Proust was a blogger…

“Remembrance of things past
is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”

― Marcel Proust

 

 

Proust is a well known French writer, renowned for his… difficult style. You’ll Google it if you want to try, OK?

Thus, in France (and probably elsewhere) you often hear this “I tried Proust, but I couldn’t finish it”, with a little funny face.

Well, OK, I never finished it either! Reading Proust is like eating a feast everyday. It’s exhausting!

  • Worse : you can not really read something else, because every writer looks like a dumb moron after Proust. Too much intelligence pulls you in an awe, where air is rare.
  • Worse : you want to grab anyone you know to scream “Read Proust, it’s amazing!”. No, come on, it’s impossible to read him.
  • Worse : Proust’s style, made of long, complex phrases, with an absolute lack of concessions (for the reader), is like dive into it, or else…

Therefore : you have to make an effort. Each time you plunge in Proust you have to. You’re like “OMG it’s dense!”, then you find the marvels. A bit like opera, you see? If you don’t make an effort, an opera is a boring story with people singing like crazy about stupid dramas. Make an effort to find your own pleasure : voices, performance, music, comparing, etc…

Once you did it, here it is : Proust is a blogger.

One day I explained it to my best friend. She was like “Meh”. OK, I said. I picked up the book, read a page (randomly), and we found an idea. So good it filled the evening in conversations.

The only secret is this : do not take it too solemnly. It’s not a cathedral. La Recherche (“In Search of the Lost Time”) is just a huge great book. If you’re bored, breathe and pass a page. YES. Go on. You’ll find emerald & pearls. It’ll kill you (it’s soo good). One day, it’s enough. Read something else.

In each page you’ll find one or more ideas. Each one could let you thinking smiling watching the sky, like “Ohh, that’s true!”.

He’s a blogger. But he’s better than you, I warn you…

 

Have a nice day!

 

“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”
― Marcel Proust, Time Regained

 

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“Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power … that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”
Marcel Proust

 

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Benefits of annotating your books

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Wood pencils. 5B is my preferred grading. It’s gorgeous bold.

Annotating. What for?

  1. It’s easier to find back interesting ideas after a while, OK.
  2. It’s interesting to discover, if you reread the book, that the ideas you underlined before were maybe not “that” interesting now, and that you did not notice some greater ones in the middle. The book didn’t change. You did.
  3. Each annotation is like a micro time-capsule which someone (your kids? an unknown person?) will find one day in the future.
  4. Annotating shuts off the solemnity, putting instantly the book out of the wrong-way-up idea of collecting perfect objects, making the book just what it should be : a text container, a tank of ideas , and certainly not a “precious thing”. Putting some life into it.
  5. Linking some parts of the books with your experience, with other books.
  6. Finding the “big picture” – at least linked to your own life.

 

I have my own code. I circle a A, it’s an idea for an article. I slice a square, it means I have to find the book quoted here. Etc.

What about you?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Proust : “Beautiful books are written in a kind of foreign language”

“Beautiful books are written in a kind of foreign language”.

 

Isn’t it true? What about other textfields? Articles? Theater plays? Dialogs in a movie? Blogs?

It’s about style, but not only. It’s about strangeization (adding little strange elements in the words flow to raise the reader’s eyebrows) but not only.

 

I blogged for eight years in French, and then now I write in English, precisely because it’s not my native language. I have to stay simple, to let go, I have to admit I’m not skilled enough to write as I would have liked to. I wrote an article about it : Writing in another language.

…until I realized it can be pleasant or funny for English readspeakers to read my warped little articles here :

  1. I make mistakes (I’m sorry for that!)
  2. I make mistakes on purpose
  3. I add French words in the phrases (so there), et voilà !
  4. I often hesitate between two words and then I aggregate them in a forfun way…

 

But I think Proust says more. I like this idea of inventing a slightly weird style in your own native language, when you write. This is a little string in the harp of writing creativity, I agree, but to me it’s an important string.

When I discover a new blog, I explore the ideas it presents, of course, but I really LOVE to find little leaning elements, the raising eyebrows kind…

written in a kind of foreign language

Yes sometimes it goes a bit far. I remember my shock when I began to read Faulkner, with his risky unpunctuated flows of conscience pages. Or Joyce, of course.

 

In France, the infinite, complex and delicious pages of Marcel Proust, the false spoken style of Céline, the gorgeous style of Colette or Jean Giono, the toxic pleasures of Marguerite Duras. I’m French. I read them in an awe, surprised and amazed by how they dare to write.

I do wonder how translators try to… transmit this in English!

 

Tools :

Is it a tool? Do you think about it when you write? How?

 

I could hands can see cooling fingers invisible swan-throat where less than Moses rod the glass touch tentative not to drumming lean cool throat drumming cooling the metal the glass full overfull cooling the glass the fingers flushing sleep leaving the taste of dampened sleep in the long silence of the throat I returned up the corridor, waking the lost feet in whispering battalions in the silence, into the gasoline, the watch telling its furious lie on the dark table.

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

 

(yes it’s about a guy in the night searching of the carafe of water in darkness)

 

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<< Virginia Woolf would sit down to thank a friend for sending her a slab of nougat from Saint-Tropez, but, put in mind of France by the package, she soon found herself talking only of the novel. “My great adventure is really Proust,” she wrote, “I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined.” >>

 

 

From frowny eyes to hilarity : When you have to “find the fun” – Cioran & Bernhard

Emil Cioran was a Romanian writer and philosopher. He is famous for writing books such as The Trouble with Being Born. As you can guess, it’s very tormented and pessimistic.

William H. Gass called Cioran’s work “a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease”.

