here before, then?

THOMAS. Heavens, yes! It’s one of my little haunts, after choir practice, you see!

CHRISTOPHER. I see!

THOMAS. Do you sing? You look very musical, I don’t know why — but you do.

CHRISTOPHER. At university I did.

THOMAS. Ah! A choral scholar, eh? Cambridge, or Oxford? I’d say Cam!

CHRISTOPHER. Right.

THOMAS. And King’s, was it? The school for spies!

CHRISTOPHER. I’m afraid so. Although it’s quite some time ago now.

THOMAS. Well, well! You are in a different world, here. I know it’s naughty, but I can’t help thinking you’re a happily married man. Am I right?

CHRISTOPHER. Well — yes, as a matter of fact I am.

THOMAS. I get a little forward after two of these, I’m afraid. So you’ll have to forgive me. I wonder what brings you here, then. Eh?

CHRISTOPHER. I already told you — I was having a drink before dinner.

THOMAS. Ah, yes! So am I. But we both know what sort of person comes here, don’t we? I mean, the sort of person you are perhaps struggling against becoming. Forgive my being so presumptuous, dear chap.

CHRISTOPHER. I’m not sure it’s any of your business, actually.

THOMAS. Come, come. We can be friends, can’t we? I went to Durham, actually. I suppose that’s a touch redbrick for you, but if you count the Venerable Bede, I think we go quite far back. One doesn’t often find someone in here one can make conversation with. Have the boys left, do you know?

CHRISTOPHER. The boys?

THOMAS. Oh, you won’t have missed them if they were here. And they always are. Rather an effeminate lot, and always talking dirty and swearing too much. But actually they’re quite amusing. They call me Mother Teresa!

CHRISTOPHER. I see. Well, actually, some young men answering to that description have just left.

THOMAS. What a pity! Never mind, though. You’re here. My name’s Thomas. And yours?

CHRISTOPHER. Christopher.

THOMAS. Like the saint! A charming name. I can just see you wading through water! That’s a very elegant tweed suit, Christopher. Rather posh for this place. What do you make of the gay boys, then? Very sweet, some of them, don’t you think?

CHRISTOPHER. I think they’re rather a miserable lot. I was just thinking what a profound waste of time, actually.

THOMAS. And I came and rescued you from disillusionment. The good Samaritan!

CHRISTOPHER. I wouldn’t say it was an act of rescue.

THOMAS. Well, pity perhaps. I know how hard it is, you see. When you’re not on the scene, I mean. This is what they call the ‘scene’, you know.

CHRISTOPHER. I didn’t.

THOMAS. Well, it is, Christopher. This is a way of life for most of the people here. Every night, most of them. It’s a little overwhelming the first time, isn’t it? I remember how I felt ­lonely and out of place. Then someone came up and spoke, and it was like unlocking a grand piano — Chekhov, you know. And now I’m speaking to you.

CHRISTOPHER. Actually, I don’t feel at all like a grand piano ­locked or otherwise. I feel mildly sick, if you really want to know.

THOMAS. Understandable. I understand, Christopher. You mustn’t worry about it, dear chap. It must be very hard, leading a secret life. Do you suffer from feelings of guilt and anguish? That’s very common among people of our kind, you know. It takes such courage to break out, doesn’t it. To find the places to go, and dare to walk through the awesome portals, in search of unnatural love. Oh, I know what it’s like, Christopher!

CHRISTOPHER. I’m not sure that you do. I mean, you appear to be quite a celebrity here — Mother Teresa, and all that! You’re not exactly an outsider, are you? I think it’s rather disgusting, considering what you do! It’s just the sort of seedy involvement I couldn’t bear.

THOMAS. Dear, dear! We are in a prickly mood, aren’t we? You’re just struggling to find your real voice, Christopher. I’ve seen it all before. You’re happy with your family, but you want something more — something forbidden. And I can help you. Make no mistake, dear chap — what you need is help!

CHRISTOPHER. Can you stop talking to me as if I were some kind of patient! I find it utterly ridiculous. We’ve only just met, and you’re engaging in some ludicrous in-depth analysis. I was perfectly happy standing on my own, thank you.

THOMAS. But you weren’t, now were you? What you must do is give up struggling and start to live! Let things happen, if they’re going to. Don’t resist, or you’ll be unfulfilled for the rest of your life.

CHRISTOPHER. I can’t believe it!! Do you talk to everyone in this extraordinary way? Have you tried listening to yourself? It’s appalling!

THOMAS. I’ve listened to my heart, Christopher. And I’ve taken my questions to God. And He answered. And now I am hearing what your heart is trying to tell you. And I’m trying to give some help.

CHRISTOPHER. But you’re wrong. I’m not like that — like these people. Like you! I’m just curious, that’s all. Just curious!

THOMAS. And have you wondered why, Christopher? You’re alone, like most of these people! All, all alone. And I am extending the hand of friendship. Are you going to brush it away — you, a choral scholar with an unsung song? I want you to sing, Christopher. I want us to sing together!

CHRISTOPHER. Look! — Oh, what’s the use! Perhaps you’d like a drink?

THOMAS. Another G and T would be awfully nice! And then we can talk about the organ stops at King’s. Ah! That glorious Great Swell! What majesty! We have so much in common, you and I, Christopher. We have so much to talk about. Who would have thought it possible that we might meet here, in

this den of iniquity?

CHRISTOPHER. Who indeed? It’s a pity I have to dash, but

otherwise I’ll be late for dinner. Still, I’ll get your G and T. THOMAS. It really doesn’t matter, thank you. Not if you’re going.

CHRISTOPHER. Oh, I am. I must!

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The Catholic by David Plante

TC 2

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Intensely self-conscious Daniel is drawn to Henry, with whom he has one-night stand. The orgiastic night of sweaty sex is explicitly described. Henry’s significance to Daniel exceeds his role in Daniel’s life, and Daniel painfully knows this. The stranger represents an unrealized longing for an ideal: the selflessly beautiful goal Daniel’s religion and upbringing have taught him to yearn for but for which they have provided no satisfaction. Daniel sees his self-consciousness as a burden only the thing that denies the self can make him happy.

Words, phrases, ideas are repeated rhythmically. The character isn’t revealed through action but by his thoughts.

The author’s novels examine the spiritual in a variety of contexts, but notably in the milieu of large, working-class, Catholic families of French Canadian background similar to his own. In this book, he probes passion and guilt, identity and relationship. The author is now a lapsed Roman Catholic, who was educated by Jesuits, he became guilt-ridden over both his abandonment of the faith and his homosexuality Like Daniel, too, he is obsessed at once with himself and with a fervent desire to be emancipated from that self into an alien realm: “God had made me, from my birth, want to be in another world.”

TCQuotations:

“Inside the museum, I wandered from room to room. I stopped when I came to the Attic statue of a boy’s torso. . . . I looked around to make sure I was alone in the room; I got near the statue and delicately touched its thigh, then quickly withdrew it. . . . I wanted the inaccessible body. . . . It came to me that that torso, in the warm spring light, was more naked than any body I had ever seen.”

“His body gave his talk subtlety, or whatever subtlety there was in it. That was Charlie’s secret: He was able to infuse his words with the beauty of his body, and while you listened to him, you sensed the warmth of his skin in the words which would otherwise have been dead.”

“I recognized what happened to me when I became possessed. I could hardly take in that young man, except in details: not an ear, but the lobe of an ear; not his neck and chin, but the curve of his jaw under the earlobe; not his hair, but a fine curl behind his ear. . . . What came now was that sense, that deepeningly amazed sense, of something happening to me for which you will give up everything.” Later: “I made a crazy act of faith: in the certain knowledge that our love making had no meaning, I nevertheless believed that it did.”

“He left me with a desire for faith which was impossible. . . . There was nothing I could do but ask myself where such desire came from. Where did such awareness, never to be fulfilled, come from? Why was there such a sense of promise in us, if the promise would never be kept? Why should we so want what we knew we would never get?”

“I was unsure about the differences between sexes, and could only distinguish them by the feelings they aroused in me; and I noted, as I’d noted in the presence of many women, that Roberta’s body was, to me, fixed solidly in her personality, which, being a unique personality, made her body unique, so it was as if she, as each woman, had her own sex. There was not a female sex.”

The body, which was Charlie’s body, took over my entire attention,”

“His body was a country with its own special gravity where I believed I would get everything I wanted. I was not sure what I wanted but the moment I got to that other country I knew that what I wanted would be both revealed and realized”

“Even if he had come down to save me from what we both knew was a meaningless passion, and which it should give me pleasure to see destroyed, I would not let him do it. I would turn the struggle with him into lovemaking, and I would make our lovemaking meaningful. Henry was trying to lift from me that stark image of himself. I restrained him”

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In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann’s: The Way by Swann’s Vol 1 (In Search of Lost Time 1)

ISOLTOur more cultured members raved about this but I loathed it. I suppose I was grateful, at last, to know who Proust was but it’s not for me.

I can relate to dozing then being unaware of the time and sleeping in a different room and not sure where door is

But he goes on and on about goodnight kiss from mother, cries on leaving hawthorns and remembers good summers and reckons that rain is simply a bad mood.

I had to look up simulacram = “likeness, similarity”

Swan in love with Odette gets a good description.

And what of p. 378 ‘muff danced in front of her’

P4The Narrator begins by noting, “For a long time, I went to bed early.” He comments on the way sleep seems to alter one’s surroundings, and the way Habit makes one indifferent to them. He remembers being in his room in the family’s country home in Combray, while downstairs his parents entertain their friend Charles Swann, an elegant man of Jewish origin with strong ties to society. Due to Swann’s visit, the Narrator is deprived of his mother’s goodnight kiss, but he gets her to spend the night reading to him. This memory is the only one he has of Combray, until years later the taste of a madeleine cake dipped in tea inspires a nostalgic incident of involuntary memory. He remembers having a similar snack as a child with his invalid aunt Leonie, and it leads to more memories of Combray. He describes their servant Françoise, who is uneducated but possesses an earthy wisdom and a strong sense of both duty and tradition. He meets an elegant “lady in pink” while visiting his uncle Adolphe. He develops a love of the theatre, especially the actress Berma, and his awkward Jewish friend Bloch introduces him to the works of the writer Bergotte. He learns Swann made an unsuitable marriage but has social ambitions for his beautiful daughter Gilberte. Legrandin, a snobbish friend of the family, tries to avoid introducing the boy to his well-to-do sister. The Narrator describes two routes for country walks the child and his parents often enjoyed: the way past Swann’s home (the Méséglise way), and the Guermantes way, both containing scenes of natural beauty. Taking the Méséglise way, he sees Gilberte Swann standing in her yard with a lady in white, Mme Swann, and her supposed lover: Baron de Charlus, a friend of Swann’s. Gilberte makes a gesture that the Narrator interprets as a rude dismissal. During another walk, he spies a lesbian scene involving Mlle Vinteuil, daughter of a composer, and her friend. The Guermantes way is symbolic of the Guermantes family, the nobility of the area. The Narrator is awed by the magic of their name, and is captivated when he first sees Mme de Guermantes. He discovers how appearances conceal the true nature of things, and tries writing a description of some nearby steeples. Lying in bed, he seems transported back to these places until he awakens.

Mme Verdurin is an autocratic hostess who, aided by her husband, demands total obedience from the guests in her “little clan.” One guest is Odette de Crecy, a former courtesan, who has met Swann and invites him to the group. Swann is too refined for such company, but Odette gradually intrigues him with her unusual style. A sonata by Vinteuil, which features a “little phrase,” becomes the motif for their deepening relationship. The Verdurins host M. de Forcheville; their guests include Cottard, a doctor; Brichot, an academic; Saniette, the object of scorn; and a painter, M. Biche. Swann grows jealous of Odette, who now keeps him at arm’s length, and suspects an affair between her and Forcheville, aided by the Verdurins. Swann seeks respite by attending a society concert that includes Legrandin’s sister and a young Mme de Guermantes; the “little phrase” is played and Swann realizes Odette’s love for him is gone. He tortures himself wondering about her true relationships with others, but his love for her, despite renewals, gradually diminishes. He moves on and marvels that he ever loved a woman who was not his type.

At home in Paris, the Narrator dreams of visiting Venice or the church in Balbec, a resort, but he is too unwell and instead takes walks in the Champs-Élysées, where he meets and befriends Gilberte. He holds her father, now married to Odette, in the highest esteem, and is awed by the beautiful sight of Mme Swann strolling in public. Years later, the old sights of the area are long gone, and he laments the fleeting nature of places.

