Monday, 19 February 2007

The Proust diaries

Since my mum found the Terence Kilmartin translations at auction and sent them down for me, I've decided to have a serious crack at reading A la Recherche. For me, Proust is implicated in his own diagnosis: my Scott-Moncrieff copy of Swann's Way reminds me of nothing more than eating supermarket (Monoprix?) camembert while pulling out of Amiens station a few summers back. Anyway, I'm intending to slog through the whole thing in the next couple of months as I've recently realised that you can't have Green's Caught without Proust.

I think my fear of Proust comes from an anxiety that the rest of the novel (if you can call it that) won't be as evocative as the Combray section or as blackly comic as "Swann in Love". I end up in a vicious circle whereby I don't read on because I think it becomes more "social" and less abstract.

Anyway, after a couple of good evening sessions and a twenty-five page stint in the pub yesterday as an accompaniment to the football scores, I'm 140 pages in now. I'm not sure why (maybe it's a Green thing) but I'm fixated with the bit where Marcel is looking through M. Vinteuil's back window without being noticed. I've been looking at Malcolm Bowie's book Freud, Proust and Lacan in the last couple of weeks in which Bowie draws out the (uncanny) simultaneity of Freud and Proust's vision. For Bowie, it is the stated method of articulating the notion of unearthed memory which makes them different in principle. I think this is correct: A la Recherche frequently stops being a novel as such in exactly the same manner in which The Psychopathology of Everyday Life often transforms into a collection of short comic fictions and The Interpretation of Dreams becomes something akin to biography. The scene outside Vinteuil's house, in its meticulous attention to habit and social presentation, is good "theoretical fiction". It gives you the same sensation as you have when you realise that somebody has been watching you singing along to your headphones for the last fifteen minutes.

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