Perpetual Adoration

[Cahier 58]

   A few days earlier I had arrived in Paris where the doctors had finally allowed me to live, after they had forbidden me for a long time. My mother told me that my aunt, my grandmother's sister, here for a few days from the country, had been to see her and told her that the first Paris performance of the second act from Parsifal was to take place the day after next at the Princesse de Guermantes'. My mother had understood that my aunt would have loved to go and asked me if it would be possible for me to obtain an invitation for her. To ask this of the Princesse de Guermantes was tantamount to my taking it upon myself to go to her house, somebody on whom I could hardly impose the awkwardness of receiving a person she did not know, without making a visit to her myself.
   I was walking down the avenue du Bois where the Princesse de Guermantes now lived when I bumped into Bloch who was coming in the opposite direction. "You're not going in my direction?" he asked. "What a pity because in a moment I'll be coming back this way, but I need to go home for 'vestimentary contingencies'", he said laughingly, one finger raised and his brow knitted, his two indicators of irony. "I hear you've done an amusing article for this morning's Figaro. I haven't read it yet." And we began to talk about literature. "You see," he told me. Include in his speech what Max Lazard, Bernstein, Gregh and Lanson say (the last two 3 December).1
   I did not allow myself to be drawn in by the opinions that I encountered in Bloch's conversation, in Bloch's way of thinking, even if they the same as in the reviews. From different points on the literary horizon, there was a kind of assault, against different points of view concerning literature. Bloch told me that for far too long poets had been recounting their own little love affairs to us, their sorrows, their weariness, that it was time to express the spirit of the people, the great social realities (see also Max Lazard, and Saturday 3 December Beaunier on Lanson, and Gregh on Marguerite Audoux)1 the ideas that animate the people at the time of strikes. "Good Lord I understand that there is nothing in the world like the proletariat if you want to talk to them about the bourgeoisie (see Hanotaux on Le Trust).1 In the end even the life of a writer, the genesis of a work, some great conflict of ideas are more interesting than the hair-splitting of psychological or artistic literature. But what I say to you about background, I'll say it even more about form. It is not enough simply to write things that might interest the public, drawn from their life, and not from a life they have no access to, but then again to no longer delight in playing with form, in those social complications that exclude those who have only lived in a workshop, to achieve depth in your stories. You write for the literati. Think always about being understood by the public, about having the turn of mind that is accessible to the labourer. In any case isn't it distressing that our best writers have taken back from the romantics the taste for 'little morsels', fine metaphors, pretty epithets. It doesn't matter whether they are pretty, simply that they are true! Sincerity, life as it really is, recomposed in the way we have seen it, that is the supreme art! Even more so in literature, so that in a book it should be as if one were confronted with life. So that there would not be one single detail in art that one could protest against!"
   But we had come to his door. We tarried there a while. He excused himself for having made such a long speech. I made no reply. For like the day when M. de Guercy2 spoke to me against literature, I felt that I was not in agreement with him, that what he was contemptuous of was everything that I would have liked to have done myself, that the art that he extolled inspired in me nothing but weariness and boredom, and I felt a contempt for myself for not appreciating it better. We shuffled our feet for a moment. The questions he talked to me about interested me so little and wearied me so much, that instead of encouraging him to talk about them further I asked him for news about a few of our old school friends, as I might have done with some friend who was less intelligent than Bloch. About those that in the past he had reviled cruelly he spoke of with kindness. He even corrected, by a more favourable interpretation, an unkind remark that I had made about the conduct of one of them who had broken with his family. But when I said I would have liked to have seen this young man again and suggested that he might bring him along, he showed a sign of reservation. "I don't think so if that's all the same with you. No, I don't blame him, his life hasn't been easy. But all the same in the end there are certain circumstances. To break off relations with his own mother. Well I'm not saying it was wrong of him. But when all is said and done there are some people I prefer not to keep company with."
   "But you know everybody sees him. Montargis is very friendly with him."
   "Oh! I know that perfectly well, I'm not saying he didn't have any friends apart from me. But what do you expect, I already have to shake the hands of quite a enough idiots like him. He's just one less." On the other hand when it came to a person who had been named in connection with a very unsavoury business affair and whom he did not know had just spent a year in prison: "Bring him along, if you want to invite him, it would be a pleasure. Poor boy, he must be so unhappy. I think people are very hard on him. And in the end what has he done? I feel so sorry for him."
   "If you don't want to see him straight away by yourself," I told him, "I would wait for you."
   "No, excuse me! I have to take my brother and one of my cousins and introduce them in some tiresome place, I've promised them." I did not tell him where I was going because I knew he did not frequent that circle. We exchanged a few more words. He had heard news of my parents and myself once or twice, from certain of our old friends with whom he had spoken of us, remarks he quoted to me clearly to give me pleasure so obliging were they, and to increase my good feelings towards those that had said them.