P3“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”
“The thirst for something other than what we have…to bring something new, even if it is worse, some emotion, some sorrow; when our sensibility, which happiness has silenced like an idle harp, wants to resonate under some hand, even a rough one, and even if it might be broken by it.”
“Now are the woods all black,
But still the sky is blue.”
“In his younger days a man dreams of possessing the heart of the woman whom he loves; later, the feeling that he possesses the heart of a woman may be enough to make him fall in love with her.”
“The places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years.”
“One cannot change, that is to say become a different person, while continuing to acquiesce to the feelings of the person one has ceased to be.”
“Even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people.”
“Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is inexistent; but, if so, we feel that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, must be nothing either. We shall perish, but we have as hostages these divine captives who will follow and share our fate. And death in their company is somehow less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less probable. ”
“Many years have passed since that night. The wall of the staircase up which I had watched the light of his candle gradually climb was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which I imagined would last for ever, and new ones have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are hard to understand.”
“Even from the simplest, the most realistic point of view, the countries which we long for occupy, at any given moment, a far larger place in our actual life than the country in which we happen to be.”
“A little tap at the window, as though some missile had struck it, followed by a plentiful, falling sound, as light, though, as if a shower of sand were being sprinkled from a window overhead; then the fall spread, took on an order, a rhythm, became liquid, loud, drumming, musical, innumerable, universal. It was the rain”
“These dreams reminded me that, since I wished some day to become a writer, it was high time to decide what sort of books I was going to write. But as soon as I asked myself the question, and tried to discover some subject to which I could impart a philosophical significance of infinite value, my mind would stop like a clock, my consciousness would be faced with a blank, I would feel either that I was wholly devoid of talent or perhaps that some malady of the brain was hindering its development.”
“I cannot express the uneasiness caused in me by this intrusion of mystery and beauty into a room I had at last filled with myself to the point of paying no more attention to the room than to that self. The anesthetizing influence of habit having ceased, I would begin to have thoughts, and feelings, and they are such sad things.”
“Even the simple act which we describe as ‘seeing someone we know’ is, to some extent, an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen.”
“I feel that there is much to be said for the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object, and thus effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by the tree or to obtain possession of the object which forms their prison. Then they start and tremble, they call us by our name, and as soon as we have recognised them the spell is broken. Delivered by us, they have overcome death and return to share our life.

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.”
“And then, gradually, the memory of her would fade away, I had forgotten the girl of my dream.”
“in my cowardice I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice; I preferred not to see them”
P2“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.”
“He knew that the very memory of the piano falsified still further the perspective in which he saw the elements of music, that the field open to the musician is not a miserable stave of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard (still almost entirely unknown) on which, here and there only, separated by the thick darkness of its unexplored tracts, some few among the millions of keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, of serenity, which compose it, each one differing from all the rest as one universe differs from another, have been discovered by a few great artists who do us the service, when they awaken in us the emotion corresponding to the theme they have discovered, of showing us what richness, what variety lies hidden, unknown to us, in that vast, unfathomed and forbidding night of our soul which we take to be an impenetrable void.”
“For what we suppose to be our love or our jealousy is never a single, continuous and indivisible passion. It is composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, each of which is ephemeral, although by their uninterrupted multiplicity they give us the impression of continuity, the illusion of unity.”
“the comfort of reclusion, the poetry of hibernation”
“I loved her [Gilberte]; I was sorry not to have had the time and the inspiration to insult her, to hurt her, to force her to keep some memory of me. I thought her so beautiful that I should have liked to be able to retrace my steps so as to shake my fist at her and shout, “I think you’re hideous, grotesque; how I loathe you!”_”
“Facts do not find their way into the world in which our beliefs reside; they did not produce our beliefs, they do not destroy them; they may inflict on them the most constant refutations without weakening them, and an avalanche of afflictions or ailments succeeding one another without interruption in a family will not make it doubt the goodness of its God or the talent of its doctor.”
“People don’t know when they are happy. They’re never so unhappy as they think they are.”
“Sometimes in the afternoon sky the moon would pass white as a cloud, furtive, lusterless, like an actress who does not have to perform yet and who, from the audience, in street clothes, watches the other actors for a moment, making herself inconspicuous, not wanting anyone to pay attention to her.”
“In the sort of screen dappled with different states of mind which my consciousness would simultaneously unfold while I read, and which ranged from the aspirations hidden deepest within me to the completely exterior vision of the horizon which I had, at the bottom of the garden, before my eyes, what was first in me, innermost, the constantly moving handle that controlled the rest, was my belief in the philosophical richness and beauty of the book I was reading, and my desire to appropriate them for myself, whatever that book might be.”
“She poured out Swann’s tea, inquired “Lemon or cream?” and, on his answering “Cream, please,” said to him with a laugh: “A cloud!” And as he pronounced it excellent, “You see, I know just how you like it.” This tea had indeed seemed to Swann, just as it seemed to her; something precious, and love has such a need to find some justification for itself, some guarantee of duration, in pleasures which without it would have no existence and must cease with its passing.”
“Asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamberpot into a bower of aromatic perfume.”
“The novelist’s happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable by the human spirit, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which the spirit can assimilate to itself. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, while we turn over, feverishly, the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to that state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid, and of a more lasting impression than those which come to us in sleep; why, then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which, only, we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the keenest, the most intense of which would never have been revealed to us because the slow course of their development stops our perception of them.”
“People who, not being in love themselves, feel that a clever man should only be unhappy about a person who is worth his while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the comma bacillus.”
“This malady which Swann’s love had become had so proliferated, was so closely interwoven with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he hoped for after his death, was so utterly inseparable from him, that it would have been impossible to eradicate it without almost entirely destroying him; as surgeons say, his love was no longer operable.”
“Like everyone who possesses something precious in order to know what would happen if he ceased for a moment to possess it, he had detached the precious object from his mind, leaving, as he thought, everything else in the same state as when it was there. But the absence of one part from a whole is not only that, it is not simply a partial lack, it is a derangement of all the other parts, a new state which it was impossible to foresee in the old.”
“We have such numerous interests in our lives that it is not uncommon, on a single occasion, for the foundations of a happiness that does not yet exist to be laid down alongside the intensification of a grief from which we are still suffering.”
“For often I have wished to see a person again without realising that it was simply because that personal recalled to me a hedge of hawthorns in blossom, and I have been led to believe, and to make someone else believe, in a renewal of affection, by what was no more than an inclination to travel.”
“Fall in love with a dog’s bum,
And thou’ll think it pretty as a plum.”
“And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.”
“I have friends wherever there are companies of trees, wounded but not vanquished, which huddle together with touching obstinancy to implore an inclement and pitiless sky.”
“Most of the supposed expressions of our feelings merely relieve us of them by drawing them out of us in an indistinct form that does not teach us to know them.”
“The reality that I had known no longer existed. The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.”
“None of us constitutes a material whole, identical for everyone, which a person has only to go look up as though we were a book of specifications or a last testament; our social personality is a creation of the minds of others. Even the very simple act that we call “seeing a person we know” is in part an intellectual one. We fill the physical appearance of the individual we see with all the notions we have about him, and of the total picture that we form for ourselves, these notions certainly occupy the greater part.”
“You know Balbec so well – do you have friends in the area?’
I have friends wherever there are companies of trees, wounded but not vanquished, which huddle together with touching obstinacy to implore an inclement and pitiless sky.’
That is not what I meant,’ interrupted my father, as obstinate as the trees and as pitiless as the sky.”
“At that time, he was satisfying a sensual curiosity by experiencing the pleasures of people who live for love. He had believed he could stop there, that he would not be obliged to learn their sorrows; how small a thing her charm was for him now compared with the astounding terror that extended out from it like a murky halo, the immense anguish of not knowing at every moment what she had been doing, of not possessing her everywhere and always!”
“Sometimes, as Eve was born from one of Adam’s ribs, a woman was born during my sleep from a cramped position of my thigh. Formed from the pleasure I was on the point of enjoying, she, I imagined, was the one offering it to me. My body, which felt in hers my own warmth, would try to find itself inside her, I would wake up. The rest of humanity seemed very remote compared to this woman I had left scarcely a few moments before; my cheek was still warm from her kiss, my body aching from the weight of hers. If, as sometimes happens, she had the features of a woman I had known in life, I would devote myself entirely to this end: to finding her again, like those who go off on a journey to see a longed-for city with their own eyes and imagine that one can enjoy in reality the charm of a dream. Little by little, the memory of her would fade, I had forgotten the girl of my dream.”
“This was not to say, however, that she did not long, at times, for some greater change, that she did not experience some of those exceptional moments when one thirsts for something other than what is, and when those who, through lack of energy or imagination, are unable to generate any motive power in themselves, cry out, as the clock strikes or the postman knocks, for something new, even if it is worse, some emotion, some sorrow; when the heartstrings, which contentment has silenced, like a harp laid by, yearn to be plucked and sounded again by some hand, however rough, even if it should break them; when the will, which has with such difficulty won the right to indulge without let or hindrance in its own desires and woes, would gladly fling the reins into the hands of imperious circumstance, however cruel.”
“I would be astonished to find myself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for the eyes, and even more, perhaps, for my mind, to which it appeared incomprehensible, without a cause, a matter dark indeed.”
“Whether it is because the faith which creates has ceased to exist in me, or because reality takes shape in the memory alone, the flowers that people show me nowadays for the first time never seem to me to be true flowers.”
“When he talked, there was a sort of mushy sound to his pronunciation that was charming because one sensed that it betrayed not so much an impediment in his speech as a quality of his soul, a sort of vestige of early childhood innocence that he had never lost. Each consonant he could not pronounce appeared to be another instance of a hardness of which he was incapable.”
“To know a thing does not always enable us to prevent it, but at least the things we know we do hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our minds, where we can dispose of them as we choose, and this gives us the illusion of a sort of power over them.”
“This torture inflicted on her by my great-aunt, the sight of my grandmother’s vain entreaties, of her feeble attempts, doomed in advance, to remove the liqueur-glass from my grandfather’s hands — all these were things of the sort to which, in later years, one can grow so accustomed as to smile at them and to take the persecutor’s side resolutely and cheerfully enough to persuade oneself that it is not really persecution; but in those days they filled me with such horror that I longed to strike my great-aunt. And yet, as soon as I heard her “Bathilde! Come in and stop your husband drinking brandy,” in my cowardice I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them.”
P1“Maybe it is nothingness that is real and our entire dream is nonexistent, but in that case we feel that these phrases of music, and these notions that exist in relation to our dream, must also be nothing. We will perish, but we have for hostages these divine captives who will follow us and share our fate. And death in their company is less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps less probable.”
“When a belief vanishes, there survives it — more and more vigorously so as to cloak the absence of the power, now lost to us, of imparting reality to new things — a fetishistic attachment to the old things which it did once animate, as if it was in them and not in ourselves that the divine spark resided, and as if our present incredulity had a contingent cause — the death of the gods.”
“Ah, in those earliest days of love how naturally the kisses spring into life! So closely, in their profusion, do they crowd together that lovers would find it as hard to count the kisses exchanged in an hour as to count the flowers in a meadow in May.”
“I dined with Legrandin on the terrace of his house by moonlight. “There is a charming quality, is there not,” he said to me, “in this silence; for hearts that are wounded, as mine is, a novelist whom you will read in time to come asserts that there is no remedy but silence and shadow. And you see this, my boy, there comes in all our lives a time, towards which you still have far to go, when the weary eyes can endure but one kind of light, the light which a fine evening like this prepares for us in the stillroom for darkness, when the ears can listen to no music save what the moonlight breathes through the flute of silence.”
“The air of those rooms was saturated with the fine bouquet of a silence so nourishing, so succulent, that I never went into them without a sort of greedy anticipation, particularly on those first mornings, chilly still, of the Easter holidays, when I could taste it more fully because I had only just arrived in Combray[…]”
“Among all the methods by which love is brought into being, among all the agents which disseminate that blessed bane, there are few so efficacious as the great gust of agitation which, now and then, sweeps over the human spirit. For then the creature in whose company we are seeking amusement at the moment, her lot is cast, her fate and ours decided, that is the creature whom we shall henceforward love. It is not necessary that she should have pleased us, up till then, any more, or even as much as others. All that is necessary is that our taste for her should become exclusive. And that condition is fulfilled so soon as – in the moment when she has failed to meet us – for the pleasure which we were on the point of enjoying in her charming company is abruptly substituted an anxious torturing desire, whose object is the creature herself, an irrational, absurd desire, which the laws of civilised society make it impossible to satisfy and difficult to assuage – the insensate, agonising desire to possess her.”
“This was many years ago. The staircase wall on which I saw the rising glimmer of his candle has long since ceased to exist. In me, too, many things have been destroyed that I thought were bound to last forever and new ones have formed that have given birth to new sorrows and joys which I could not have foreseen then, just as the old ones have been difficult for me to understand. It was a very long time ago, too, that my father ceased to be able to say to Mama, “Go with the boy.” The possibility of such hours will never be reborn for me.”
“Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them. For it always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in an unsuccessful attempt to discover where I was, everything would be moving round me through the darkness: things, places, years. My body, still too heavy with sleep to move, would make an effort to construe the form which its tiredness took as an orientation of its various members, so as to induce from that where the wall lay and the furniture stood, to piece together and to give a name to the house in which it must be living. Its memory, the composite memory of its ribs, knees, and shoulder-blades offered it a whole series of rooms in which it had at one time or another slept; while the unseen walls kept changing, adapting themselves to the shape of each successive room that it remembered, whirling madly through the darkness. And even before my brain, lingering in consideration of when things had happened and of what they had looked like, had collected sufficient impressions to enable it to identify the room, it, my body, would recall from each room in succession what the bed was like, where the doors were, how daylight came in at the windows, whether there was a passage outside, what I had had in my mind when I went to sleep, and had found there when I awoke. The stiffened side underneath my body would, for instance, in trying to fix its position, imagine itself to be lying, face to the wall, in a big bed with a canopy; and at once I would say to myself, “Why, I must have gone to sleep after all, and Mamma never came to say good night!” for I was in the country with my grandfather, who died years ago; and my body, the side upon which I was lying, loyally preserving from the past an impression which my mind should never have forgotten, brought back before my eyes the glimmering flame of the night-light in its bowl of Bohemian glass, shaped like an urn and hung by chains from the ceiling, and the chimney-piece of Siena marble in my bedroom at Combray, in my great-aunt’s house, in those far distant days which, at the moment of waking, seemed present without being clearly denned, but would become plainer in a little while when I was properly awake.”
“And each time the cowardice that deters us from every difficult task, every important enterprise, has urged me to leave the thing alone, to drink my tea and to think merely of the worries of today and my hopes for tomorrow, which can be brooded over painlessly.”
“Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.”
“Although she failed to grasp the meaning of this speech, she did understand that it might belong to the category of ‘scoldings’ and scenes of reproach or supplication, and her familiarity with men enabled her, without paying attention to the details of what they said, to conclude that they would not makes such scenes if they were not in love, that since they were in love it was pointless to obey them, they they would be only more in love afterward.”
“It was not evil that gave her the idea of pleasure, that seemed to her attractive; it was pleasure, rather, that seemed evil.”
“Many contemporaries of Proust’s insisted that he wrote the way he spoke, although when Du côté de chez Swann appeared in print, they were startled by what they saw as the severity of the page. Where were the pauses, the inflections? There were not enough empty spaces, not enough punctuation marks. To them, the sentences seemed longer when read on the page than they did when they were spoken, in his extraordinary hoarse voice: his voice punctuated them. One friend, though surely exaggerating, reported that Proust would arrive late in the evening, wake him up, begin talking, and deliver one long sentence that did not come to an end until the middle of the night. The sentence would be full of asides, parentheses, illuminations, reconsiderations, revisions, addenda, corrections, augmentations, digressions, qualifications, erasures, deletions, and marginal notes.”
“Words present us with little pictures, clear and familiar, like those that are hung on the walls of schools to give children an example of what a workbench is, a bird, an anthill, things conceived of as similar to all others of the same sort. But names present a confused image of people–and of towns, which they accustom us to believe are individual, unique like people–an image which derives from them, from the brightness or darkness of their tone, the color with which it is painted uniformly, like one of those posters, entirely blue or entirely red, in which, because of the limitations of the process used or by a whim of the designer, not only the sky and the sea are blue or red, but the boats, the church, the people in the streets.”
“Whenever she saw in others an advantage, however trivial, which she herself lacked, she would persuade herself that it was no advantage at all, but a drawback, and would pity so as not to have to envy them.”
“Knowledge of the thing cannot impede it; but at least we have the things we discover, if not in our hands, at least in thought, and there they are at your disposal, which inspires us to the illusory hope of enjoying a kind of dominion over them.”
“This was not to say, however, that she did not long, at times, for some greater change, that she did not experience some of those exceptional moments when one thirsts for something other than what is, and when those who, through lack of energy or imagination, are unable to generate any motive power in themselves, cry out, as the clock strikes or the postman knocks, for something new, even if it worse, some emotion, some sorrow..; however cruel.”
“It is the same in life; the heart changes, and that is our worst misfortune; but we learn of it only from reading or by imagination; for in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.

