Sunday, 21 January 2007

In Search of Lost Time


Many volumes have been written on Proust’s life and works so it’s easy for interested parties to follow up on. Try Wikipedia, for openers.
My own response to A La Recherche, which is not so much a story as an interior monologue, is entirely based on an appreciation of the powerful and convincing way in which he expresses ‘ the link between external and internal reality found in time and memory’ His understanding of psychological, philosophical and sociological manifestations of human life and society seem to me uniquely true and revealing. (O.K. Henry James comes close). Proust is, undeniably, discursive and I know that many would-be reader are daunted by this, but if you stay with it you find the text is so ‘alive with brilliant metaphor and sense imagery’, and the characters are brought so compellingly before your eyes, that it becomes mesmeric and, eventually, un-put-downable.
‘ A vital theme is the extent to which Proust sees humanity's strivings subjugated—time mocks the individual's intelligence and endeavors; memory synthesizes yet distorts past experience. Most experience causes inner pain, and the objects of human desires are the chief causes of their suffering.
‘In Proust's scheme the individual is isolated, society is false and ruled by snobbery, and artistic endeavor is raised to a religion and is superior to nature. Only through the vision gained in works of art can the individual see beyond his or her subjective experience. Proust's ability to interpret innermost experience in terms of such eternal forces as time and death created a profound and protean world view and his work has influenced generations of novelists and thinkers. His vision and technique have come to be seen as vital to the development of modernism.’

3 comments:

billo said...

What does it mean to "see beyond one's own subjective experiences"? Isn't there something inhuman in doing so? The Allama would say: finitude is not a misfortune...

Great post. Hope there are some actual excerpts forthcoming from the book (s)

Celia said...

I don't agree. Inhuman? Surely, one of the prerequisites of the ability to relate to others, to empathise with their feelings and THEIR experiences, is the ability o see above and beyond one's own subjective experiences.

As to Prousts' view that this could only be achieved through one's view of art, maybe that's carrying things too far! - but we're talking about a man who spent his latter years in the splendid isolation of a cork-lined room, venturing out into society(when his state of health allowed) only to gather material for his masterpiece.

billo said...

Not sure. To see a human we have to be human. No? There is a tendency to see 'with the eye of God' (sub specie aeternitatis) or to reduce people to 'dots or dreams' (whitman); but yes, I agree with you..to relate we cannot be just stuck in ourselves ("full of oneself") but it cannot, at the same time, be about forgetting the human perpsective.

com-passion ..to suffer with others. To reach out, to shake someone's hand ..and yet, I am still I, you are still you...

Art? !
Perhaps one has to become an artist ?