   As I parted from Bloch I thought again about everything he had said to me about literature, about its elevated purpose. And feeling how much his conversation had annoyed me, and the books that he extolled, I would just as willingly have spent the whole hour discussing military questions with Montargis or matters of the kitchen with Françoise. I thought with bitterness how much I had been overpraised by people in the past who had believed that I had a gift for letters, that I was inflamed with love of them. "Even in your ill health I do not pity you," Elstir3 had told me. "You have the joys of the intellect; spiritual joys, those are the greatest of all." Alas, if only he known how little joy I derived from intelligence, how little I participated in those  intellectual questions that  gave such joy to truly intelligent people like Bloch. He thought that the joys of the intellect ought to have consoled me for everything; well even the most insignificant pleasure seemed to me to be more alive than they were. And when he spoke to me quoting Schopenhauer I think, that the happiest man in the world was the poet, the man capable of spiritual joys, an almost divine being and for whom the happiest of all lives was one where the pleasures of the intellect were those most oft felt, I mused wearily how far I was from belonging to that class of men. There were, even in my most sober moments, many pleasures that I longed for, to see Combray again, to know certain young women, to see the sunrise again, certain churches, our astonishment on arriving at Combray, to drink the same wine I had tasted in Venice; as for spiritual joys there was not a single one that had been an object of my desire and they never featured in any ideal of life I dreamed of. Alas even from the strictest artistic point of view well might they say that I was gifted. I knew only too well that when I opened my eyes upon some scene in nature, even if it was the most beautiful and that I was eager to describe, so often the only words that came to me were those that bored me. The other day, returning by rail, our train skirted along a valley4 that was rightly considered one of the most beautiful in France. It was five o'clock in the evening, the train had stopped, I was able to contemplate the trees upon which the evening sun struck their trunks up to a certain height, and, in the brook that at that very moment was running alongside the track, I could see such a variety of flowers, mosses intermingled with the lovely reflections of the sky that it was astonishing to see that the most artistic spectacles described in literature are indeed to be found in reality, along the tracks of a railway line. I made the most of the train's brief halt by taking out a sheet of paper, and I attempted to accurately describe the band of golden light on the tree trunks, the oblique line of the trees. But feeling no joy in describing them, and convinced that one's enthusiasm when writing is the sole criterion of talent, and that it would be better if we experienced that joy in it ourselves if we had any wish to communicate it to others, I let my sheet of paper fall with dejected discouragement. And, to console myself for a moment, I tried to convince myself that unquestionably I had passed the age when one can feel elated by nature and its description and that the study of characters, discussion of aesthetics was all that was left to me. And I remembered that I had written a note for myself attempting to console myself that another realm was reserved for me: "Oh trees you have nothing more to say to me, my cooling heart no longer feels you, my eye ascertains the line by which you divide into separate parts the shadows and the light with such a coldness that it would be quite in vain to copy out these notes, too boring for me to be of any pleasure for anybody else. If anything were to inspire me now it would be thoughts about humanity and aesthetics. To sing that I know perfectly well that I am placing a glass before the most beautiful hour of the day and the most beautiful tall forest in France, the period of my life when I would have been able to sing to you has been closed for a long to me and the inspiration that you were able to instil in me will never return."5
   From then on upon my return, with the activity that we take up on the first day of a homecoming or an arrival, when the habits of our daily life have not yet resumed for us, I had begun to examine the question of realism. And I felt the same boredom, the same coldness as when I tried to describe the trees at sunset. And for a moment in my despair I clung to the idea I had often seen expressed by the masters that it is not in the moment when we witness a scene that makes it appear beautiful to us, but when we see it again, in the "snapshots" of the memory. Alas the word snapshots brought nothing to my mind other than those photographic exhibitions, sufficient to show me that there was nothing more to them than direct observation that lacked any genius at all, that lacked the poetic imagination through which it is said that to the poet everything has its beauty, and which I too was lacking, in my complete internal bankruptcy and out of which it had been able if not to exonerate me then at least to compensate a little for my absence of feeling, of tenderness, of virtue, my incapacity to take pleasure from travel, from friendship. I knew that all too well. Whatever I would have liked to conjure up from what I had seen, the image that my will drew from my memory seemed as dull to me as the reality itself. And as I was arriving at the door of the Guermantes mansion, I thus forced myself to re-examine Venice, Querqueville, the valley seen from the railway line with the trees struck by the setting sun. The reality evoked by memory seemed as tedious as the pictures in a kaleidoscope. So even taking the expression spiritual joy in its broadest sense, I no longer felt any joy through the memory of beautiful spectacles or the sight of them, other than through the discussion of ideas. The fact was that I was destitute of any of the imagination by which poets transfigure reality and make it so beautiful. And yet when I took into account that I possessed neither goodness, nor tenderness, that travel, friendship, society had brought me nothing but disappointment, this poetic gift that I had been told that I had, those intellectual pleasures, this talent, this must be my only refuge. And that too left me wanting; and upon my arrival at the Guermantes mansion, turning round, as I was in the courtyard, to catch a last glimpse, full of boredom as it was,6 at the blue sky of May and the green trees in the avenue to check whether a late ray of sunlight might not bring me some consolation, might show me that I was not immutably mediocre, I felt by registering exactly the spectacle that a poet had found to be beautiful and that to me seemed boring, how ugly the universe seemed to me because deep down I was mediocre. I was roused from this thought by a carriage that was leaving the courtyard and that in my distractedness, with my face turned towards the avenue, I had not seen, when I found myself thrown back to the side of the stables and I took a few paces before reaching the flight of steps, over the unevenly set paving stones. At the moment my foot passed from one paving stone that was a little higher onto another that was slightly lower, I felt take shape obscurely within me quivering like a forgotten song in which all its charm momentarily touched my memory without yet being able to discern its singer nor yet recognize it, that bliss that was in every sense as different to everything I knew as is music, as particular as a sort of melodic theme of ineffable delight and that I had already heard in the countryside near Querqueville during the course of an excursion with Mme de Villeparisis, at Rivebelle too before the piece of green cloth and which on that occasion had evoked in me a memory that I was never to see again. On a few other occasions still, often at long intervals of several years, suddenly in my life I had heard that music again when Mme de Vi[lleparisis].... [text interrupted]

