Friday, 16 March 2007

Proust in the Power of Photography by Brassai

This brilliant little book by the photographer Brassai is a fascinating study of the importance in Proust's life and writing of photography; Proust was an avid collector of photographs of his friends and social acquaintances, sometimes to the point of obsession.
Brassai (Gyula Halász) himself was born in Transylvania and after moving to France learned the language through reading Proust. He writes:
'In his battle against Time, that enemy of our precarious existence, ever on the offensive though never openly so, it was in photography, also born of an age-old longing to halt the moment, to wrest it from the flux of 'dureé' in order to 'fix' it forever in a semblance of eternity, that Proust found his best ally.'
The epigraph at the begining of Brassai's book is a quote from A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleures:
'Pleasures are like photographs: those taken in the beloved's presence no more than negatives, to be developed later, once you are at home, having regained the use of that interior darkroom, access to which is 'condemned' as long as you are seeing other people.'
C/f Wordsworth:
And when upon my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude.


Olga said...

It is always such a joy to go to Paris, not only because of the eternal beauties within the city, but because they have had such fascinating photography exhibitions each time we have visited. The French seem to take photography much more seriously as an art form.

Brassai is an old favourite, but I admit not knowing this title, despite also being a Proustophile myself once(studied at univeristy in the 60s)- although I had not thought much about him until I read your posts. I did not comment as your posts deserved, because I cannot afford the time to think about him and his work seriously at present. I am enjoying reading them nonetheless.

Celia said...

Hello, Olga, I can understand what you say about Proust and time! As you can tell, I re-visit him regularly over the years, but also feel that 'life is too short' to devote as muc time to Proust as I sense he needs.

I have one other book about him which I've recently re-read, which I'll post as soon as I've dealt with the book I've just finished reading - NOT about Proust, for a change!

Thanks you for your messages. It's always good to know that I'm not alone in my admiration for certain writers - especially Proust - whom some find recondite or not worth the effort involved.