French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
You cannot be surprised at anything men do, they're such brutes.
We always end up doing the thing we are second best at.
We imagine always when we speak that it is our own ears, our own mind, that are listening. The truth which one puts into one's words does not carve out a direct path for itself, it is not irresistibly self-evident. A considerable time must elapse before a truth of the same order can take shape in them.
What a profound significance small things assume when the woman we love conceals them from us.
When the Narrator learns of the sudden departure of Albertine (most likely his lover Agostinelli), he has again his 'souffle coup‚' [interrupted breathing]. The connection between asthma and the anxiety of separation is a well-known clinical fact. According to a recent review of the problems, the asthmatic attack... represents the repressed cry for the mother... The asthmatic person is frequently one with exaggerated dependence on mother. Everything which threatens to separate the patient from the protective mother is apt to precipitate an asthmatic attack.
You know Balbec so well - do you have friends in the area?'
We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.
We made much less happy by the kindness of a great writer, which strictly speaking we find only in his books, than we suffer from the hostility of a woman whom we have not chosen for her intelligence, but whom we cannot stop ourselves from loving.
What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.
When we are in love with a woman we simply project on to her a state of our own soul; that consequently the important thing is not the worth of the women but the profundity of the state; and that the emotions which a perfectly ordinary girl arouses in us can enable us to bring to the surface of our consciousness some of the innermost parts of our being, more personal, more remote, more quintessential that any that might be evoked by the pleasure we derive from the conversation of a great man or even from the admiring contemplation of his work.
You may not have heard, Duke, that there is a new word to describe that sort of attitude, said the archivist, who was Secretary to the Committee against Reconsideration, One says 'mentality.' It means exactly the same thing, but it has the advantage that nobody knows what you're talking about. It's the ne plus ultra just now, the 'latest thing,' as they say.
We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.
We may talk for a lifetime without doing more than indefinitely repeat the vacuity of a minute.
What artists call posterity is the posterity of the work of art.
When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves. It radiates towards the loved one, finds there a surface which arrests it, forcing it to return to its starting-point, and it is this repercussion of our own feeling which we call the other's feelings and which charms us more then than on its outward journey because we do not recognize it as having originated in ourselves.
You, who are so fond of the things of intelligence... [Anatole] France said to [Proust]. I am not at all fond of things of the intelligence, but only of life and of movement, Proust replied.
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.
We may, indeed, say that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we think of that hour as situated in a vague and remote expanse of time; it does not occur to us that it can have any connection with the day that has already dawned and can mean that death can occur this very afternoon, so far from uncertain, this afternoon whose timetable, hour by hour, has been settled in advance. One insists on one's daily outing, so that in a month's time one will have had the necessary ration of fresh air, one has hesitated over which coat to take, which cabman to call ;one is in the cab, the whole day lies before one, short because one must be back home early,as a friend is coming to see one; one hopes it will be fine again tomorrow; one has no suspicion that death, which has been advancing one on another plane, has chosen precisely this particular day to make it's appearance in a few minutes' time.
What barrier is so insurmountable as silence?
When we understand that suffering is the best thing we can encounter in life, we contemplate death without dismay as a sort of emancipation.
Your soul is a dark forest. But the trees are of a particular species, they are genealogical trees.
We are very slow in recognizing in the peculiar physiognomy of a new writer the type which is labelled 'great talent' in our museum of general ideas. Simply because that physiognomy is new and strange, we can find in it no resemblance to what we are accustomed to call talent. We say rather originality, charm, delicacy, strength; and then one day we add up the sum of these, and find that it amounts simply to talent.
We must never be afraid to go too far, for success lies just beyond.
What best remind us of a person is precisely what we had forgotten (because it was of no importance, and we therefore left it in full possession of its strength). That is why the better part of our memories exist outside us, in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past has in store, the richest, that which, when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at the source, can make us weep again. Outside us? Within us, rather, but hidden from our eyes in an oblivion more or less prolonged. It is thanks to this oblivion alone that we can from time to time recover the person that we were, place ourselves in relation to things as he was placed, suffer anew because we are no longer ourselves but he, and because he loved what now leaves us indifferent. In the broad daylight of our habitual memory the images of the past turn gradually pale and fade out of sight, nothing remains of them, we shall never recapture it. Or rather we should never recapture it had not a few words been carefully locked away in oblivion, just as an author deposits in the National Library a copy of a book which might otherwise become unobtainable.
When, from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflattering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.