   7But at that time I had not been able to recognize what it was that that delightful phrase awoke in me and what discoveries it was making beneath the trees, beneath that fabric. At Combray too I had heard it standing in front of the hawthorns, and later when Mme de Guermantes had spoken to me about François de Champi and when I had not yet heard it on that winter's day when my mother brought me a cup of tea to warm me up. Once again here was this voice that I had forgotten speaking to me; but where was it? What was it telling me? My eyes were intoxicated with a deep azure, I had the sensation of a torrid summer, of the delicious coolness that we feel in the shade, but it was not just a sensation, it was a life that fortunately was real, and whose single affirmation of its existence filled me with such a feeling of happiness that in that moment all the boredom of not long ago had become incomprehensible to me, made me indifferent to any prospect of sorrow. Nevertheless paying no concern to what the people passing by in the courtyard might think, whether they were the guests or the servants, I remained with one foot on one paving stone, one foot on the other, retracing the same steps I had taken so as to revive one more time the imperceptible touch of indistinct visions that imperiously offered up to my mind the enigma of their good fortune. I tried no to look at the people passing by, to leave untouched in my consciousness the sensation that I had been able to feel as I moved from one paving stone to the other, and yet every time I succeeded in not simply taking the steps naturally through my legs but to do it again as it were within myself where my sensibility might discover sufficient impulse to touch once again the interior point that it had not taken hold of but whose instantaneous and furtive contact occasioned such joy, at that very moment as have or often had certain pages of a musical score, the gift of evoking certain landscapes that we cannot understand how the notes could have any connection with, the pleasurable sensation took on the same materiality, became a dazzling azure, took on the sumptuous heat of the day, the delightful cool of the shade, it took on an extensive force, growing azure in colour as it expanded, glittered in the sky, transported me, oscillated like a ball, and all of a sudden I recognized, at the hour when I had gone to relax in Saint Mark's baptistery where my feet had felt between two uneven marble flagstones a sensation just like the one I had just felt and which had reawoken it along with that entire day out of the past in which it was enclosed and which was waiting to be reborn with its light, its odours, the cries of its street sellers, the cooing of its pigeons, the shadow of its image in the square, the joy of my eyes caressed by sunlight - Venice.