Thomas Bernhard was a Austrian “novelist, playwright and poet”. His style is mainly about monologues reported to a listener (you?). It’s very intense, full of anger and a bit disturbing. His books’ titles are like Extinction or Concrete.

“Bernhard’s prose is lapidary and translucent in its vocabulary, but sinuous and formidably dense in its phrasing”.

 

Yes, you can take all this very seriously.

I’ve known a couple of young men who read Cioran as an obsession, like a Master of pessimism : “The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live –moreover, the only one.”. And why not?

And I admit I read my first Thomas Bernhard with frowny eyes. “Very often we write down a sentence too early, then another too late; what we have to do is write it down at the proper time, otherwise it’s lost.”

 

Then… you grow up, you study the way they write (one in archipelagos, the other one in words rivers), you begin to notice their ways, their exaggerations, their… wizardry, their understanding, their contradictions.

Then you smile.

Then you LAUGH…

I agree, it’s a strange laugh. It would be a bit short to say it’s sarcastic, because it’s not. Sometimes humor sticks out with a whole harp of powers. You laugh but you think, you laugh but you sob, you laugh but you have empathy, you laugh but you’re deeply moved, you laugh and you want to get out of your house to run like hell out in the streets, full of seeds, anger, and new ideas…

You just needed to make progress until you have the capacity to “get it”.

 

Where does it happen, when you have to “find the fun”? How would you make it? When do things have like this, many doors? Why should humor move with this stick : “This is humor”?? Can (and do you need to) you invent and trace humor on something which is “obviously” not funny?

Isn’t it a lesson? Like… maybe we have to find a possible way to laugh after our months of deep despair?
Thanks for reading!

Have a nice day. Pardon my Frenchenglish, oui ?

 

Hey, it’s my article N600!

 

 

 

 

Bovary 2 #quotes

“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.”
― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

“She wanted to die, but she also wanted to live in Paris.”
― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

 

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The Last Paintings, Sibelius’ Piano & other Lateral Entrances

If you decide to explore a field, you can take the highway : choose the best selling hits & jewels and study them. Mona Lisa for Da Vinci, The Bolero for Ravel, Citizen Kane for Welles. La Recherche for Proust…

Main entrance…

This morning I read the interview of a pianist who recorded the works of Sibelius for piano – yet this composer is mainly known for his symphonic works.

This year, in France, there’s a new coffee-table book named Le Dernier Tableau (“The Last Painting”). As you can guess : it’s a surprising book. The last painting each painter did before death – is showed and described with interesting developments (Is it premonitory? Is there a new freedom? Do you see silly risks, or dejection?).

You see me coming, right?

An “other” way to study something is to find the lateral doors. Other fields, where the Master is weaker, or more casual. Minor works. Last sparkles (or awkward beginnings).

You could find :

  1. New perspectives on an artist you already know well
  2. A fresher way to enlighten a career you’d like to know more
  3. A preparation for a deeper study
  4. A seek of casualness and peace in front of an impressive artist

 

Who’s your next prey?

 

Have a nice day!

 

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Feeling the air of Waterloo & other oblique explorations…

Hey, explorer…

Choose a knowledge-field you don’t know at all, and begin to dig to find your gold. This is what you like to do, right?

Japanese cinema, French classical music, British painters of 19th Century, US Civil War – what else?

Voilà : you have your unknown territory ready. Your hungriness will do the rest. Yum!

You need help, right? A compass, a guide, a book, a web site, friends, a lecture… It’s easy to find some. Find a map. Draw your map.

What we often do is to see what’s essential. Kurosawa and Ozu for Japanese cinema. Ravel and Debussy for French musicians, etc. You read the most important books, and that’s OK. An afternoon on the web will help to find the list…

Here I propose some more oblique ways to do that.

  • Find documents against. People who dislike, or say the contrary of what it’s commonly said. I once read about the French Revolution : next to the great books I piled on my table, I put a book written by a Royalist, an historian whose motto was “Revolution : a wrong mess!”. He was a good writer, though, and I learned a lot from him – though it’s pretty rare to find this “music” in our times.
  • Explore little branches of the tree. After decades of exploration, I knew the great composers and their important works : Brahms, Bartok, Prokofiev and more. Then I spent years to explore the same field, but under the stars : Roussel, Martinu, Walton and Sibelius. And thanks to the previous “normal” exploration, I had so much pleasure!
  • Find other ways to explore :
  • Instead of reading history books about an era, try to read books written by witnesses. Instead of trying to find the big picture, choose one person, a detail. One painter’s life. Instead of reading, go to lectures, watch them on YouTube. Find the minor things, what’s considered failures, and study hows and whys…

  • Explore what’s difficult : Mahler instead of Beethoven. Avant-garde photography.
  • Explore what’s hard because documents are rare, or the field very small.
  • Explore what you think you dislike : Consider other doors. Baroque music. Swedish movies. History of Prussia. Try to see if you find surprise-gold.
  • Go on site. This is totally different. Feeling the air of Waterloo. Find Vermeer’s city. Watch the sky…
  • In between two fields. Instead of studying Portugal or the new America, study the boats, the travels, the movements, agreements, trades. Learn what happened between two territories : producers and movie makers, Napoleo and United Kingdom…

 

What territory will you find? Butterflies? African masks? Dante? Religions in India? Story of the city of Philadelphia? Bridges of Budapest?

Do you have other ideas to find doors, bridges, territories and maps?

Then, what vein of gold will you find? What doors, what ways? Will you wake up in the morning with this delicious urge : dig more, know more, learn more?

Thanks for reading!

 

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