“The belief that a person has a share in an unknown life to which his or her love may win us admission is, of all the prerequisites of love, the one which it values most highly and which makes it set little store by all the rest. Even those women who claim to judge a man by his looks alone, see in those looks the emanation of a special way of life. That is why they fall in love with soldiers or with firemen; the uniform makes them less particular about the face; they feel they are embracing beneath the gleaming breastplate a heart different from the rest, more gallant, more adventurous, more tender; and so it is that a young king or a crown prince may make the most gratifying conquests in the countries that he visits, and yet lack entirely that regular and classic profile which would be indispensable, I dare say, for a stockbroker.”
“Among all the modes by which love is brought into being, among all the agents which disseminate that blessed bane, there are few so efficacious as this gust of feverish agitation that sweeps over us from time to time. For then the die is cast, the person whose company we enjoy at that moment is the person we shall henceforward love. It is not even necessary for that person to have attracted us, up till then, more than or even as much as others. All that was needed was that our predilection should become exclusive. And that condition is fulfilled when — in this moment of deprivation — the quest for the pleasures we enjoyed in his or her company is suddenly replaced by an anxious, torturing need, whose object is the person alone, an absurd, irrational need which the laws of this world make it impossible to satisfy and difficult to assuage — the insensate, agonising need to possess exclusively.”
“All these my exaltation of mind has borne along with it and kept alive through the succession of the years, while all around them the paths have vanished and those who trod them, and even the memory of those who trod them, are dead. Sometimes the fragment of landscape thus transported into the present will detach itself in such isolation from all associations that it floats uncertainly in my mind like a flowering Delos, and I am unable to say from what place, from what time – perhaps, quite simply, from what dream – it comes. But it is pre-eminently as the deepest layer of my mental soil, as the firm ground on which I still stand, that I regard the Meseglise and the Guermantes ways. It is because I believed in this and in people while I walked along those paths that the things and the people they made known to me are the only ones that I still take seriously and that still bring me joy.”
“Sadists of Mlle Vinteuil’s sort are creatures so purely sentimental, so naturally virtuous, that even sensual pleasure appears to them as something bad, the prerogative of the wicked. And when they allow themselves for a moment to enjoy it they endeavour to impersonate, to identify with, the wicked, and to make their partners do likewise, in order to gain the momentary illusion of having escaped beyond the control of their own gentle and scrupulous natures into the inhuman world of pleasure.”
“… from the moment when they were in love, it was superfluous to obey them, since they would only be more in love later on.”
“Mme. de Gallardon, who could never stop herself from sacrificing her greatest social ambitions and highest hopes of someday dazzling the world to the immediate, obscure, and private pleasure of saying something disagreeable.”
“But none of the feeling which the joys or misfortunes of a real person arouse in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his understanding that, as the image was the one essential element in the complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of real people would be a decided improvement. A real person, profoundly as we may sympathise with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. The novelist’s happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable to the human soul, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which one’s soul can assimilate. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening.”
“How often have I watched, and longed to imitate when I should be free to live as I chose, a rower who had shipped his oars and lay flat on his back in the bottom of the boat, letting it drift with the current, seeing nothing but the sky gliding slowly by above him, his face aglow with a foretaste of happiness and peace!”
“Facts do not find their way into the world in which our beliefs reside – they did not produce our beliefs, there, they do not destroy them.”
“The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; they did not engender those beliefs, and they are powerless to destroy them; they can inflict on them continual blows of contradiction and disproof without weakening them; and an avalanche of miseries and maladies succeeding one another without interruption in the bosom of a family will not make it lose faith in either the clemency of its God or the capacity of its physician.”
“A little tap on the window pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as of grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal: it was the rain.”
“And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”
“After luncheon the sun, conscious that it was Saturday, would blaze an hour longer in the zenith,…”
“Perhaps she would not have thought of wickedness as a state so rare, so abnormal, so exotic, one which it was so refreshing to visit, had she been able to distinguish in herself, as in all her fellow-men and women, that indifference to the sufferings which they cause which, whatever names else be given it, is the one true, terrible and lasting form of cruelty.”
“In short, my aunt demanded that whoever came to see her must at one and the same time approve of her way of life, commiserate with her in her sufferings, and assure her of ultimate recovery.”
“The process which had begun in her – and in he a little earlier only than it must come to all of us – was the great renunciation of old age as it prepared for death, wraps itself up in its chrysalis, which may be observed at the end of lives that are at all prolonged, even in old lovers who have lived for one another, in old friends bound by the closest ties of mutual sympathy, who, after a certain year, cease to make the necessary journey or even to cross the street to see one another, cease to correspond, and know that they will communicate no more in this world.”
“My aunt must have been perfectly well aware that she would not see Swann again, that she would never leave her own house any more, but this ultimate seclusion seemed to be accepted by her with all the more readiness for the very reason which, to our minds, ought to have made it more unbearable; namely, that such a seclusion was forced upon her by the gradual and steady diminution in her strength which she was able to measure daily, which, by making every action, every movement ‘tiring’ to her if not actually painful, gave to inaction, isolation and silence the blessed, strengthening and refreshing charm of repose.”
“Bodily passion, which has been so unjustly decried, compels its victims to display every vestige that is in them of unselfishness and generosity, and so effectively that they shine resplendent in the eyes of all beholders.”
“It is the same in life: the heart changes, and that is our worst misfortune, but we learn of it only from reading or by imagination, for in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that even if we are able to distinguish successively each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.”
“But even with respect to the most insignificant things in life, none of us constitutes a material whole, identical for everyone, which a person has only to go look up as though we were a book of specifications or a last testament; our social personality is a creation of the minds of others.”
“She observed the dumb-show by which her neighbour was expressing her passion for music, but she refrained from copying it. This was not to say that, for once that she had consented to spend a few minutes in Mme. de Saint-Euverte’s house, the Princesse des Laumes would not have wished (so that the act of politeness to her hostess which she had performed by coming might, so to speak, ‘count double’) to shew herself as friendly and obliging as possible. But she had a natural horror of what she called ‘exaggerating,’ and always made a point of letting people see that she ‘simply must not’ indulge in any display of emotion that was not in keeping with the tone of the circle in which she moved, although such displays never failed to make an impression upon her, by virtue of that spirit of imitation, akin to timidity, which is developed in the most self-confident persons, by contact with an unfamiliar environment, even though it be inferior to their own. She began to ask herself whether these gesticulations might not, perhaps, be a necessary concomitant of the piece of music that was being played, a piece which, it might be, was in a different category from all the music that she had ever heard before; and whether to abstain from them was not a sign of her own inability to understand the music, and of discourtesy towards the lady of the house; with the result that, in order to express by a compromise both of her contradictory inclinations in turn, at one moment she would merely straighten her shoulder-straps or feel in her golden hair for the little balls of coral or of pink enamel, frosted with tiny diamonds, which formed its simple but effective ornament, studying, with a cold interest, her impassioned neighbour, while at another she would beat time for a few bars with her fan, but, so as not to forfeit her independence, she would beat a different time from the pianist’s.”
“But then, even in the most significant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is the same for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people. Even the simple act which we describe as “seeing someone we know” is to some extent an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the person we see with all the notions we have already formed about him, and in the total picture of him which we compose in our minds those notions have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice as if it were no more than a transparent envelope, that each time we see the face or hear the voice it us these notions which we recognise and to which we listen.”
“… the kiss, the bodily surrender which would seem natural and but moderately attractive…”
“I live so resolutely apart from physical contingencies that my senses no longer trouble to inform me of them.”
“For then I lost all sense of the place in which I had gone to sleep, and when I awoke at midnight, not knowing where I was, I could not be sure at first who I was; I had only the most rudimentary sense of existence, such as may lurk and flicker in the depths of an animal’s consciousness; I was more destitute of human qualities than the cave-dweller; but then the memory, not yet of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived, and might now very possibly be, would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being, from which I could never have escaped by myself”.