   But by that law of nature that states that we always leave the things that are important until after those that are not, to the extent that the whole effort of noble lives, often so painful that they flounder on it, consists precisely in the effort to get back into the current that sweeps us towards the thing that is easier, which is to say less important, and to have the important things taken up by the counter-current; instead of remaining on the flagstone that was at the same time both Parisian and Venetian and to evoke a month from my past and splendid life that lay beneath that stone, to align it with my sensations that were at the same time both retrospective and of the present, or to immediately carry off all the treasure that I had discovered there and to go and spend my life with it, I caused that duty to be immediately pushed aside before that of every well brought up gentleman who having just entered a house to which he has been invited must approach the masters of the house, and ought not either remain in the courtyard or leave without going in, behaviour that would astonish the door-keeper.
   But having arrived at the first floor, a butler asked me to go round by the little drawing room, the Princesse who prided herself about music (in her day) had forbidden anybody to open the door to the large drawing room while music was being played. I took the opportunity of being alone for a moment in the small library that adjoined the dining room where in days gone by I had seen the Prince d'Agrigente standing alone and looking with an excessive and ridiculous attention at every book and every object that he grasped hold of with the hesitant, inexplicable, impetuous and tenacious gestures of some beautiful swan with a protuberant and purple beak. And, once I was alone, rediscovering the fervour that had been kindled in me by this Venice that had emerged like another Delphi from beneath the paving stone, I found myself acting as he had done, and nervously reading the titles without paying them any attention and, putting the book back in its place, I strode through the library as the Prince d'Agrigente had done in days gone by. But while I was in the library a servant in the drawing room taking every precaution so as not to make any noise, knocked a spoon violently against a plate. At that very moment I heard for the second time trilling within myself a song of that interior music which certainly was not the same, because I did not recognize it, but which spoke to me of that same feeling of well-being and which overwhelmed everything else outside of it the moment I felt it again and gave life an infinite value. This time it seemed that happiness would have been to still live in the heat, but it was a quite different heat in which the sun was radiating through smoke, in which the thirst for a cool beer was growing in the midst of the dust, where a fleeting breeze caused a flag to ripple in the warm air and cool waves of the smell of leather through which a captive butterfly was navigating its zigzag course. This time I was lulled by a delightful woodland serenity, a smoky odour in the blueness, the coolness of a beer. And I recognized an identical sound to that of the spoon8 which was the sound the hammers of the railway workers were making as they struck the wheels while we were stopped down in the little valley. The noise had just been made by a servant who had noticed me and who, to while away my time in the library because the performance was going to continue for some time, brought me - since I was unable to go to the buffet - a selection of cakes, tea and orangeade. So leaving aside for a second the treasure that had just been revealed to me, and to please him, I drank a little9 champagne, gave him back the glass and began to dry my mouth with the napkin he had offered me. But then for the third time the delicious phrase filled with happiness and vitality made its appeal to me. It was like an impression of azure, but different from the first two, the azure of the sea. From the first moment the feeling that it evoked in me was so strong that my wavering senses thought it was a moment in the present, I thought the shutters had been opened, through the chinks of which the sunlight with its golden antennae had come to invite me to go down to the beach and to go out for a walk; the lovely marine morning that they were proffering came and entered the room, my heart leapt at the prospect of a walk, with an appetite for lunch in front of the sea and my napkin - as on the day after my arrival at Querqueville, when I was drying my face with the stiff hotel linen in front of my window - unfolded and opened before my eyes, distributed in its expanse of worn and stiff crevices like the plumage of a peacock a run-off bathed in the light of silver, emerald and sapphire.
   And at that moment I began to understand that if all the interior realities, virtues, vices, faults, strengths, must live within us first of all without us recognizing them and that we call by name in the belief that they can be identified, which we have heard speak of by others, it was for me at least with the particular modality that an operation of the sensibility assumes for an individual, which by a happy accident I had experienced three times in succession and that I had already felt several times before, that it was indeed just as Elstir had said, that it really was a felicity in comparison to which no other existed and that the happiest life for me would be one where these joys, or joys like these, would be most often felt.

   No doubt, what I was experiencing at that moment, what I had already experienced several times before in my life, it may well be, and there could be no more doubt about it, that this was the particular way by which my own temperament allowed me to experience those spiritual joys that Elstir had spoken about and that the most auspicious existence for me would be one where such moments might reoccur as frequently as possible. And glad that my absence in the library had not been noticed I was able to reflect at my leisure, I began to look around it with as much restlessness as Prince d'Agrigente in days gone by, nervously picking up one or other volume as he had done, and putting it back in its place, after leafing through it while pursuing some idea, from the rare collection of romantics of which the Prince de Guermantes was so proud. Ah, over and over again and even just a moment ago I had told myself that life was mediocre, and I had invested that mediocrity all the way back to the most distant past that my memory was able to present to me at the summons of my will. It had been enough that chance had awoken one of those sensations that I had actually experienced in Venice, at Querqueville, on that railway journey, so that from the irresistible joy that had invaded my person I understood how very different that genuinely revived past was from the one I thought I possessed, that I saw then open up at the very instant that I had just regained it. No! life was not mediocre, it must be quite beautiful to make us feel such a sensation, however humble it may be, appearing suddenly before us and taking the place of sham facsimiles of the intelligence, for the reapparition of a simple moment from the past to enrich me with such irresistible joy.
   But what I was summoning up in this way was not in any shape or form my past, perhaps because one's vision, out of all one's senses, is the one that can deviate most easily from reality. Everything is analogous and monochrome in the memory's portraits. But since chance, with no intervention from our will, nor from our reason, awakes in us a sensation out of an identical one we have experienced and which releases chemically a period from our past, then this, intersecting different spheres within us and without mixing them up, without altering them, like a bubble of gas in a liquid, will chance to carry up to the surface of our consciousness its specific and forgotten flavour. What causes it not to have any resemblance to any other sensation from a different time, so that the slightest memory of one year or another, of one place or another, reverberates for us, takes its form in an atmosphere that cannot be compared with any other,10 so that I plunge immediately into an original life, an irreducibly distinct warmth, under a sky that is new in its colouration, its sonority, its humidity which belong to it alone, and into which I plunge in an intellectual and moral state that is irreducible from any other. Is it because by not recreating the sequence of our years, but a particular memory from a particular moment, it finds itself affected by the peculiarity of the time of day in which it took place, which a different time may not have produced and which for example an hour from a summer's evening impregnated with heavy odours, enclosed by the pink and motionless sky like an agate lid and chiselled by all the contingencies of events and situation encloses this memory as if it were in a vessel isolated from all others and in fact quite unique. This unique quality of a sensation that appears thus from the midst of all those that encompass it, is it because this sensation, similar as it may be, experienced at the same time of day, in the same circumstances, in different places and periods, experienced in the midst of all those that we recalled at the same time, has remained inserted between them, evokes them, presupposes them, surrounds itself with them, carries upon it a thousand reflections and even when it seems to be a sensation analogous to hunger, to heat, to walking, it differs according to the smell of the furniture that surrounds us, the greater or lesser light that the curtains allow to penetrate into the room, what we see with our eyes, at the same time as we feel it again, and what we do not see but which we know to be all around us, be it the houses built of black stone, the church, the hawthorns at Combray, or the snow covered hill at Rivebiler or the beach at Querqueville11 and the silvery blue sweetness of the hours of breezes, of exposure to the sun and of leisure?12 Is it because the forgotten years that separate a memory from some other hinder the perception of the continuity of our interior life and the indiscernible transitions of our sensations, and place one memory in an environment quite different from another, as though at a different altitude? In the end it is even when a sensation of hunger for example, or of repose, or of heat seem in all appearance the same, all the sensations that had been introduced into it then surrounding it still, that it carries it along with itself its pale reflections, that is different from a similar sensation etc., see opposite page. Perhaps too it was the specificity of the state of our inner life at that time, of our dreams of travel and of art, that like all states of pure thought - just as takes place for example in our reading or our dreams - it has a power to differentiate the things onto which it projects itself that do not even possess the particular quality of those things: the smell13 of the streets or the sea, the black granite of the houses or the blackness of dark forests.
   Whatever the causes might have been that were predominating so as to assure its originality, how much the past evoked with that scrupulous truth which alone guarantees the independent play of our unconscious without there being any intervention by our will, when the an analogous sensation caused me to receive it by pure chance.

