A Hotel Bedroom

   One evening when Jean arrived dejectedly in a new town not daring to approach the hotel where he had reserved a room, trembling so much that his heart beat wildly at the thought of having to spend the night in this unknown place, in the end he went into the hotel; a smiling porter came up to him and warmed his heart again with a kind of geniality, then lead him to his room down a long corridor so thickly carpeted that one could not hear the sound of one's footsteps, this corridor lead only to his room so that it was in some way isolated from the rest of the hotel. He turned the door handle soundlessly. Immediately the room was flooded with extensive and soft electric light, smiling at him with another form of congeniality. It was a good sized room, very large, with a ceiling not too high in its proportions where the body feels itself unconfined but not hemmed in and without those elevations that bring with them sadness, that superposed and inaccessible space that reigns uselessly over us like an unnecessary chandelier. All the carpets were very soft, softer even than the light that was illuminating them, the atmosphere of the room was made very agreeable by the excellent fire blazing in the hearth, the books brought in advance and left on the table, a light supper reserved for him, punch ready prepared, the spacious but not too long bed, no longer sad and separate from the room but plunging deep into its silent blessings which would not inconvenience you at all but keep you company as you enjoy a pleasant rest, everything that foretold of spending some agreeable time there with two little closets awaiting, the option of going into them or leaving them empty or leaving them open to make his room longer, the provision of so many other details for the omnipotence of the occupant, electrical switches just waiting for the touch of his fingers to provide him with the light he needed whenever he wished, if he wanted to read in the middle of the night, or eat or write, just where he needed them, opening the curtains because it was no longer dark, looking out over an ancient courtyard leading to a sort of yellowing sculpted palace from which hung virginia creeper chiseled by nature and consumed by the autumn - curtains quickly drawn again so as to return more completely into the room, making him want to send the porter away as quickly as possible and be left as the single master of his little domain and to embrace it. A strange feeling of joy suffused his being. The door now closed again on the porter and on the world, he removed his ankle boots the better to sink his feet into the soft carpets, feel their warmth, soft, firm and noiseless beneath his skips and bounds. He moved himself in front of the excellent fire, his laughing eyes blinking against the light, convinced of the submissiveness of all the electrical switches to his omnipotence, grateful to the places that in one fell swoop, by a mystery perhaps of its proportions in which some unhappy creature, suffering in anguish, finds equilibrium in his nervous exigencies, had relieved him of the weight of those anxieties and communicated this intoxication to him. He approached his armchair by the fire without touching it so as not to disturb in any way the tranquility of this picture of happiness that came before him, letting flame succeed flame. This excellent fire seemed to possess, if not the life of a person at least the life of an artwork, a portrait deep within which some meaning is awakened, a musical air that one hears and surprises oneself by attributing a sort of life and soul to the sounds drawn out of the pipes of an organ. In this way that well-made fire created at the heart of the room an harmonious foundation, speaking, almost, of a scene of happiness. And in its soft and imperceptible whispering it was as if there were a benevolent intent and a bold essence. Jean felt the thick curtains that swathed the room in silence, in well-being, in isolation from everything else and in a sort of gentle embrace of all that it enclosed. In this way this room became for him something full of poetic intent, to him for whom all comfort and all luxury had been dried up, and because of that this room deserved to take its place in a work of art in which the only rooms to have featured up until now, the only ones layered with poetry were bare provincial rooms. In this way we have seen Jean receive from M. Beulier what he would not have been able to find for himself and over quite a long period, a visit to M. Beulier far from prompting in him remorse for abandoning himself will bring to his spiritual life the very fruitfulness of solitude. Jean was astonished at this miracle by which he could enter an unknown room for the first time where he was obliged to spend the night without experiencing all around him the spectres of nostalgia, insomnia and anguish. The greater miracle still was that comfort and luxury could, something that never happened before, instead of drying up all poetry in him, could excite in him raptures of animation. For so it could be described. Ruskin says that we must describe everything, that it is wrong to discard one object or another because there is poetry in everything. I think there is indeed the possibility of stimulating poetry in everything. But for all the times a thing does not appear to us in that way, what is the use of describing it coldly. I prefer Renan's advice of never writing about anything you do not love. One day we find we love something that we never thought we would. But until that day there is no reason to write about it.

Manuscript of Jean Santeuil, written c. 1897.


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