Proust 1.1 – Overture

Marcel thinks back to earlier years lying in bed.

This is the proper introduction to the whole endeavor, and Proust spends fifty pages leading up to the famous madeleines segment, in which his childhood memory is brought forth in Romantic fashion through the eating of the little morsel.

Such is his aim, but since ROTP is about nothing if not minute digressions and explorations, I found the theorizing and abstract internal experience less persuasive than the recreation itself. Which is fitting, since the intended effect (as stated) is one of transparency, of a recreation of the past as immanent, not remembered as shadows. The town of Combray, all its sensory data, come back to him via the conduit of the madeleine.

But there’s another memory that has already been detailed, that of his attempt to get his mother to give him a goodnight kiss after he has been put to bed, presented as though he were pulling some sort of heist. He slips a note to Francoise, his aunt’s cook, to be delivered to his mother, and after his father’s unexpectedly kindly intervention, he gets his kiss and then some: his mother stays in his room that night. It’s the solipsism that’s striking: it’s presented as though the feelings of the kid there and then are the size of the world, and no objective perspective of the adult (except for verbal embellishment and refinement) will interfere.

So there is the sensory memory, and the emotional memory, and the intent is to present both unfettered. What’s not clear is if they’re considered the same type or if they fall under different rubrics. But since questions and not answers are going to be the order for at least a thousand pages or so, best not to consider it further right now.

Also, I can’t forget this passage, from the reticent, snarky family friend M. Swann:

The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance. (27)

Hmm.

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