   These external processes were not alone in differentiating those times of year, because what I rediscovered in myself, as hazy as those sensations from the weather at the time etc. but caressing my memory of an autumn that was just as hazy and just as keen, were my dreams of beauty from that period, what life meant to me. At the heart of those days in Combray, in Querqueville, in Venice, an idea took shape, filled out like the egg of an extinct species, that then to me inhabited all of the landscape and from the depths of that idea I could see that landscape upon which it rained its coloring beams. And there it has remained to this day. It was in a beautiful day in Venice, it was beside the shingles at Querqueville that I came to rediscover my belief in Ruskin, in Elstir, already half mingled with that essence and without any complaints on my part since my faith in their truth had never been broken and I had adopted them merely as a more profound means with which to see them. And indeed I no longer see them now other than like this, through the thought that while I was walking on the beach at Querqueville or through the baptistery in Saint Mark's there remained no intention at the back of my mind, behind my way of seeing, it merely blended itself into what I had in front of my eyes, and they added a brightness to Venice or to Querqueville, they added a quality of moral atmosphere that superimposes itself and marries itself to the heat of the day or the thinness of their air, to their sunshine and their water, yet no less individualizing them.

   Once already on the morning of Montargis' wedding when in the light of the sun gilding the weather-vane on the opposite building I saw Venice once more, I immediately wanted to go back there. Now the manner in which the intoxicating sensation of a life outside of time, out of the action of the present, always came to me, better informed me that it was not a moment of pleasure in time, an action that it must result in, because I would never rediscover it there. Without doubt there must be deep within us a being - the one in me that had just made me experience such a joy - that took its nourishment only from the essence of things. So that in the present it could not take hold of it, be it because the senses would be unable to supply it and that it could only be disengaged by the imagination, be it that during the operation we would run them aground by an aspect of usefulness, of egotistical finality that prevents us from seeing them as they really are, be it that even if we want to observe them directly, the very intervention of our will, of our intellect, interposes a thousand arbitrary and known qualities between the reality and ourselves. That is not to say that it does not leave its impression upon us however. But through that laziness that makes us turn away from ourselves every time, and at the moment when we sincerely experience something, to introduce at that same moment into our mind something mechanical or intense out of habit or passion that has no connection with what we have really felt, these deep impressions remain unknown to us. Our intellect may well try to search them out, they are inside of us in a region into which our intellect cannot penetrate. What it will seek to picture to itself as the past will be something else entirely. And for it to be reborn [...]

