Enthusiasms

Containing whatever I enthuse over

Archive for August, 2007

Knowledge of Others

Posted by clissold345 on August 30, 2007

Even if we recognise the errors in our first impressions of a person, it is still not possible to gain exact knowledge of the person, since, even as we clarify our impressions, we are merely clarifying out-of-date impressions.

The passage I’m discussing above is from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower:

Ainsi ce n’est qu’après avoir reconnu non sans tâtonnements les erreurs d’optique du début qu’on pourrait arriver à la connaissance exacte d’un être si cette connaissance était possible. Mais elle ne l’est pas ; car tandis que se rectifie la vision que nous avons de lui, lui-même qui n’est pas un objectif inerte change pour son compte, nous pensons le rattraper, il se déplace, et, croyant le voir enfin plus clairement, ce n’est que les images anciennes que nous en avions prises que nous avons réussi à éclaircir, mais qui ne le représentent plus. (Page 177 of volume 5 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

Thus it can be only after one has recognised, not without having had to feel one’s way, the optical illusions of one’s first impression that one can arrive at an exact knowledge of another person, supposing such knowledge to be ever possible. But it is not; for while our original impression of him undergoes correction, the person himself, not being an inanimate object, changes in himself, we think that we have caught him, he moves, and, when we imagine that at last we are seeing him clearly, it is only the old impressions which we had already formed of him that we have succeeded in making clearer, when they no longer represent him.

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Imagination

Posted by clissold345 on August 30, 2007

Proust likens the tables in the restaurant to planets (each planet attracting the planets around it). The waiters revolve around the tables (like stars?). Proust’s analogy is perhaps far-fetched but I share his pity for any diners who are unable – even for an instant – to see beyond the customary appearance of things.

The passage I’m discussing above is from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower:

Et je plaignais un peu tous les dîneurs parce que je sentais que pour eux les tables rondes n’étaient pas des planètes et qu’ils n’avaient pas pratiqué dans les choses un sectionnement qui nous débarrasse de leur apparence coutumière et nous permet d’apercevoir des analogies. Ils pensaient qu’ils dînaient avec telle ou telle personne, que le repas coûterait à peu près tant et qu’ils recommenceraient le lendemain. (Page 75 of volume 5 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

And I rather pitied all the diners because I felt that for them the round tables were not planets and that they had not cut through the scheme of things one of those sections which deliver us from the bondage of appearances and enable us to perceive analogies. They thought that they were dining with this or that person, that the dinner would cost roughly so much, and that to-morrow they would begin all over again.

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Habit

Posted by clissold345 on August 30, 2007

The impressions that we consciously retain of a person (no matter how vivid initially) weaken as time passes. The impressions that we have forgotten lose none of their vividness as time passes. So, once we recall these impressions, they can bring a person vividly before us.

The passage I’m discussing above is from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower:

Comme celle-ci [l’habitude] affaiblit tout, ce qui nous rappelle le mieux un être, c’est justement ce que nous avions oublié (parce que c’était insignifiant et que nous lui avions ainsi laissé toute sa force). C’est pourquoi la meilleure part de notre mémoire est hors de nous, dans un souffle pluvieux, dans l’odeur de renfermé d’une chambre ou dans l’odeur d’une première flambée, partout où nous retrouvons de nous-même ce que notre intelligence, n’en ayant pas l’emploi, avait dédaigné, la dernière réserve du passé, la meilleure, celle qui quand toutes nos larmes semblent taries, sait nous faire pleurer encore. (Page 69 of volume 4 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

And as Habit weakens every impression, what a person recalls to us most vividly is precisely what we had forgotten, because it was of no importance, and had therefore left in full possession of its strength. That is why the better part of our memory exists outside ourselves, in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past has in store, the richest, that which when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at the source can make us weep again.

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Cooking Measurements

Posted by clissold345 on August 23, 2007

I’ve just read a recipe that referred to a measure “dstsp”, which confused me for a minute. dstsp, aka dsp, stands for dessertspoon.

A teaspoon (tsp) is the size of spoon you use for stirring tea or coffee. A dessertspoon (dsp) is the size of spoon you use to eat cereal or soup, while a tablespoon (tbsp) is the size of spoon you use for serving food. Put another way a level teaspoon contains 5ml, a dessertspoon 10ml and a tablespoon 15ml.

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Three Trees

Posted by clissold345 on August 23, 2007

Marcel feels profound bliss at the sight of three trees. He’s had this feeling occasionally in the past. The feeling is so vivid that his life seems insignificant without it. He’s unable to grasp the meaning behind the feeling and he imagines the trees telling him off for missing an opportunity that will never return.

The passage I’m discussing above is from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower:

Je vis les arbres s’éloigner en agitant leurs bras désespérés, semblant me dire : ce que tu n’apprends pas de nous aujourd’hui, tu ne le sauras jamais. Si tu nous laisses retomber au fond de ce chemin d’où nous cherchions à nous hisser jusqu’à toi, toute une partie de toi-même que nous t’apportions tombera pour jamais au néant. (Page 195 of volume 4 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

I watched the trees gradually withdraw, waving their despairing arms, seeming to say to me: “What you fail to learn from us to-day, you will never know. If you allow us to drop back into the hollow of this road from which we sought to raise ourselves up to you, a whole part of yourself which we were bringing to you will fall for ever into the abyss.”

