Proust in disorder

A long time ago I read this phrase, and I never forgot it :

you can do what you want with a masterpiece, you will never damage it

Then you don’t care to put a moustache on La Joconde Mona Lisa,  you will never spoil, ruin or damage her!

Strangely, I had to find the same pattern for Proust. I once bought the book, which impressed me like a unreachable monument, until I read – in a procrastinating movement – a little one about Proust.

The author mocked me a lot in a chapter, saying that La Recherche is not a towering “cathedral”, and that I should attack it with a good food loving miscreant hungriness, instead of being a solemn idiot. Adding something like : “It’s a masterpiece and you will be struck and enthralled by it, whatever the tip you crunch”.

Solemn idiocy is the most ridiculous one, right?

Last week I talked with a grandpa who was a reaaal Proust lover. He said he bought a few different audio books in mp3, put them in his player and was often walking in the city listening to a few of the hundreds short chapters… by different actors…  and in random order!

We laughed. It’s a game for those who read it (to guess what part of the book is spoken here). It’s a constant delight because of the language (Proust is the most gorgeous French EVER). It makes you think and offers you seeds for the mind, in showers (Proust is very, very subtle). Etc.

No solemnity here. Only the necessary casualness (and gourmandise) in front of life, ideas, et cetera : life is serious, then, once you reached these high stairs of intelligence.

Good day!

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Proust & Valéry : Tropisms Unfolding

Proust is really different. This writer in France is really a milestone : long, hard to read, but magnificent like a cathedral for those who dared to explore his huge masterpiece.

Therefore there are two kinds of French people : those who read Proust and those who did not, or abandoned the discipline.

Today I talked with a Proust lover, and we agreed on this :

Proust was a blogger

Well : the way he explores the human mind and its tropisms (which are the “very subtle movements of the human mind”), like a… craftsman goldsmith, a jewels maker, is exhausting : on each page you’ll find ideas for one single evening of conversation (with a real conversation lover, I mean).

(I know : there are few)

Then we talked about Paul Valéry, who does the same in his Carnets (Notebooks), but not in the “novel” form : only thinking and explaining.

Both of them are craftsmen, goldsmiths, jewels makers. They find ideas so subtle and delicious that you have to stop and smile and think for a few hours. Intelligences of the highest range…

One (Proust) unfolds this in long (I mean : LONG) phrases running for pages in gorgeous French. It’s like spreading out in the novel, it’s so good that it can hurt you. YES : “that” good.

The other one (Valéry) works on jewels. He makes very very small paragraphs, a few lines, that makes you stop and think the whole thing :

Oh my God he’s so right I’ve never seen it written so well before!

Finding seeds, delicate ideas. Offering them to the audience, one in complex magnificent buildings made of words, the other in small boxes containing a splendid marvel.

Two ways, to means. Try both, if you dare!

Thanks for reading!

Casting Imagination : “What do you need to see?”

“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.”, said Proust. , a little quote that made me smile, thus I posted it in my last Chronicle.

 

Yesterday I found and read a Stanley Kubrick interview. He was told : “In all your castings choices, the most surprising is Ryan O’Neal in Barry Lyndon. Suddenly, everybody realized : “Oh, well : he’s a good actor”.”

And indeed, one needed imagination to cast O’Neal in this role. It’s so disturbing to see this Californian former boxer playing this 18th-century Irish opportunist! And the film is gorgeous.

I think of a similar pattern in another movie : when Visconti casted Burt Lancaster – former acrobat, pirate or cow-boy actor –  to play a Sicily Prince in The Leopard!

 

Proust, Kubrick, Visconti : it’s the story of imagination. And it’s probably a little tool, right?

If you have to hire people and build a team, do you pick “the best” from all logical reasons, or to you think it’d be cool or useful to have some… imagination?

This could lead to other articles, right? What brings someone who has no experience, or not in this “field”? Why would we need sometimes to look “not under the light”, but elsewhere too?

It becomes one question :

What do you need to see… to see that other people don’t see?

 

Have a nice day!

 

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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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“Museums are dwellings that house only thoughts” – Proust on Rembrandt

“Museums are dwellings that house only thoughts”, wrote Proust in a little essay about Rembrandt, paintings and museums.

You’ll find the book if you need it. Here’s in brief what he says :

People go visit museums (ex : Rembrandt), they see paintings : horses, ladies, a necklace, a window, a light, a tree, etc… Like a list of elements, in line. Then they… notice some links between Rembrandt’s paintings. Textures, common elements, moods, colors he used…

But at one moment Proust says that a walk in a museum is interesting for a thinker only if suddenly he has an idea – which seems a rich one, and would likely engender richer other ones…

 

Tool : What do you think? Should Art be appreciated “as it is”, for pleasure? Or should it be analyzed, to maybe trigger you own ideas? Is it utilitarian? What would it be bad?

 

“…comme une promenade dans un musée n’aura d’intérêt véritable pour un penseur que quand en aura d’un coup jailli une de ces idées qui aussitôt lui paraissent riches et susceptibles d’en engendrer d’autres précieuses”.

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.” >>