   There suddenly came upon me an irresistible joy, there was aroused in me a being that did not exist the moment before, that wanted to live, that wanted to create, that had no fear of death, that felt itself to be immortal. This being languishes inside us in our delight in or our observation of the present, where it might be that the senses do not communicate it to the true essence of things, with its delights, its nourishment or its intoxication that can only be realized in the imagination, or that they make them or leave them to be perceived through the bias of utilitarian activity. This being that only nourishes itself and intoxicates itself from the deep, universal essence of things, languishes during the enjoyment and observation of the present where we enter upon reality through the bias of practical utility or we dispose it arbitrarily according to the preconceived ideas of the intellect. It is not until that very moment that they make an impression on us. But in that laziness that perpetually turns us away from ourselves, instead of attempting to introduce an equivalent of our impression into our thoughts at that moment, we place some utterly divergent word in it, be it in the language of mechanical habit, as I had perceived it on the little bridge over the Gracieuse14 when I was expressing the idea that... by the word "damn", or by the blows of my umbrella, or when listening to Flaubert or Wagner, instead of trying to represent in our own language what it is that we have experienced we say: It's wonderful, it's delightful" - or in the language of emotion such as when leaving the Guermantes' I translated the pleasure I had felt in their company, by saying: "They are truly very intelligent people" or not long ago like Bloch (while he was thinking: "How annoying not to have been brave enough to slap that gentleman in the face!") telling me: "I can't object to it but I find these modern ways truly f-fantastical". This interior being languishes no less in respect of the past - because what the intellect presents to it under that name is not that, not those impressions before which it did not want to pause and which sleep in obscure regions to which it has no access, but conventional abstractions in which there remains nothing of that which might enchant it. And it languishes too in the expectations of the future that the will constructs from fragments of the past and the present from which it derives once again a little reality by giving them an utterly egotistical affectation, a purely human destination. It is only the imagination that can draw this precious essence from outside of time and it is because it is extra-temporal that it can only have an extra-temporal consciousness that it has no fear of the future, feels itself to be eternal. But the imagination alone is not enough. So that it may be sure not of inventing, but of recreating, it is necessary that chance furnishes it with the point of departure of a sensation already experienced, which in the detachment from its fellow creature in the depths of ourselves will furnish us with the guarantee of its authenticity, at the same time as the reconstruction of all the sensations among which it has survived, will be conceived in the deluded mind not as something possible, but as something real, although not of the present time, that which will add to the vision the idea - disinterested, outside of time, but real - of existence. I remembered that, on the morning of the day of Montargis' wedding, in the reflection that the sun bestowed on the weather-vane of the house opposite, I had already once again rediscovered Venice where I wanted to return immediately. But now I better understood that it was not in a voyage, in a moment in the future or in an action, that I could prolong, realize a joy that I would never encounter again other than far from the place itself that it evoked in me, but in the bosom of something else at the same time both different and similar, in the paving stones in the courtyard of the Guermantes' mansion, in the collision of the fork against the saucer. This essence redeemed from life, and experienced, it did not have to be reinterred beneath lies, beneath the obscurities of activity, it had to be brought out into the light of day, to fix it in an equivalent that was neither the language of habit, nor the language of passion, where every word would be determined by it, and not by the preoccupation with producing some or other effect, by letting go of the oft-repeated formulas we have learned by heart, by the shifts in mood of the physical individual who cannot forget himself, who maintains by writing it down the sensation of his face, of his mouth, of his hands, rather than no longer being anything but a porous, ductile material, shaping itself to the impression it wants to produce, mimicking it, reproducing it, so as to be sure of not altering it, of adding nothing else to it. How precious to me this art seemed and worthy of my consecrating my years to it, was it not simply the regression towards life, towards our own life that at every moment we refuse to see, through fatigue, through incitement, through weakness, through mechanicalness, through passion, in the belief that we are seeing something "fantastical" or "delightful" when we are seeing something else entirely, but on which we do not wish to fix our eyes, and that we lose for ever. I understood that it is because at each moment we heap upon our true impression of things those abstractions of ideas, the deadly material of habit, of obscurity in which we are content to live, the flames of passion, the whirlwind of activity that inversely in order to create art, that is to say to rediscover life, it is necessary not to reproduce what we think life is really like, the past, actions and words, but successively to draw out everything that we have, in the very moment we experience it and then even more so in the memory and reasoning laid upon life, which obscures it and in the reproduction of which so many artists restrict their art, in the belief that they are being genuine and life-like. Now the diverse difficulties that had stopped me until now seemed no longer to be of any importance. Placing the object of my art in a reality subjacent to the appearance of things and which turns out to be just as good, and is as difficult to uncover beneath an impression experienced in a princely courtyard as in a workshop, in watching a passing steward as reading a philosopher, I no longer attached any importance to the raw material of my book and did not concern myself that it would have been [...]


[Additional texts]