 

“Then it would begin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a former existence must be to a reincarnate spirit”
“My dear,” she had said to Mamma, “I could not bring myself to give the child anything that was not well written,”
“At first he had appreciated only the material quality of the sounds which those instruments secreted. And it had been a source of keen pleasure when, below the narrow ribbon the violin part, delicate, unyielding, substantial and governing the whole, he had suddenly perceived, where it was trying to surge upwards in a flowing tide of sound, the mass of the piano-part, multiform, coherent, level, and breaking everywhere in melody like the deep blue tumult of the sea, silvered and charmed into a minor key by the moonlight. But at a given moment, without being able to distinguish any clear outline, or to give a name to what was pleasing him, suddenly enraptured, he had tried to collect, to treasure in his memory the phrase or harmony—he knew not which—that had just been played, and had opened and expanded his soul, just as the fragrance of certain roses, wafted upon the moist air of evening, has the power of dilating our nostrils.”
“In that way Vinteuil’s phrase, like some theme, say, in Tristan, which represents to us also a certain acquisition of sentiment, has espoused our mortal state, had endued a vesture of humanity that was affecting enough. Its destiny was linked, for the future, with that of the human soul, of which it was one of the special, the most distinctive ornaments. Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is without existence; but, if so, we feel that it must be that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, are nothing either. We shall perish, but we have for our hostages these divine captives who shall follow and share our fate. And death in their company is something less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less certain.”
“The name Gilberte passed close by me, evoking all the more forcibly her whom it labelled in that it did not merely refer to her, as one speaks of a man in his absence, but was directly addressed to her; it passed thus close by me, in action, so to speak, with a force that increased with the curve of its trajectory and as it drew near to its target;—carrying in its wake, I could feel, the knowledge, the impression of her to whom it was addressed that belonged not to me but to the friend who called to her, everything that, while she uttered the words, she more or less vividly reviewed, possessed in her memory, of their daily intimacy, of the visits that they paid to each other, of that unknown existence which was all the more inaccessible, all the more painful to me from being, conversely, so familiar, so tractable to this happy girl who let her message brush past me without my being able to penetrate its surface, who flung it on the air with a light-hearted cry: letting float in the atmosphere the delicious attar which that message had distilled, by touching them with precision, from certain invisible points in Mlle. Swann’s life, from the evening to come, as it would be, after dinner, at her home,—forming, on its celestial passage through the midst of the children and their nursemaids, a little cloud, exquisitely coloured, like the cloud that, curling over one of Poussin’s gardens, reflects minutely, like a cloud in the opera, teeming with chariots and horses, some apparition of the life of the gods; casting, finally, on that ragged grass, at the spot on which she stood [….]”
“Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.
May you always see a blue sky overhead, my young friend; and then, even when the time comes, which is coming now for me, when the woods are all black, when night is fast falling, you will be able to console yourself, as I am doing, by looking up to the sky.”
“To know a thing does not enable us, always, to prevent its happening, but after all the things that we know we do hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our minds, where we can dispose of them as we choose, which gives us the illusion of a sort of power to control them.”
“But she was wrong; it was what gave her away; she had not taken into account that this fragmentary detail of the truth had sharp edges which could not be made to fit in, except to those contiguous fragments of the truth from which she had arbitrarily detached it, edges which, whatever the fictitious details in which she might embed it, would continue to shew, by their overlapping angles and by the gaps which she had forgotten to fill, that its proper place was elsewhere.”
“It was like every attitude or action which reveals a man’s deep and hidden character; they bear no relation to what he has previously said, and we cannot confirm our suspicions by the culprit’s evidence, for he will admit nothing; we are reduced to the evidence of our own senses, and we ask ourselves, in the face of this detached and incoherent fragment of recollection, whether indeed our senses have not been the victims of a hallucination…”
“… that form of the instinct of self-preservation with which we guard everything that is best in ourselves…”
“… the idea that ‘Life’ contains situations more interesting and more romantic than all the romances ever written.”
“… whose inferiority proclaimed her own supremacy so loud…”
“myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between François I and Charles V”
“Then it would begin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a former existence must be to a reincarnate spirit; the subject of my book would separate itself from me, leaving me free to choose whether I would form part of it or no; and at the same time my sight would return and I would be astonished to find myself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for the eyes, and even more, perhaps, for my mind, to which it appeared incomprehensible, without a cause, a matter dark indeed.”
“… was the great and general renunciation which old age makes in preparation for death, the chrysalis stage of life, which may be observed wherever life has been unduly prolonged; even in old lovers who have lived for one another with the utmost intensity of passion, and in old friends bound by the closest ties of mental sympathy, who, after a certain year, cease to make, the necessary journey, or even to cross the street to see one another, cease to correspond, and know well that they will communicate no more in this world.”
“…the novelist has brought us to that state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied tenfold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid, and of a more lasting impression than those which comes to us in sleep;”
“Had my parents allowed me, when I read a book, to pay a visit to the region it described, I should have felt that I was making an enormous advance towards the ultimate conquest of truth. For even if we have the sensation of being always enveloped in, surrounded by our own soul, still it does not seem a fixed and immovable prison; rather do we seem to be borne away with it, and perpetually struggling to transcend it, to break out into the world, with a perpetual discouragement as we hear endlessly all around us that unvarying sound which is not an echo from without, but the resonance of a vibration from within. We try to discover in things, which become precious to us on that account, the reflection of what our soul has projected on to them; we are disillusioned when we find that they are in reality devoid of the charm which they owed, in our minds, to the association of certain ideas; sometimes we mobilise all our spiritual forces in a glittering array in order to bring our influence to bear on other human beings who, we very well know, are situated outside ourselves where we can never reach them.”
“Three-quarters of the mental ingenuity and the mendacious boasting squandered ever since the world began by people who are only cheapened thereby, have been aimed at inferiors.”
“This compulsion to an activity without respite, without variety, without result was so cruel that one day, noticing a swelling over his stomach, he felt an actual joy in the idea that he had, perhaps, a tumor that would prove fatal, that he need not concern himself with anything further, since it was this malady that was going to govern his life, to make a plaything of him, until the not-distant end. If indeed, at his period, it often happened that, though without admitting it even to himself, he longed for death, it was in order to escape not so much from the keenness of his sufferings as from the monotony of his struggle.”
“For in this way Swann was kept in the state of painful agitation which had once before been effective in making his interest blossom into love, on the night when he had failed to find Odette at the Verdurins’ and had haunted for her all evening. And he did not have (as I had, afterward, at Combray in my childhood) happy days in which to forget the sufferings that would return with the night. For his days, Swann must pass them without Odette; and as he told himself, now and then, to allow so pretty a woman to go out by herself in Paris was just as rash as to leave a case filled with jewels in the middle of the street. In this mood he would scowl furiously at the passers-by, as though they were so many pick-pockets. But their faces – a collective and formless mass – escaped the grasp of his imagination, and so failed to feed the flame of his jealousy.”
“… the objects which we admire have no absolute value in themselves…”
“… since I was still, and must for long remain, in that period of life when one has not yet separated the fact of this sensual pleasure from the various women in whose company one has tasted it, when one has not reduced it to a general idea which makes one regard them thenceforward as the variable instruments of a pleasure that is always the same. Indeed, that pleasure does not exist, isolated and formulated in the consciousness, as the ultimate object with which one seeks a woman’s company, or as the cause of the uneasiness which, in anticipation, one then feels. Hardly even does one think of oneself, but only how to escape from oneself.”
“He went farther; agonised by the reflection, at the moment when it passed by him, so near and yet so infinitely remote, that, while it was addressed to their ears, it knew them not, he would regret, almost, that it had a meaning of its own, an intrinsic and unalterable beauty, foreign to themselves, just as in the jewels given to us, or even in the letters written to us by a woman with whom we are in love, we find fault with the ‘water’ of a stone, or with the words of a sentence because they are not fashioned exclusively from the spirit of a fleeting intimacy and of a ‘lass unaparalleled.”
“What had to move – a leaf of the chestnut tree, for instance – moved.”
“And what little she allowed herself to say was said in a strained tone, in which her ingrained timidity paralysed her tendency to freedom and audacity of speech.”
“Suddenly the memory of his wife came back to him and, no doubt feeling it would be too complicated to try to understand how he could have yielded to an impulse of happiness at such a time, he confined himself, in a habitual gesture of his whenever a difficult question came to his mind, to passing his hand over his forehead, wiping his eyes and the lenses of his lorgnon. Yet he could not be consoled for the death of his wife, but, during the two years he survived her, would say to my grandfather: “It’s odd, I think of my poor wife often, but I can’t think of her for a long time.”
“And at once I fell in love with her, for if it is sometimes enough to make us love a woman that she should look on us with contempt, as I supposed Mlle Swann to have done, and that we should think that she can never be ours, sometimes, too, it is enough that she should look on us kindly, as Mme de Guermantes was doing, and that we should think of her as almost ours already.”
“And in myself, too, many things have perished which, I imagined, would last for ever, and new structures have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are difficult of comprehension.”
“A new book was not one of a number of similar objects, but was like an individual man, unmatched, and with no cause of existence beyond himself.”
“He recognised that all the period of Odette’s life which had elapsed before she first met him, a period of which he had never sought to form any picture in his mind, was not the featureless abstraction which he could vaguely see, but had consisted of so many definite, dated years, each crowded with concrete incidents. But were he to learn more of them, he feared lest her past, now colourless, fluid and supportable, might assume a tangible, an obscene form, with individual and diabolical features. And he continued to refrain from seeking a conception of it, not any longer now from laziness of mind, but from fear of suffering.”
“She [Mme des Laumes] belonged to that half of the human race in whom the curiosity the other half feels about the people it does not know is replaced by an interest in the people it does.”
“Even when she had to make some one a present of the kind called ‘useful,’ when she had to give an armchair or some table-silver or a walking-stick, she would choose ‘antiques,’ as though their long desuetude had effaced from them any semblance of utility and fitted them rather to instruct us in the lives of the men of other days than to serve the common requirements of our own.”
“… so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and of its surroundings, taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”
“What criterion ought one to adopt to judge one’s fellows? After all, there was not a single person he knew who might not, in certain circumstances, prove capable of a shameful action.”
“What I fault newspapers for is that day after day they draw our attention to insignificant things whereas only three or four times in our lives do we read a book in which there is something really essential. Since we tear the band off the newspaper so feverishly every morning, they ought to change things and put into the paper, oh, I don’t know, perhaps…Pascal’s Pensees! …and then, in a gilt-edged volume that we open only once in ten years…we would read that the Queen if Greece has gone to Cannes or that the Princesses de Leon has given a costume ball. This way the proper proportions would be established.”
“People often say that, by pointing out to a man the faults of his mistress, you succeed only in strengthening his atachment to her, because he does not believe you.”
“What most enraptured me were the asparagus.”
“Or she would look at him with a sullen expression, once again he would see before him a face worthy of figuring in Botticelli’s Life of Moses, he would place her in it, he would give her neck the necessary inclination; and when he had well and truly painted her in distemper, in the fifteenth century, on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, the idea that she had nevertheless remained here, by the piano, in the present moment, ready to be kissed and possessed, the idea of her materiality and her life would intoxicate him with such force that, his eyes distracted, his jaw tensed as though to devour her, he would swoop down upon that Botticelli virgin and begin pinching her cheeks.”
“For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say “I’m going to sleep.” And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a”
“… the serpent hissing between the lips of Envy is so huge, and so completely fills her wide-opened mouth that the muscles of her face are strained and contorted,…”
“the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle classes, that occurred in France during the Third Republic and the fin de siècle”
“His life and family circle changed considerably between 1900 and 1905. In February 1903, Proust’s brother Robert married and left the family apartment. His father died in September of the same year. Finally, and most crushingly, Proust’s beloved mother died in September 1905.”
“From that evening, Swann understood that the feeling which Odette had once had for him would never revive, that his hopes of happiness would not be realised now. And the days on which, by a lucky chance, she had once more shewn herself kind and loving to him, or if she had paid him any attention, he recorded those apparent and misleading signs of a slight movement on her part towards him with the same tender and sceptical solicitude, the desperate joy that people reveal who, when they are nursing a friend in the last days of an incurable malady, relate, as significant facts of infinite value: “Yesterday he went through his accounts himself, and actually corrected a mistake that we had made in adding them up; he ate an egg to-day and seemed quite to enjoy it, if he digests it properly we shall try him with a cutlet to-morrow,”–although they themselves know that these things are meaningless on the eve of an inevitable death.”
“A ‘real’ person, profoundly as we may sympathise with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, he remains opaque, offers a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift.”
“…guided the sentence that was drawing to an end towards that which was waiting to begin, now hastening, now slackening the pace of the syllables so as to bring them, despite their difference of quantity, into a uniform rhythm, and breathed into this quite ordinary prose a kind of life, continuous and full of feeling.”
“I would ask myself what o’clock it could be; I could hear the whistling of trains, which, now nearer and now farther off, punctuating the distance like the note of a bird in a forest, shewed me in perspective the deserted countryside through which a traveller would be hurrying towards the nearest station: the path that he followed being fixed for ever in his memory by the general excitement due to being in a strange place, to doing unusual things, to the last words of conversation, to farewells exchanged beneath an unfamiliar lamp which echoed still in his ears amid the silence of the night; and to the delightful prospect of being once again at home.”
“that profit which good things bestowed on us by teaching to seek pleasure elsewhere than in the barren satisfaction of worldly wealth.”
