Enthusiasms

Containing whatever I enthuse over

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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