Enthusiasms

Containing whatever I enthuse over

Archive for September, 2007

Books for Me to Read

Posted by clissold345 on September 15, 2007

Loving by Henry Green

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Pisan Cantos by Ezra Pound

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Failure of Compassion

Posted by clissold345 on September 6, 2007

Swann reveals to the Duchess that he is dying. At her parties, in her own set, she always knows exactly how to behave, but here (for the first time in her life says Proust) she is momentarily lost, she doesn’t know which of two actions to choose. Her solution is to deny that there is a choice. Proust is perhaps unfair to the Duchess here. She does show some compassion for Swann but it is soon set aside as she prepares to leave (to dine out at Mme de Saint-Euverte’s).

The passage I’m discussing above is from The Guermantes Way:

Placée pour la première fois de sa vie entre deux devoirs aussi différents que monter dans sa voiture pour aller dîner en ville, et témoigner de la pitié à un homme qui va mourir, elle ne voyait rien dans le code des convenances qui lui indiquât la jurisprudence à suivre et, ne sachant auquel donner la préférence, elle crut devoir faire semblant de ne pas croire que la seconde alternative eût à se poser, de façon à obéir à la première qui demandait en ce moment moins d’efforts, et pensa que la meilleure manière de résoudre le conflit était de le nier. (Page 349 of volume 8 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

Placed for the first time in her life between two duties as incompatible as getting into her carriage to go out to dinner and shewing pity for a man who was about to die, she could find nothing in the code of conventions that indicated the right line to follow, and, not knowing which to choose, felt it better to make a show of not believing that the latter alternative need be seriously considered, so as to follow the first, which demanded of her at the moment less effort, and thought that the best way of settling the conflict would be to deny that any existed.

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Mme de Guermantes

Posted by clissold345 on September 6, 2007

Initially Marcel is fascinated by the character and status of the Duchess. He likens her to an out-of-date and incomplete library in a country house. This library is of no use for giving us a rounded education, but if we read enough of the volumes in it, we are sure to find fine passages, so fine that we will always remember where we first read them.

The passage I’m discussing above is from The Guermantes Way:

Pour toutes ces raisons, les causeries avec la duchesse ressemblaient à ces connaissances qu’on puise dans une bibliothèque de château, surannée, incomplète, incapable de former une intelligence, dépourvue de presque tout ce que nous aimons, mais nous offrant parfois quelque renseignement curieux, voire la citation d’une belle page que nous ne connaissions pas, et dont nous sommes heureux dans la suite de nous rappeler que nous en devons la connaissance à une magnifique demeure seigneuriale. (Page 274 of volume 8 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

For all these reasons, conversations with the Duchess resembled the discoveries that we make in the library of a country house, out of date, incomplete, incapable of forming a mind, lacking in almost everything that we value, but offering us now and then some curious scrap of information, for instance the quotation of a fine passage which we did not know and as to which we are glad to remember in after years that we owe our knowledge of it to a stately mansion of the great.

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