“…burying the bush in these little rosettes, almost too ravishing in colour, this rustic ‘pompadour’. High up on the branches, like so many of those tiny rose-trees, their pots .concealed in jackets of paper lace, whose slender stems rise in a forest from the altar of the greater festivals, a thousand buds were swelling and opening, paler in colour, but each disclosing as it burst, as at the bottom of a cup of pink marble, its blood-red stain…”
“She had been taught in her girlhood to fondle and cherish those long-necked, sinuous creatures, the phrases of Chopin, so free, so flexible, so tactile, which begin by seeking their ultimate resting-place somewhere beyond and far wide of the direction in which they started, the point which one might have expected them to reach, phrases which divert themselves in those fantastic bypaths only to return more deliberately—with a more premediated reaction, with more precision, as on a crystal bowl which, if you strike it, will ring and throb until you cry aloud in anguish—to clutch at one’s heart.”
“It was true that Odette played vilely, but often the most memorable impression of a piece of music is one that has arisen out of a jumble of wrong notes struck by unskilful fingers upon a tuneless piano.”
“The ineffable utterance of one solitary man, absent, perhaps dead (Swann did not know whether Vinteuil were still alive), breathed out above the rites of those two hierophants, sufficed to arrest the attention of three hundred minds, and made of that stage on which a soul was thus called into being one of the noblest altars on which a supernatural ceremony could be performed.”
“the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object and so effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by the tree or to obtain possession of the object which forms their prison. Then they start and tremble, they call us by our name, and as soon as we have recognized their voices the spell is broken. We have delivered them: they have overcome death and return to share our life.”
“How often is not the prospect of future happiness thus sacrificed to one’s impatient insistence upon an immediate gratification.”
“It remained dark. Outside the window, the balcony was grey. Suddenly, on its sullen stone, I did not indeed see a less negative colour, but I felt as it were an effort towards a less negative colour, the pulsation of a hesitating ray that struggled to discharge its light. A moment later the balcony was as pale and luminous as a standing water at dawn, and a thousand shadows from the iron-work of its balustrade had come to rest on it. A breath of wind dispersed them; the stone grew dark again, but, like tamed creatures, they returned; they began, imperceptibly, to grow lighter, and by one of those continuous crescendos, such as, in music, at the end of an overture, carry a single note to the extreme fortissimo, making it pass rapidly through all the intermediate stages, I saw it attain to that fixed, unalterable gold of fine days, on which the sharply cut shadows of the wrought iron of the balustrade were outlined in black like a capricious vegetation, with a fineness in the delineation of their smallest details which seemed to indicate a deliberate application, an artist’s satisfaction, and which so much relief, so velvety a bloom in the restfulness of their sombre and happy mass that in truth those large and leafy shadows which lay reflected on that lake of sunshine seemed aware that they were pledges of happiness and peace of mind.”
“Sometimes it would even happen that this precocious hour would sound two strokes more than the last; there must then have been an hour which I had not heard strike; something which had taken place had not taken place for me; the fascination of my book, a magic as potent as the deepest slumber, had stopped my enchanted ears and had obliterated the sound of that golden bell from the azure surface of the enveloping silence.”
“When, on a summer evening, the melodious sky growls like a tawny lion, and everyone is complaining of the storm, it is the memory of the Méséglise way that makes me stand alone in ecstasy, inhaling, through the noise of the falling rain, the lingering scent of invisible lilacs.”
“… I should have been struck down by the despair a young lover feels who has sworn lifelong fidelity, when a friend speaks to him of the other mistresses he will have in time to come.”
“Prosperity of wicked men runs like a torrent past, and soon is spent.”
“Like a fruit hidden among its leaves, which has grown and ripened unobserved by man, until it falls of its own accord, there came upon us one night the kitchen-maid’s confinement.”
“It was not evil that gave her the idea of pleasure, that seemed to her attractive; it was pleasure, rather, that seemed evil. And as, every time that she indulged in it, pleasure came to her attended by evil thoughts such as, ordinarily, had no place in her virtuous mind, she came at length to see in pleasure itself something diabolical, to identify it with Evil.”
“At the moment when, ordinarily, there was still an hour to be lived through before meal-time sounded, we would all know that in a few seconds we should see the endives make their precocious appearance, followed by the special favour of an omelette, an unmerited steak. The return of this asymmetrical Saturday was one of those petty occurrences, intra-mural, localised, almost civic, which, in uneventful lives and stable orders of society, create a kind of national unity, and become the favourite theme for conversation, for pleasantries, for anecdotes which can be embroidered as the narrator pleases; it would have provided a nucleus, ready-made, for a legendary cycle, if any of us had had the epic mind.”
“I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’) at transforming my humble chamber into a bower of aromatic perfume.”
“… the reigns of the kings and queens who are portrayed as kneeling with clasped hands in the windows of churches, were stained by oppression and bloodshed.”
“A real person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either.”
“He made what apology he could and hurried home, overjoyed that the satisfaction of his curiosity had preserved their love intact, and that, having feigned for so long, when in Odette’s company, a sort of indifference, he had not now, by a demonstration of jealousy, given her that proof of the excess of his own passion which, in a pair of lovers, fully and finally dispenses the recipient from the obligation to love the other enough. He never spoke to her of this misadventure, he cased even to think of it himself. But now and then his thoughts in their wandering course would come upon this memory where it lay unobserved, would startle it into life, thrust it more deeply down into his consciousness, and leave him aching with a sharp, far-rooted pain.”
“To determine not to think of it was but to think of it still, to suffer from it still.”
“We try to discover in things, which become precious to us on that account, the reflection of what our soul has projected on to them; we are disillusioned when we find that they are in reality devoid of the charm which they owed, in our minds, to the association of certain ideas.”
“… until it had acquired the strength to create in my mind a fresh example of absolute, unproductive beauty…”
“Swann could at once detect in this story one of those fragments of literal truth which liars, when taken by surprise, console themselves by introducing into the composition of the falsehood which they have to invent, thinking that it can be safely incorporated, and will lend the whole story an air of verisimilitude.”
“And at each hour it would seem to me only a few moments since the preceding hour had rung; the most recent would come and inscribe itself close to the other in the sky, and I would not be able to believe that sixty minutes were held in that little blue arc comprised between their two marks of gold. Sometimes, even, this premature hour would ring two strokes more than the last; there was therefore one that I had not heard, something had taken place that had not taken place for me.”
“… the burrowing wasp, which in order to provide a supply of fresh meat for her offspring after her own decease, calls in the science of anatomy to amplify the resources of her instinctive cruelty, and, having made a collection of weevils and spiders, proceeds with marvellous knowledge and skill to pierce the nerve-centre on which their power of locomotion (but none of their other vital functions) depends, so that the paralysed insect, beside which her egg is laid, will furnish the larva, when it is hatched, with a tamed and inoffensive quarry, incapable either of flight or of resistance, but perfectly fresh for the larder…”
“Other people are, as a rule, so immaterial to us that, when we have entrusted to any one of them the power to cause so much suffering or happiness to ourselves, that person seems at once to belong to a different universe, is surrounded with poetry, makes of our lives a vast expanse, quick with sensation, on which that person and ourselves are ever more or less in contact.”
“I have friends wherever there are clusters of trees, stricken but not defeated, which have come together with touching perseverance to offer a common supplication to an inclement sky which has no mercy upon them.”
“But she was wrong; it was what gave her away; she had not taken into account that this fragmentary detail of the truth had sharp edges which could not be made to fit in, except to those contiguous fragments of the truth from which she had arbitrarily detached it, edges which, whatever the fictitious details in which she might embed it, would continue to shew, by their overlapping angles and by the gaps which she had forgotten to fill, that its proper place was elsewhere.”
“He was one of that class of men who, apart from a scientific career in which they may well have proved brilliantly successful, have acquired an entirely different kind of culture, literary or artistic, for which their professional specialisation has no use but by which their conversation profits.”
“… there was no need for him to hasten towards the attainment of a happiness already captured and held in a safe place, which would not escape his grasp again.”
“And so too, in later years, when I began to write a book of my own, and the quality of some sentences seemed so inadequate that I could not make up my mind to go on with the undertaking. I would find the equivalent in Bergotte. But it was only then, when I read them in his pages, that I could enjoy them; when it was I myself who composed them, in my anxiety that they should exactly reproduce what I had perceived in my mind’s eye, and in my fear of their not turning out “true to life,” how could I find time to ask myself whether what I was writing was pleasing!”
“For Swann was finding in things once more, since he had fallen in love, the charm that he had found when, in his adolescence, he had fancied himself an artist; with this difference, that what charm lay in them now was conferred by Odette alone.”
“But the lies which Odette ordinarily told were less innocent, and served to prevent discoveries which might have involved her in the most terrible difficulties with one or another of her friends. And so, when she lied, smitten with fear, feeling herself to be but feebly armed for her defence, unconfident of success, she was inclined to weep from sheer exhaustion, as children weep sometimes when they have not slept. She knew, also, that her lie, as a rule, was doing a serious injury to the man to whom she was telling it, and that she might find herself at his mercy if she told it badly. Therefore she felt at once humble and culpable in his presence. And when she had to tell an insignificant, social lie its hazardous associations, and the memories which it recalled, would leave her weak with a sense of exhaustion and penitent with a consciousness of wrongdoing.”
“But what revealed to me all of a sudden the Princess’s love was a trifling incident upon which I shall not dwell here, for it forms part of quite another story, in which M. de Charlus allowed a Queen to die rather than miss an appointment with the hairdresser who was to singe his hair for the benefit of an omnibus conductor who filled him with alarm.”
“… often the fairest impression that remains in our minds of a favourite air is one which has arisen out of a jumble of wrong notes struck by unskillful fingers upon a tuneless piano.”
“(an excellent man, with whom I am sorry now that I did not converse more often, for, even if he cared nothing for the arts, he knew a great many etymologies)”
“With the wisdom of people not in love who believe a man of sense should be unhappy only over a person who is worth it; which is rather like being surprised that anyone should condescend to suffer from cholera because of so small a creature as the comma bacillus.”
“Aunt Léonie who, after the death of her husband, my Uncle Octave, no longer wished to leave, first Combray, then within Combray her house, then her bedroom, then her bed and no longer ‘came down’, always lying in an uncertain state of grief, physical debility, illness, obsession and piety.”
“One felt that in her renunciation of life she had deliberately abandoned those places in which she might at least have been able to see the man she loved, for others where he had never trod.”
“Like a swimmer who throws himself into the water in order to learn, but chooses a moment when there are not too many people to see him.”
“But when his mistress for the time being was a woman in society, or at least one whose birth was not so lowly, nor her position is so irregular that he was unable to arrange for her reception in ‘society,’ then for her sake he would return to it, but only to the particular orbit in which she moved or into which he had drawn her.”
“Anxiously he explored every one of these vaguely seen shapes, as though among the phantoms of the dead, in the realms of darkness, he had been searching for a lost Eurydice.”
“The zone of melancholy which I then entered was as distinct from the zone in which I had been bounding with joy a moment before as, in certain skies, a band of pink is separated, as though by a line invisibly ruled, from a band of green or black. You may see a bird flying across the pink; it draws near the border-line, touches it, enters and is lost upon the black.”
“I would fall asleep, and often I would be awake again for short snatches only, just long enough to hear the regular creaking of the wainscot, or to open my eyes to settle the shifting kaleidoscope of the darkness, to savour, in an instantaneous flash of perception, the sleep which lay heavy upon the furniture, the room, the whole surroundings of which I formed but an insignificant part and whose unconsciousness I should very soon return to share.”
“Sometimes he hoped that she would die, painlessly, in some accident, she who was out of doors in the streets, crossing busy thoroughfares, from morning to night. And as she always returned safe and sound, he marvelled at the strength, at the suppleness of the human body, which was able continually to hold in check, to outwit all the perils that environed it (which to Swann seemed innumerable, since his own secret desire had strewn them in her path), and so allowed its occupant, the soul, to abandon itself, day after day, and almost with impunity, to its career of mendacity, to the pursuit of pleasure.”
“… even in his most artificial creations, nature is the material upon which man has to work; certain spots will persist in remaining surrounded by the vassals of their own special sovereignty, and will raise their immemorial standards among all the ‘laid-out’ scenery of a park, just as they would have done far from any human interference, in a solitude which must everywhere return to engulf them, springing up out of the necessities of their exposed position, and superimposing itself upon the work of man’s hands.”
“… I felt that I was not penetrating to the full depth of my impression, that something more lay behind that mobility, that luminosity, something which they seemed at once to contain and to conceal.”
“But it was enough if, in my own bed, my sleep was deep and allowed my mind to relax entirely; then it would let go of the map of the place where I had fallen asleep and, when I woke in the middle of the night, since I did not know where I was, I did not even understand in the first moment who I was; all I had, in its original simplicity, was the sense of existence as it may quiver in the depths of an animal; I was more bereft than a caveman; but then the memory – not yet of the place where I was, but of several of those where I had lived and where I might have been – would come to me like help from on high to pull me out of the void from which I could not have got out on my own; I passed over centuries of civilization in one second, and the image confusedly glimpsed of oil lamps, then of wing-collar shirts, gradually recomposed my self’s original features.”
“Knowing a thing does not always mean preventing a thing, but at least the things we know, we hold, if not in our hands, at least in our minds where we can arrange them as we like, which gives us the illusion of a sort of power over them.”
“My body, still too heavy with sleep to move…”
“In his younger days a man dreams of possessing the heart of the woman he loves; later, the feeling that he possesses the heart of a woman may be enough to make him fall in love with her. And 50, at an age when it would appear – since one seeks in love before everything else a subjective pleasure – that the taste for feminine beauty must play the larger part in its procreation, love may come into being, love of the most physical order, without any foundation in desire. At this time of life a man has already been wounded more than once by the darts of love; it no longer evolves by itself, obeying its own incomprehensible and fatal laws, before his passive and astonished heart. We come to its aid; we falsify it by memory and by suggestion; recognising one of its symptoms we recall and recreate the rest.”
“Sometimes, too, just as Eve was created from a rib of Adam, so a woman would come into existence while I was sleeping, conceived from some strain in the position of my limbs.”