   But I did not at all hold with those opinions of Bloch's, not so as to shut myself up egotistically and lazily in what he called a mandarinate narrowness, but, it seemed to me, I had long gone beyond the rather mediocre arrogance of mind in which the opinions that he was expressing were to be found. Without even dwelling on the double assertion, flatly contradicted by the facts, that in order to interest the public one must speak to them about their life, as if ever since the world began painting in the life-like style, in the society style, epochs, continents, or our social condition, our state of health, the time or country in which we live deny us access - and that other that is so contemptuous of the public that he admires so much, and is so false, that seems to consider subtlety of mind the perfection of form available only to the rich, to people in fashionable society, to pleasure-seekers, when we know how very much more simple they are, more vulgar, less capable of literary taste and refinement than the ordinary working man - by avoiding words and theories, holding me to art such as it was revealed to me, not under its own name, but internally, like the unnamed realities that present themselves to us, I felt that it consisted in a kind of extraction from beneath the appearance of things, of something more eternal which is their reality and which one can certainly find just as much in the events and life in a factory, but just as much in episodes of life in a salon, a mind capable of investigating that deeply, not gathering up the appearance of things, the life of a factory girl or a lady in society life, by experiencing more vividly than she the spiritual reaction that her perception gives her. When such a mind, just as solitary and personal on a farm as in a salon, found such a truth, as well as whatever lasting truth they were able to extract, it was the bringing together of an identity, likewise inevitably to recompose that identity, that reality - and not the whole insignificant succession of events in life - what was necessary was the bringing together of two different expressions that have a common base, that is to say a metaphor. I had found it in these sensations from the past, reminiscences that had intoxicated me, and there was no doubt that here for me would lay my instrument of art. But I held myself back from instituting it into a system and from thinking that that was the only way it could be done. But I knew that when we exclaim before one of those epithets or metaphors: "Oh! how pretty" it was a way of saying "how true" with a truth that is deeper than the truth of observation, the truth of synthesis, of thorough investigation, of interior discovery. And I smiled at the fear those people had of literature, of beauty; as for myself I loved it, I had confidence in it because I knew that its real name was truth, a truth that we do not find without opening our eyes to the road ahead, or the internal eye of the intelligence, a profound and hidden truth that we feel within ourselves, that we do not always have the strength to deliver, but must be recreated bit by bit. And when we have finally found it, when it is liberated, whether it be in the features of a great literary lord or an illiterate factory girl, ah! it is always the same. And when the poor shepherdess whom the novel rightly praises to us exclaiming about Telemachus that she is going to read it secretly in the hay loft under the rafters: "it seemed like a young prisoner who I must go and visit (check this)" she is saying something just as fine, fine in the same way as something by Chateaubriand. Upon reading it Anatole France might well say: "Oh! how pretty". This truth that we can find only in ourselves I had felt for a long time that we could only find it if we knew how to lay ourselves bare from the exterior man, to develop within ourselves etc. see (on Sainte-Beuve). The unique expression must be written under the dictation of that mind that thinks only about itself, I had often thought, writing that article. So if we cease to be ourselves [illegible], if through our writing we are thinking to please the eyes of the world, we would do so just as well by thinking about the public. By trying to be simple so as to be understood by the public (in the supposition that the public are less acute in their understanding than refined members of fashionable society about whom we are playing on words by the word refined, supposing that being dressed by Hammond and taking good care of their footmen has some relation with a preference for Flaubert's style or Baudelaire's verses over Paul de Kock's style or Borelli's verses) we make a sincere style submit to an alteration just as profound by trying to please others. To write for the public is an absurd and sterile effort to ask of a writer and it is infinitely more beneficial to propose to the public the effort of understanding an obscure work (but this must come before I end up at the heart of the question). And still alone in the library, I understood that [...]


   Alas it was not only in listening to Bloch that I felt how much these discussions of ideas bored me. Every time I had tried to tackle such questions in a study, my pen fell from my fingers with boredom, I saw how bad what I had written was. So it was an even more profound discouragement to me, that an observation I had made the day before in a railway carriage had demonstrated to me that this purely intellectual province was the only one in which I could hope to show any talent, if ever I found enough will power to finally set myself to the task of writing. It was about a month before the day I returned to Paris. It was late afternoon and the train was following one of those valleys that are rightly considered the most beautiful in France. The light of the sunset was striking the trees creating one of those scenes that are thought to be the most beautiful of all. And the brook that skirted the track was so picturesque by a happy chance as it  was brimming with flowers, with multicoloured mosses, intermingled with the reflections of the pink clouds, such as we might think could only exist in a beautiful description from the pen of a poet. Yet I looked upon all this with a clear eye, distinguishing exactly the bands of light and shadow on the trunks of the trees, noting to myself in an appropriate epithet the colours of the flowers in the water but with an indifference and a boredom that made me disconsolate. The train stopped in open countryside, I made the most of the stop by getting out a sheet of paper and trying to note down what I saw. 


   At the moment my foot stepped from one onto another that was a little less raised, I was stopped in my tracks by a feeling of happiness. I heard within myself the delightful phrase I had heard on my drive in Querqueville when I noticed a screen of trees that had spoken to me of a happiness that I never succeeded in recalling, that I had heard again at Rivebelle in front of a fragment of green cloth stopping up my window, and yet other times seeing the hawthorns again, when Mme de Guermantes had spoken to me about François le Champi, and that I had not yet then understood on that day in winter (etc.).


   (and nevertheless) like those images evoked by a piece of music that appears to be incapable of containing them, this footstep that passed over one of the paving stones in the courtyard to another,  precipitated more and more before my eyes a blinding azure, sunlight, a feeling of well-being, a coolness, my lips parted, my eyes were dazzled and caressed by the azure as though by a reflection of a sumptuous material, I was filled with a blessed joy, life that a moment  ago seemed too long now seemed too short, all of a sudden I recalled the sensation that I experienced as I took that step, it was a sensation I had felt in the baptistery of Saint Mark's on a glossy and uneven flagstone, it had reawoken the other one and my whole life in Venice at that very moment, everything that I had experienced there came following after.


