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Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust

(1871 - 1922)


French Novelist, Critic and Essayist

'I was seized with a mad desire to ravish little sleeping towns' [Proust] wrote to Lauris, using the sexual imagery which he so often associated with travel.
'There is no man,' [Elstir] began, 'however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory. And yet he ought not entirely to regret it, because he cannot be certain that he has indeed become a wise man--so far as it is possible for any of us to be wise--unless he has passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be preceded... We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.'
A book in which there are theories is like an article from which the price mark has not been removed. And even at that, a price mark merely expresses value, whereas in literature logical reasoning lessens it.
A book is a huge cemetery in which on the majority of the tombs the names are effaced and can no longer be read. Sometimes on the other hand we remember a name well enough but do not know whether anything of the individual who bore it survives in our pages. That girl with the very deep-set eyes and the drawling voice, is she here? and if she is, in what part of the ground does she lie? we no longer know, and how are we to find her beneath the flowers? But since we live at a great distance from other human beings, since even our strongest feelings and in this class had been my love for my grandmother and for Albertine ? at the end of a few years have vanished from our hearts and become for us merely a word which we do not understand, since we can talk casually of these dead people with fashionable acquaintances whose houses we still visit with pleasure though all that we loved has died, surely then, if there exists a method by which we can learn to undrstand these forgotten words once more, is it not our duty to make use of it, even if this means transcribing them first into a language which is universal but which for that very reason will at least be permanent, a language which may make out of those who are no more, in their truest essence, a lasting acquisition for the minds of all mankind? And as for that law of change which made these loved words unintelligible to us, if we succeed at least in explaining it, is not even our infirmity transformed into strength of a new kind?
A cathedral, a wave of a storm, a dancer's leap, never turn out to be as high as we had hoped.
A certain similarity exists, although the type evolves, between all the women we love, a similarity that is due to the fixity of our own temperament, which it is that chooses them, eliminating all those who would not be at once our opposite and our complement, fitted that is to say to gratify our senses and to wring our heart.
A change in the weather is sufficient to create the world and ourselves anew.
A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.
A collection of bad love songs, tattered from overuse, has to touch us like a cemetery or a village. So what if the houses have no style, if the graves are vanishing under tasteless ornaments and inscriptions? Before an imagination sympathetic and respectful enough to conceal momentarily its aesthetic disdain, that dust may release a flock of souls, their beaks holding the still verdant dreams that gave them an inkling of the next world and let them rejoice or weep in this world.
A doctor who doesn't say too many foolish things is a patient half-cured, just as a critic is a poet who has stopped writing verse and a policeman a burglar who retired from practice.