“She can’t have understood you: you are so utterly different from ordinary men. That’s what I liked about you when I first saw you; I felt at once that you weren’t like everybody else.”
“And if Francoise then, inspired like a poet with a flood of confused reflections upon bereavement, grief, and family memories, were to plead her inability to rebut my theories, saying: “I don’t know how to espress (sic) myself” – I would triumph over her with an ironical and brutal common sense worthy of Dr. Percepied; and if she went on: “All the same she was a geological (sic) relation; there is always the respect due to your geology (sic),” I would shrug my shoulders and say: “It is really very good of me to discuss the matter with an illiterate old woman who cannot speak her own language,” adopting, to deliver judgment on Francoise, the mean and narrow outlook of the pedant, whom those who are most contemptuous of him in the impartiality of their own minds are only too prone to copy when they are obliged to play a part upon the vulgar stage of life.”
“Oh, my poor little hawthorns,” I was assuring them through my sobs, “it isn’t you who want me to be unhappy, to force me to leave you. You, you’ve never done me any harm. So I shall always love you.” And, drying my eyes, I promised them that, when I grew up, I would never copy the foolish example of other men, but that even in Paris, on fine spring days, instead of paying calls and listening to silly talk, I would set off for the country to see the first hawthorn-trees in bloom.”
“Custom! that skillful but unhurrying manager who begins by torturing the mind for weeks on end with her provisional arrangements; whom the mind, for all that, is fortunate in discovering, for without the help of custom it would never contrive, by its own efforts, to make any room seem habitable.”
“…she judged frivolous reading to be as unhealthy as sweets and pastries…”
“The flowers which played then among the grass, the water which rippled past in the sunshine, the whole landscape which served as environment to their apparition lingers around the memory of them still with its unconscious or unheeding air;…”
“But he did not tell her, for he realised how petty it would appear to her, and how different from what she had expected, less sensational and less touching; he was afraid, too, lest, disillusioned in the matter of art, she might at the same time be disillusioned in the greater matter of love.”
“Why did you not forget your heart also? I should never have let you have that back.” …”
“The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; as it was not they that endangered those beliefs, so they are powerless to destroy them; they can aim at them continual blows of contradiction and disproof without weakening them; and an avalanche of miseries and maladies coming, one after another, without interruption into the bosom of a family, will not make it lose faith in either the clemency of its God or the capacity of its physician.”
“Swann, with that almost arrogant charity of a man of the world who, amid the dissolution of all his own moral prejudices, finds in another’s shame merely a reason for treating him with a friendly benevolence…”
“I should have been struck down by the despair a young lover feels who has sworn lifelong fidelity, when a friend speaks to him of the other mistresses he will have in time to come.”
“He had, indeed, one of those advantages which men who had lived and moved in the world enjoy over others, even men of intelligence and refinement, who have never gone into society, namely that they no longer see it transfigured by the longing or repulsion with which it fills the imagination, but regard it as quite unimportant. Their good nature, freed from all taint of snobbishness and from the fear of seeming too friendly, grown independent, in fact, has the ease, the grace of movement of a trained gymnast each of whose supple limbs will carry out precisely the movement that is required without any clumsy participation by the rest of his body.”
“An excellent but an eccentric man in whom the least little thing would, it seemed, often check the flow of his spirits and divert the current of his thoughts.”
“To such an extent does passion manifest itself in us as a temporary and distinct character, which not only takes the place of our normal character but actually obliterates the signs by which that character has hitherto been discernible.”
“When he spoke, his words came with a confusion which was delightful to hear because one felt that it indicated not so much a defect in his speech as a quality of his soul, as it were a survival from the age of innocence which he had never wholly outgrown.”
“To think that I have wasted years of my life, that I have longed for death, that the greatest love that I have ever known has been for a woman who did not please me, who was not in my style!” PLACE-NAMES:”
“Then his jealousy rejoiced at the discovery, as though that jealousy had had an independent existence, fiercely egotistical, gluttonous of every thing that would feed its vitality, even at the expense of Swann himself.”
“The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; as it was not they that engendered those beliefs, so they are powerless to destroy them.”
“His jealousy, like an octopus which throws out a first, then a second, and finally a third tentacle, fastened itself irremovably first to that moment, five o’clock in the afternoon, then to another, then to another again. But Swann was incapable of inventing his sufferings. They were only the memory, the perpetuation of a suffering that had come to him from without.”
“I should count myself most fortunate…” Swann was beginning, a trifle pompously, when the Doctor broke in derisively. Having once heard it said, and never having forgotten that in general conversation emphasis and the use of formal expressions were out of date, whenever he heard a solemn word used seriously, as the word ‘fortunate’ had been used just now by Swann, he at once assumed that the speaker was being deliberately pedantic. And if, moreover, the same word happened to occur, also, in what he called an old ‘tag’ or ‘saw,’ however common it might still be in current usage, the Doctor jumped to the conclusion that the whole thing was a joke, and interrupted with the remaining words of the quotation, which he seemed to charge the speaker with having intended to introduce at that point, although in reality it had never entered his mind.

“Most fortunate for France!” he recited wickedly, shooting up both arms with great vigour.”
“Even from the point of view of coquetry, pure and simple,” he had told her, “can’t you see how much of your attraction you throw away when you stoop to lying?”
“… she exclaimed, the innate respectability of the middle-class housewife rising impulsively to the surface through the acquired dilettantism of the ‘light woman.’
People who enjoyed ‘picking-up’ things, who admired poetry, despised sordid calculations of profit and loss, and nourished ideals of honour and love, she placed in a class by themselves, superior to the rest of humanity.”
“Our belief that a person takes part in an unknown life which his or her love would allow us to enter is, of all that love demands in order to come into being, what it prizes the most, and what makes it care little for the rest.”
“In Swann’s mind, however, these words, meeting no opposition, settled and hardened until they assumed the indestructibility of a truth so indubitable that, if some friend happened to tell him that he had come by the same train and had not seen Odette, Swann would have been convinced that it was his friend who had made a mistake as to the day or hour, since his version did not agree with the words uttered by Odette. These words had never appeared to him false except when, before hearing them, he had suspected that they were going to be. For him to believe that she was lying, and anticipatory suspicion was indispensable.”
“… he was like a man into whose life a woman, whom he has seen for a moment passing by, has brought a new form of beauty, which strengthens and enlarges his own power of perception, without his knowing even whether he is ever to see her again whom he loves already, although he knows nothing of her, not even her name.”
“He could see her, but dared not remain for fear of annoying her by seeming to be spying upon the pleasures which she tasted in other company, pleasures which – while he drove home in utter loneliness, and went to bed, as anxiously as I myself was to go to bed, some years later, on the evenings when he came to dine with us at Combray – seemed illimitable to him since he had not been able to see their end.”
“When one feels oneself smitten by love for a woman, one ought to say to oneself, “What are her surroundings? What has been her life? All one’s future happiness lies in the answer.”
“Now my uncle knew many of them [actresses] personally, and also ladies of another class, not clearly distinguished from actresses in my mind.”
“We try to discover in things, endeared to us on that account, the spiritual glamour which we ourselves have cast upon them; we are disillusioned, and learn that they are in themselves barren and devoid of the charm which they owed, in our minds, to the association of certain ideas; sometimes we mobilise all our spiritual forces in a glittering array so as to influence and subjugate other human beings who, as we very well know, are situated outside ourselves, where we can never reach them.”
“Good God! Think of listening to Wagner for a whole fortnight with a woman who takes about as much interest in music as a tone-deaf newt – that would be fun!”
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
“He had so long since ceased to direct his life toward any ideal goal, and had confined himself to the pursuit of quotidian satisfactions, that he had come to believe, though without ever formally stating his belief even to himself that he would remain all his life in that condition, which only death could alter.”
“I did not wait to hear the end of my father’s story, for I had been with him myself after mass when we had met M. Legrandin; instead, I went downstairs to the kitchen to ask about the menu for our dinner, which was of fresh interest to me daily, like the news in a paper, and excited me as might the programme of a coming festivity.”
“… the glow of a sunset more lasting, more roseate. more human – filling, perhaps, with romantic wonder the thoughts of some solitary lover, wandering in the street below and brought to a standstill before the mystery of the human presence which those lighted windows at once revealed and screened from sight…”
“… when she called to mind all this utter and crushing misery that had come upon my aunts’ old music-master, she was moved to very real grief, and shuddered to think of that other grief, so different in its bitterness, which Mlle. Vinteuil must now be feeling, tinged with remorse at having virtually killed her father.”
“I came to recognise that, apart from her [Françoise’s] own kinsfolk, the sufferings of humanity inspired in her a pity which increased in direct ratio to the distance separating the sufferers from herself.”
“… the cattleyas especially (these being, with chrysanthemums, her favourite flowers), because they had the supreme merit of not looking in the least like other flowers, but of being made, apparently, out of scraps of silk or satin.”
“But the presence of Odette continued to sow in Swann’s heart alternate seeds of love and suspicion.”
“… it was with an unusual intensity of pleasure, a pleasure destined to have a lasting effect upon his character and conduct…”
“… she had uttered these words simply in order to provoke a reply in certain other words, which she seemed, indeed, to wish to hear spoken, but, from prudence, would let her friend be the first to speak.”
“He stood gazing at her; traces of the old fresco were apparent in her face and limbs, and these he tried incessantly, afterwards, to recapture, both when he was with Odette, and when he was only thinking of her in her absence; and, albeit his admiration for the Florentine masterpiece was probably based upon his discovery that it had been reproduced in her, the similarity enhanced her beauty also, and rendered her more precious in his sight.”
“But ever since, more than a year before, discovering to him many of the riches of his own soul, the love of music had, for a time at least, been born in him, Swann had regarded musical motifs as actual ideas, of another world, of another order, ideas veiled in shadow, unknown, impenetrable to the human mind, but none the less perfectly distinct from one another, unequal among themselves in value and significance.”
“In the V-shaped opening of her crape bodice Mlle. Vinteuil felt the sting of her friend’s sudden kiss;…”
“It was not only Odette’s indifference, however, that he must take pains to circumvent; it was also, not infrequently, his own; feeling that, since Odette had had every facility for seeing him, she seemed no longer to have very much to say to him when they did meet, he was afraid lest the manner – at once trivial, monotonous, and seemingly unalterable – which she now adopted when they were together should ultimately destroy in him that romantic hope, that a day might come when she would make avowal of her passion, by which hope alone he had become and would remain her lover.”
“And the others too were beginning to remark in Swann that abnormal, excessive, shameful and deserved senescence of bachelors, of all those for whom it seems that the great day which knows no morrow must be longer than for other men, since for them it is a void of promise, and from its dawn the moments steadily accumulate without any subsequent partition among offspring.”
“But the harshness of his steely glare was compensated by the softness of his cotton gloves, so that, as he approached Swann, he seemed to be exhibiting at once an utter contempt for his person and the most tender regard for his hat.”
“… the good intentions of a third party are powerless to control a woman who is annoyed to find herself pursued even into a ball-room by a man whom she does not love. Too often, the kind friend comes down again alone.”
answered these blasphemies, that this tender and hypocritical rebuke appeared to her frank and generous nature as a particularly shameful and seductive form of that criminal attitude towards life which she was endeavouring to adopt. But she could not resist the attraction of being treated with affection by a woman who had just shewn herself so implacable towards the defenceless dead; she sprang on to the knees of her friend and held out a chaste brow to be kissed;…”
“Alas, it was in vain that I implored the dungeon-keep of Roussainville, that I begged it to send out to meet me some daughter of its village, appealing to it as to the sole confidant to whom I had disclosed my earliest desire when, from the top floor of our house at Combray, from the little room that smelt of orris-root, I had peered out and seen nothing but its tower, framed in the square of the half-opened window, while, with the heroic scruples of a traveller setting forth for unknown climes, or of a desperate wretch hesitating on the verge of self-destruction, faint with emotion, I explored, across the bounds of my own experience, an untrodden path which, I believed, might lead me to my death, even—until passion spent itself and left me shuddering among the sprays of flowering currant which, creeping in through the window, tumbled all about my body. In vain I called upon it now. In vain I compressed the whole landscape into my field of vision, draining it with an exhaustive gaze which sought to extract from it a female creature.”
“Maybe it was because of his ignorance of music that he had been capable of receiving so confused an impression, the kind of impression that is, however, perhaps the only one which is purely musical, immaterial, entirely original, irreducible to any other order of impression. An impression of this kind is, for an instant, so to speak, sine materia. No doubt the notes we hear then tend already, depending on their loudness and their quantity, to spread out before our eyes over surfaces of varying dimensions, to trace arabesques, to give us sensations of breadth, tenuousness, stability, whimsy. But the notes vanish before these sensations are sufficiently formed in us not to be submerged by those already excited by the succeeding or even simultaneous notes. And this impression would continue to envelop with its liquidity and its “mellowness” the motifs that at times emerge from it, barely discernible, immediately to dive under and disappear, known only by the particular pleasure they give, impossible to describe, to recall, to name, ineffable—if memory, like a laborer working to put down lasting foundations in the midst of the waves, by fabricating for us facsimiles of these fleeting phrases, did not allow us to compare them to those that follow them and to differentiate them. And so, scarcely had the delicious sensation which Swann had felt died away than his memory at once furnished him with a transcription that was summary and temporary but at which he could glance while the piece continued, so that already, when the same impression suddenly returned, it was no longer impossible to grasp. He could picture to himself its extent, its symmetrical groupings, its notation, its expressive value; he had before him this thing which is no longer pure music, which is drawing, architecture, thought, and which allows us to recall the music. This time he had clearly distinguished one phrase rising for a few moments above the waves of sound. It had immediately proposed to him particular sensual pleasures which he had never imagined before hearing it, which he felt could be introduced to him by nothing else, and he had experienced for it something like an unfamiliar love.”
“look you, there are only two classes of men, the magnanimous, and the rest; and I have reached an age when one has to take sides, to decide once and for all whom one is going to like and dislike, to stick to the people one likes, and, to make up for the time one has wasted with the others, never to leave them again as long as one lives.”
“but they knew, either instinctively or from their own experience, that our early impulsive emotions have but little influence over our later actions and the conduct of our lives; and that regard for moral obligations, loyalty to our friends, patience in finishing our work, obedience to a rule of life, have a surer foundation in habits solidly formed and blindly followed than in these momentary transports, ardent but sterile.”
“Before I went in to say good morning to my aunt, they made me wait for a moment, in the first room where the sun, still wintry, had come to warm itself before the fire, already lit between two bricks and coating the whole room with an odour of soot, having the same effect as one of those great rustic open hearths, or one of those mantels in country houses, beneath which one sits hoping that outdoors there will be an onset of rain, snow, even some diluvian catastrophe so as to add to the comfort of reclusion the poetry of hibernation.”
“… he would not have believed the suggestion, nor would he have been greatly distressed by the thought that people supposed her to be attached to him, that people felt them , to be united by any ties so binding as those of snobbishness or wealth. But even if he had accepted the possibility, it might not have caused him any suffering to discover that Odette’s love for him was based on a foundation more lasting than mere affection, or any attractive qualities which she might have found in him; on a sound, commercial interest; an interest which would postpone for ever the fatal day on which she might be tempted to bring their relations to an end.”
“Her [Odette’s] eyes were beautiful, but so large they seemed to droop beneath their own weight, strained the rest of her face and always made her appear unwell or in a bad mood.”