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Beneath the Surface

Posted by clissold345 on August 23, 2007

I admire Proust for his insights (perhaps I should say he sometimes makes thoughts sound like insights). For example, the insight that sometimes the trivial and tragic continue hand in hand. In front of others we continue to talk as if nothing crucial has happened, our thoughts even follow the conversation. However, at times we are also aware very strongly that we’ve had the crucial answer, the answer we’ve been waiting for for a year, and that misfortune has struck us down.

The passage I’m discussing above is from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower:

Au milieu d’autres personnes, nous recevons de celle que nous aimons la réponse favorable ou mortelle que nous attendions depuis une année. Mais il faut continuer à causer, les idées s’ajoutent les unes aux autres, développant une surface sous laquelle c’est à peine si de temps à autre vient sourdement affleurer le souvenir autrement profond, mais fort étroit, que le malheur est venu pour nous. (Page 172 of volume 5 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

In a room full of other people we receive from her whom we love the answer, propitious or fatal, which we have been awaiting for the last year. But we must go on talking, ideas come, one after another, forming a smooth surface which is pricked, at the very most, now and then by a dull throb from within of the memory, deep-rooted enough but of very slender growth, that misfortune has come upon us.

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Dead Memories

Posted by clissold345 on August 15, 2007

When Marcel recalls his childhood in Combray he pictures a minimum setting necessary for the action that takes place – as a setting might be indicated in an old play. For example, when he recalls undressing he pictures part of a passageway, a glazed door, etc., at a particular hour (seven o’clock in the evening). Combray of course had a full physical existence: a collection of houses and people that existed continuously for days or weeks or years. Marcel can recall this existence intellectually but it preserves nothing of the past, it is a dead memory. In contrast, his memory of undressing does preserve something of the past and therefore lives.

The passage I’m discussing above is from Swann’s Way:

C’est ainsi que, pendant longtemps, quand, réveillé la nuit, je me ressouvenais de Combray, je n’en revis jamais que cette sorte de pan lumineux, découpé au milieu d’indistinctes ténèbres, pareil à ceux que l’embrasement d’un feu de bengale ou quelque projection électrique éclairent et sectionnent dans un édifice dont les autres parties restent plongées dans la nuit: à la base assez large, le petit salon, la salle à manger, l’amorce de l’allée obscure par où arriverait M. Swann, l’auteur inconscient de mes tristesses, le vestibule où je m’acheminais vers la première marche de l’escalier, si cruel à monter, qui constituait à lui seul le tronc fort étroit de cette pyramide irrégulière; et, au faîte, ma chambre à coucher avec le petit couloir à porte vitrée pour l’entrée de maman; en un mot, toujours vu à la même heure, isolé de tout ce qu’il pouvait y avoir autour, se détachant seul sur l’obscurité, le décor strictement nécessaire (comme celui qu’on voit indiqué en tête des vieilles pièces pour les représentations en province), au drame de mon déshabillage; comme si Combray n’avait consisté qu’en deux étages reliés par un mince escalier, et comme s’il n’y avait jamais été que sept heures du soir. A vrai dire, j’aurais pu répondre à qui m’eût interrogé que Combray comprenait encore autre chose et existait à d’autres heures. Mais comme ce que je m’en serais rappelé m’eût été fourni seulement par la mémoire volontaire, la mémoire de l’intelligence, et comme les renseignements qu’elle donne sur le passé ne conservent rien de lui, je n’aurais jamais eu envie de songer à ce reste de Combray. Tout cela était en réalité mort pour moi. (Page 74 of volume 1 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

And so it was that, for a long time afterwards, when I lay awake at night and revived old memories of Combray, I saw no more of it than this sort of luminous panel, sharply defined against a vague and shadowy background, like the panels which a Bengal fire or some electric sign will illuminate and dissect from the front of a building the other parts of which remain plunged in darkness: broad enough at its base, the little parlour, the dining-room, the alluring shadows of the path along which would come M. Swann, the unconscious author of my sufferings, the hall through which I would journey to the first step of that staircase, so hard to climb, which constituted, all by itself, the tapering ‘elevation’ of an irregular pyramid; and, at the summit, my bedroom, with the little passage through whose glazed door Mamma would enter; in a word, seen always at the same evening hour, isolated from all its possible surroundings, detached and solitary against its shadowy background, the bare minimum of scenery necessary (like the setting one sees printed at the head of an old play, for its performance in the provinces) to the drama of my undressing, as though all Combray had consisted of but two floors joined by a slender staircase, and as though there had been no time there but seven o’clock at night. I must own that I could have assured any questioner that Combray did include other scenes and did exist at other hours than these. 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. To me it was in reality all dead.

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In Search of Lost Time

Posted by clissold345 on August 5, 2007

I’m thinking of reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I don’t want to read all of it but I do want to get an idea of all of it. So I propose to read the following abridgment:

“Combray I” (the first part of the first part of Swann’s Way) from Swann’s Way.

Marcel’s first meeting with Albertine from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

Marcel’s grandmother’s death from The Guermantes Way.

The first thirty pages and last thirty pages of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The first thirty pages from The Captive.

The 200 pages on the concert at the Verdurins’ from The Captive

Omit The Fugitive

The last 200 pages of Time Regained (the last reception and reflections on writing).

 

(This proposed abridgment is in part derived from information that I found on the internet. At present I just own Swann’s Way Volume Two, which is not part of the abridgment.)

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