   We are such sorry creatures that instead of my returning alone with my treasure, I feared looking ridiculous to the door keeper who had seen me and I went inside the mansion.


   A scorching hot track had come to a halt in the library where I found myself and a light breeze toyed with the tips of the grasses passing back and forth... But it was around that sound of the fork that it gathered itself and the succession of which made it tremble like a haze - the heat of a track that at the same time seemed to be dust, the cloth, the beer and the flowers, where cool little breaths, curious and silent as well-behaved children passed to and fro the whole period of the halt - in the middle of the library where I found myself - of a train that must have taken place in order to fix something, the one I had taken the other day, which the [...]


   It took me so long to recognize it that ten times I thought that I would never attain it and that along with the day when it had spoken to me behind the curtain of that time, and behind the piece of green cloth, I would not know what it was saying to me. All at once, left alone in the library after the butler had gone out, I recognized it. The napkin I had picked up to dry my mouth had the stiffness, the starchiness of the napkin at the hotel at Querqueville on the first morning in front of the blue sea, in the hexagonal room, grandmother had told me that our linen had not been unpacked and I could never dry myself with such a stiff cloth as I had availed myself of however as I dried myself at the window and looked out at the sea. Within its deeply creased folds, it had preserved the azure changing to green and blue of the sea which rendered this napkin more beautiful to me than the tail of a peacock, made me want to lunch by the sea and gave me the same thirst as that morning etc. (see)

   In the stretches of deep creases than ran through it, it spread a train of emerald and sapphire like a peacock. It was not only the sea that I saw again; the noise of the door opening had caused the light to come in, they [...]

   Then I did not simply "see it again".


   If I had called the perception of nature through observation or through memory insipid, if I had by reviewing it again through the imagination called life ugly, that was because it was not at all the universe that I was considering at that time but a simple voluntary cutting out of certain sensations; if, by evoking scenes of Venice or Querqueville again I had declared life to be ugly, it was because all this that I was evoking was not life at all, but absolutely arbitrarily linear abstractions. On the contrary life must really be beautiful so that what came back to me a little, no longer arbitrarily endured this time, but such as it had been proven because it was associated with it, the sound of the hammer against the train wheels, the unevenness of the paving stones in the baptistery, the stiffness of the napkins in the hotel at Querqueville was enough to immerse me in a joy for which I would have sacrificed everything. How beautiful life seemed to me at those moments, and how precious my contemplation that felt it in all its beauty, and how powerful my talent that felt itself capable of evoking it.

   How very different life must be in its diverse moments etc. Follow on from the passage about the times with Elstir and at Combray.


   This resuscitated life I felt within me like a precious essence with an irresistible joy. The strange thing was that I was unable to find it again directly but only in something else - the sound of the hammer in the sound of the plate, impressions of Combray in this very volume, that hour of the day in Saint Mark's in the paving stone in the courtyard, where I would certainly not have expected to encounter it. Already I was remembering the morning of Montargis' wedding, the sunlight on the weather-vane had summoned up Venice and I had wanted to go back there. Now I thought it better that in the same way as the [...]


   Also in the books that I now felt I wanted to write I would never leave any memory of another writer, any wish to shine such as we feel when we are in conversation, to dictate any intervention of my personal and human materiality; the words would arrange themselves only according to perceived interior reality, my books would be streams of silence and solitude; not streams of society and conversation.


1. Proust's notes to himself.

2. We see that M. de Guercy is not always identified with M. de Charlus. There is even a moment when he takes the role (as here) of M. de Norpois. Proust notes in the middle of the page: "Perhaps he will also say things like M. de Guercy." In brackets a name that appears to be either Durzon or Curzon  who will be mentioned later. This name seems to be a revival from Jean Santeuil.

3. "Bergotte" - crossed out.

4. "Méséglise road, l'Oise" - crossed out.

5. Similar to a passage that appears in Carnet 1.

6. "Leave the look full of boredom but in the phrase in the margin" between lines in crossed out section.

7. "At Rivebelle in front of a piece of green fabric" in the margin.

8.  "Fork" - crossed out.

9. "Orangeade" - crossed out.

10. Crossed out "of Combray", "of Querqueville or of Venice".

11. "The hours of blessed azure and silver at Querqueville" - crossed out.

12. Note in the margin: "Put back this crossed out passage (Is it in the end because of the forgotten years) to terminate the sentence. But say rather. And this originality finally issues from states more powerful than the forgotten years."

13. "Perfumes" crossed out. "Colours or things seen" crossed out.

14.  This is probably a name given to the Vivonne. In Contre Sainte-Beuve Proust mentions the old Forcheville house where there was a garden descending all the way down to the Gracieuse "like in La Vieille Fille."


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Created 29.03.16