“For a man cannot change, that is to say become another person, while he continues to obey the dictates of the self which he has ceased to be.”
“Will it ultimately reach the clear surface of my consciousness, this memory, this old, dead moment which the magnetism of an identical moment has travelled so far to importune, to disturb, to raise up out of the very depths of my being? I cannot tell. Now that I feel nothing, it has stopped, has perhaps gone down again into its darkness, from which who can say whether it will ever rise?”
“And so her parents-in-law, whom she still regarded as the most eminent people in France, declared that she was an angel; all the more so because they preferred to appear, in marrying their son to her, to have yielded to the attraction rather of her natural charm than of her considerable fortune.”
“And my grandmother had bought them in preference to other books, just as she would have preferred to take a house that had a gothic dovecot, or some other such piece of antiquity as would have a pleasant effect on the mind, filling it with a nostalgic longing for impossible journeys through the realms of time.”
“… so beautiful that he could not refrain from moving his lips towards her…”
“[…] they imagine that the life they are obliged to lead is not that for which they are really fitted, and they bring to their regular occupations either a fantastic indifference or a sustained and lofty application, scornful, bitter and conscientious.”
“And, quite possibly, this lack (or seeming lack) of participation by a person’s soul in the virtue of which he or she is the agent has, apart from its aesthetic meaning, a reality which, if not strictly psychological, may at least be called psysiognomical. Since then, whenever in the course of my life I have come across, in convents for instance, truly saintly embodiments of practical charity, they have generally had the cheerful, practical, brusque and unemotioned air of a busy surgeon, the sort of face in which one can discern no commiseration, no tenderness at the sight of suffering humanity, no fear of hurting it, the impassive, unsympathetic, sublime face of true goodness.”
“Despite all the admiration M. Swann might profess for these figures of Giotto, it was a long time before I could find any pleasure in seeing in our schoolroom (where the copies he had brought me were hung) Charity devoid of charity, that Envy who looked like nothing so much as a plate in some medical book, illustrating the compression of the glottis or uvula by a tumour in the tongue, or by the introduction of the operator’s instrument, a Justice whose greyish and meanly regular features were the very same as those which adorned the faces of certain good and pious and slightly withered ladies of Combray whom I used to see at mass, many of whom had long been enrolled in the reserve forces of Injustice. But in later years I understood the arresting strangeness, the special beauty of these frescoes lay in the great part played in each of them by its symbols, while the fact that these were depicted, not as symbols (for the thought symbolized was nowhere expressed), but as real things, actually felt or materially handled, added something more precise and more literal to their meaning, something more concrete and more striking to the lesson they imparted.”
“… endowing the imperfect and the preterite with all the sweetness which there is in generosity, all the melancholy which there is in love; guided the sentence that was drawing to an end towards that which was waiting to begin, now hastening, now slackening the pace of the syllables so as to bring them, despite their difference in quantity, into a uniform rhythm, and breathed into this quite ordinary prose a kind of life, continuous and full of feeling.”
“Next to this central belief which,while I was reading, would be constantly reaching out from my inner self to the outer world, towards the discovery of truth, came the emotions aroused in me by the action in which I was taking part, for these afternoons were crammed with more dramatic events than occur, often, in a whole lifetime. These were the events taking Place in the book I was reading. It is true that the people concerned in them were not what Francoise would have called “real people.” …. it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, as we feverishly turn over the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us of their development prevents us from perceiving them. It is the same in life; the heart changes, and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality its alternation, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.”
“Sometimes, too, just as Eve was created from a rib of Adam, so a woman would come into existence while I was sleeping, conceived from some strain in the position of my limbs. Formed by the appetite that I was on the point of gratifying, she it was, I imagined, who offered me that gratification. My body, conscious that its own warmth was permeating hers, would strive to become one with her, and I would awake.”
“And this pleasure, different from every other, had in the end created in him a need of her, which she alone, by her presence or by her letters, could assuage, almost as disinterested, almost as artistic, as perverse as another need which characterised this new period in Swann’s life, where the sereness, the depression of the preceding years had been followed by a sort of spiritual superabundance, without his knowing to what he owed this unlooked-for enrichment of his life, any more than a person in delicate health who from a certain moment grows stronger, puts on flesh, and seems for a time to be on the road to a complete recovery: – this other need, which, too, developed in him independently of the visible, material world, was the need to listen to music and to learn to know it.”
“But since the facts which I should then have recalled would have been prompted only by voluntary memory, the memory of the intellect, and since the pictures which that kind of memory shows us preserve nothing of the past itself, I should never have had any wish to ponder over this residue of Combray. To me it was in reality all dead. Permanently”
“… rejoicing in a peace which brings only an increase of anxiety,…”
“And then, while she was making them some orangeade, suddenly, just as when the reflector of a lamp that is badly fitted begins by casting all round an object, on the wall beyond it, huge and fantastic shadows which, in time, contract and are lost in the shadow of the object itself, all the terrible and disturbing ideas which he had formed of Odette melted away and vanished in the charming creature who stood there before his eyes.”
“But at the age, already a little disillusioned, which Swann was approaching, at which one knows how to content oneself with being in love for the pleasure of it without requiring too much reciprocity, this closeness of two hearts, if it is no longer, as it was in one’s earliest youth, the goal toward which love necessarily tends, still remains linked to it by an association of ideas so strong that it may become the cause of love, if it occurs first. At an earlier time one dreamed of possessing the heart of the woman with whom one was in love; later, to feel that one possesses a woman’s heart may be enough to make one fall in love with her. And so, at an age when it would seem, since what one seeks most of all in love is subjective pleasure, that the enjoyment of a woman’s beauty should play the largest part in it, love may come into being—love of the most physical kind—without there having been, underlying it, any previous desire. At this time of life, one has already been wounded many times by love; it no longer evolves solely in accordance with its own unknown and inevitable laws, before our astonished and passive heart. We come to its aid, we distort it with memory, with suggestion. Recognizing one of its symptoms, we recall and revive the others. Since we know its song, engraved in us in its entirety, we do not need a woman to repeat the beginning of it—filled with the admiration that beauty inspires—in order to find out what comes after. And if she begins in the middle—where the two hearts come together, where it sings of living only for each other—we are accustomed enough to this music to join our partner right away in the passage where she is waiting for us.”
“Like many other men, Swann had a naturally lazy mind and lacked imagination. He knew perfectly well as a general truth that human life is full of contrasts, but in the case of each individual human being he imagined all that part of his or her life with which he was not familiar as being identical with the part with which he was. He imagined what was kept secret from him in the light of what was revealed.”
“M. Vinteuil…carried politeness and consideration for others to such scrupulous lengths, always putting himself in their place, that he was afraid of boring them, or of appearing egotistical, if he carried out or even allowed them to suspect what were his own desires. On the day when my parents had gone to pay him a visit, I had accompanied them, but they had allowed me to remain outside, and as M. Vinteuil’s house, Montjouvain, stood at the foot of a bushy hillock where I went to hide, I had found myself on a level with his drawing-room, upstairs, and only a few feet away from its window. When the servant came in to tell him that my parents had arrived, I had seen M. Vinteuil hurriedly place a sheet of music in a prominent position on the piano. But as soon as they entered the room he had snatched it away and put it in a corner. He was afraid, no doubt, of letting them suppose that he was glad to see them only because it gave him a chance of playing them some of his compositions. And every time that my mother, in the course of her visit, had returned to the subject he had hurriedly protested: ‘I can’t think who put that on the piano; it’s not the proper place for it at all,’ and had turned the conversation aside to other topics, precisely because they were of less interest to himself.”
“My dears, laugh at me if you like; it is not conventionally beautiful, but there is something in its quaint old face which pleases me. If it could play the piano, I am sure it would really play.”
“Presently, one after another, like shyly hopping sparrows, her friends arrived, black against the snow.”
“It was impossible for me to thank my father; what he called my sentimentality would have exasperated him.”
“… they imagine that the life they are obliged to lead is not that for which they are really fitted, and they bring to their regular occupations either a fantastic indifference or a sustained and lofty application, scornful, bitter, and conscientious.”
“An hour is not merely an hour, it is a vase filled with perfumes, with sounds, with projects, with climates. What we call reality is a relation between those sensations and those memories which simultaneously encircle us … that unique relation which the writer must discover in order that he may link two different states of being together forever in a phase.”
“The interval of space separating her from him was one which he must as inevitably traverse as he must descend, by an irresistible gravitation, the steep slope of life itself.”
“Now my uncle knew many of them personally, and also ladies of another class, not clearly distinguished from actresses in my mind. He used to entertain them at his house.”
“but then the memory—not yet of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived and might now very possibly be—would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being, from which I could never have escaped by myself:”
“The anaesthetic effect of habit being destroyed, I would begin to think – and to feel – such melancholy things.”
“High up on the branches, like so many of those tiny rose-trees, their pots concealed in jackets of paper lace, whose slender stems rise in a forest from the altar on the greater festivals, a thousand buds were swelling and opening, paler in colour, but each disclosing as it burst, as at the bottom of a cup of pink marble, its blood-red stain, and suggesting even more strongly than the full-blown flowers the special, irresistible quality of the hawthorn-tree, which, wherever it budded, wherever it was about to blossom, could bud and blossom in pink flowers alone. Taking”
“It smells all right; it makes your head go round; it catches your breath; you feel ticklish all over – and not the faintest clue how it’s done. The man’s a sorcerer; the thing’s a conjuring trick, it’s a miracle,”…”
“It has since struck me as one of the most touching aspects of the part played in life by these idle, painstaking women that they devote all their generosity, all their talent, their transferable dreams of sentimental beauty (for, like all artists, they never seek to realise the value of those dreams, or to enclose them in the four-square frame of everyday life), and their gold, which counts for little, to the fashioning of a fine and precious setting for the rubbed and scratched and ill-polished lives of men.”
“But since the facts which I should then have recalled would have been prompted only by an exercise of the will, by my intellectual memory, and since the pictures which that kind of memory shews us of the past preserve nothing of the past itself, I should never have had any wish to ponder over this residue of Combray.”
“We do not tremble except for ourselves, or for those whom we love.”
“Ah! whatever you may say, it’s good to be alive all the same, my dear Amédée!” And then, abruptly, the memory of his dead wife returned to him, and probably thinking it too complicated to inquire into how, at such a time, he could have allowed himself to be carried away by an impulse of happiness, he confined himself to a gesture which he habitually employed whenever any perplexing question came into his mind: that is, he passed his hand across his forehead, dried his eyes, and wiped his glasses.”
“Auteuil (the southern sector of Paris’s then-rustic 16th arrondissement) at the home of his great-uncle, two months after the Treaty of Frankfurt formally ended the Franco-Prussian W”
“Auteuil (the southern sector of Paris’s then-rustic 16th arrondissement) at the home of his great-uncle, two months after the Treaty of Frankfurt formally ended the Franco-Prussian War. His birth took place during the violence that surrounded the suppression of the Paris Commune”
“then we would enter what he called his “study,” a room whose walls were hung with prints which showed, against a dark background, a pink and fleshy goddess driving a chariot, or standing upon a globe, or wearing a star on her brow—pictures which were popular under the Second Empire because there was thought to be something about them that suggested Pompeii, which were then generally despised, and which are now becoming fashionable again for one single and consistent reason (notwithstanding all the others that are advanced), namely, that they suggest the Second Empire.”
“in my cowardice I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice; I preferred not to see them;”
“Achille Adrien Proust, was a famous doctor and epidemiologist, responsible for studying and attempting to remedy the causes and movements of cholera through Europe and Asia”
“Depth of character, or a melancholy expression on a woman’s face would freeze his senses, which would, however, immediately melt at the sight of healthy, abundant, rosy human flesh.”
“Proust’s life changed due to a very large inheritance he received (in today’s terms, a principal of about $6 million, with a monthly income of about $15,000).”
“And in the same way, again, are not the thoughts of men and women in the agony of death often turned towards the practical, painful, obscure, internal, intestinal aspect, towards that ‘seamy side’ of death which is, as it happens, the side that death actually presents to them and forces them to feel, a side which far more closely resembles a crushing burden, a difficulty in breathing, a destroying thirst, than the abstract idea to which we are accustomed to give the name of Death?”
“… seeking to indicate to her by the extent of his gratitude the corresponding intensity of the pleasures which it was in her power to bestow on him, the supreme pleasure being to guarantee him immunity, for as long as his love should last and he remain vulnerable, from the assaults of jealousy.”
“… Error, by force of contrast, enhances the triumph of Truth…”
“What agony he suffered as he watched that light, in whose golden atmosphere were moving, behind the closed sash, the unseen and detested pair, as he listened to that murmur which revealed the presence of the man who had crept in after his own departure, the perfidy of Odette, and the pleasures which she was at that moment tasting with the stranger.
And yet he was not sorry that he had come; the torment which had forced him to leave his own house had lost its sharpness when it lost its uncertainty, now that Odette’s other life, of which he had had, at that first moment, a sudden helpless suspicion, was definitely there, almost within his grasp, before his eyes, in the full glare of the lamp-light, caught and kept there, an unwitting prisoner, in that room into which, when he would, he might force his way to surprise and seize it; or rather he would tap upon the shutters, as he had often done when he had come there very late, and by that signal Odette would at least learn that he knew, that he had seen the light and had heard the voices; while he himself, who a moment ago had been picturing her as laughing at him, as sharing with that other the knowledge of how effectively he had been tricked, now it was he that saw them, confident and persistent in their error, tricked and trapped by none other than himself, whom they believed to be a mile away, but who was there, in person, there with a plan, there with the knowledge that he was going, in another minute, to tap upon the shutter. And, perhaps, what he felt (almost an agreeable feeling) at that moment was something more than relief at the solution of a doubt, at the soothing of a pain; was an intellectual pleasure.”
“Since we possess its hymn, engraved on our hearts in its entirety, there is no need of any woman to repeat the opening lines, potent with the admiration which her beauty inspires, for us to remember all that follows.”
“I never allow myself to be influenced in the smallest degree either by atmospheric disturbances or by the arbitrary divisions of what is known as Time.”
“… sterile, splendid torture of understanding and loving…”
“And continued to regard all their absurdities in the most rosy light through the admiring eyes of love.”
“… novels contained something inexpressibly delicious.”
“How often is not the prospect of future happiness thus sacrificed to one’s impatient insistence upon an immediate gratification, But his desire to know the truth was stronger, and seemed to him nobler than his desire for her.”
“But even with respect to the most insignificant things in life, none of us constitutes a material whole, identical for everyone, which a person has only to go look up as though we were a book of specifications or a last testament; our social personality is a creation of the minds of others. Even the very simple act that we call “seeing a person we know” is in part an intellectual one. We fill the physical appearance of the individual we see with all the notions we have about him, and of the total picture that we form for ourselves, these notions certainly occupy the greater part. In the end they swell his cheeks so perfectly, follow the line of his nose in an adherence so exact, they do so well at nuancing the sonority of his voice as though the latter were only a transparent envelope that each time we see this face and hear this voice, it is these notions that we encounter again, that we hear.”
“And often, when the cold government of reason stood unchallenged, he would readily have ceased to sacrifice so many of his intellectual and social interests to this imaginary pleasure.”
“[T]his jealousy gave him, if anything, an agreeable chill, as, to the sad Parisian who is leaving Venice behind him to return to France, a last mosquito proves that Italy and summer are still not too remote. But, as a rule, with this particular period of his life from which he was emerging, when he made an effort, if not to remain in it, at least to obtain a clear view of it while he still could, he discovered that already it was too late; he would have liked to glimpse, as though it were a landscape that was about to disappear, that love from which he had departed; but it was so difficult to enter into a state of duality and to present to oneself the lifelike spectacle of a feeling one has ceased to possess, that very soon, the clouds gathering in his brain, he could see nothing at all, abandoned the attempt, took the glasses from his nose and wiped them; and he told himself that he would do better to rest for a little, that there would be time enough later on, and settled back into his corner with the incuriosity, the torpor of the drowsy sleeper in the railway-carriage that is drawing him, he feels, faster and faster out of the country in which he has lived for so long and which he had vowed not to allow to slip away from him without looking out to bid it a last farewell.”
“the sweetness to be found in generosity”
“Facts do not find their way into the world in which our beliefs reside; they did not produce our beliefs, they do not destroy them; they may inflict on them the most constant refutations without weakening them, and an avalanche of afflictions or ailment succeeding one another without interruption in a family will not make it doubt the goodness of its God or the talent of its doctor.”
“This water lily was the same, and it was also like one of those miserable creatures whose singular torment, repeated indefinitely throughout eternity, aroused the curiosity of Dante, who would have asked the tormented creature himself to recount its cause and its particularities at greater length had Virgil, striding on ahead, not forced him to hurry after immediately, as my parents did me.”
“… washed clean like a porcelain, with housewifely care…”
“… with a quiet suggestion of infinity…”
“It was now so much a part of him, that it could not have been torn from him without destroying him almost entirely: as they say in surgery, his love was no longer operable.”
“all this made of the church for me something entirely different from the rest of the town: an edifice occupying, so to speak, a four-dimensional space—the name of the fourth being Time—extending through the centuries its ancient nave, which, bay after bay, chapel after chapel, seemed to stretch across and conquer not merely a few yards of soil, but each successive epoch from which it emerged triumphant,”
“… my body … faithful guardian of a past which my mind should never have forgotten, brought back before my eyes ….”
“… I experienced, suddenly, that special pleasure, which bore no resemblance to any other…”
“… like an entirely cloudless sky when one is going mountaineering…”
“when the fortress of the body is besieged on all sides the mind must at length succumb.”
“… it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.”
“… in my spell of uncertainty as to where I was…”
“I would feel the satisfaction of being shut in from the outer world…”
“do you think it possible for a woman really to be touched by a man’s being in love with her, and never to be unfaithful to him?”
“The hope of being relieved gives him the courage to suffer.”
“a constant repetition and a boundless incongruity of useless but indestructible objects.”
“He suffered greatly from being shut up among all these people whose stupidity and absurdities wounded him all the more cruelly since, being ignorant of his love, incapable, had they known of it, of taking any interest, or of doing more than smile at it as at some childish joke, or deplore it as an act of insanity, they made it appear to him in the aspect of a subjective state which existed for himself alone, whose reality there was nothing external to confirm; he suffered overwhelmingly, to the point at which even the sound of the instruments made him want to cry, from having to prolong his exile in this place to which Odette would never come, in which no one, nothing was aware of her existence, from which she was entirely absent.”
“A real human being, however profoundly we sympathize with him, is in large part perceived by our senses, that is to say, remains opaque to us, presents a dead weight which our sensibility cannot lift.”
And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”
“But when a belief vanishes, there survives it—more and more vigorously so as to cloak the absence of the power, now lost to us, of imparting reality to new things—a fetishistic attachment to the old things which it did once animate, as if it was in them and not in ourselves that the divine spark resided, and as if our present incredulity had a contingent cause—the death of the gods.”
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
“large birds flew swiftly over the Bois, as over a real wood, and with shrill cries perched, one after another, on the great oaks which, beneath their Druidical crown, and with Dodonian majesty, seemed to proclaim the inhuman emptiness of this deconsecrated forest, and helped me to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one’s memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from their not being apprehended by the senses. The reality that I had known no longer existed. It”
“The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.”
“The truth was that she could never permit herself to buy anything from which no intellectual profit was to be derived, above all the profit which fine things afford us by teaching us to seek our pleasures elsewhere than in the barren satisfaction of worldly wealth.”
“… the courage of one’s opinions is always a form of calculating cowardice in the eyes of the ‘other side’…”
“in that period of life when one has not yet separated the fact of this sensual pleasure from the various women in whose company one has tasted it, when one has not yet reduced it to a general idea which makes one regard them thenceforward as the interchangeable instruments of a pleasure that is always the same. Indeed, that pleasure does not even exist, isolated, distinct, formulated in the consciousness, as the ultimate aim for which one seeks a woman’s company, or as the cause of the preliminary perturbation that one feels. Scarcely does one think of it as a pleasure in store for one; rather does one call it her charm; for one does not think of oneself, but only of escaping from oneself.”
“Pardon me,’ said Swann with polite irony, ‘but I can assure you that my want of admiration is almost equally divided between those masterpieces.’

‘Really now; that’s very interesting. And what don’t you like about them? …Well, well, what I always say is, one should never argue about plays or novels. Everyone has his own way of looking at things, and what may be horrible to you is, perhaps, just what I like best.”

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