French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
To such beings, such fugitive beings, their own nature and our anxiety fasten wings. And even when they are with us the look in their eyes seems to warn us that they are about to take flight. The proof of this beauty itself, that wings add is that often, for us, the same person is alternately winged and wingless.
We can immediately detect the language of passion...unexpressed as it happens, but revealing itself at once to the listener by an intuitive faculty which [is] the most widespread thing in the world.
We never see the people who are dear to us save in the animated system, the perpetual motion of our incessant love for them, which, before allowing the images that their faces present to reach us, seizes them in its vortex and flings them back upon the idea that we have always had of them, makes them adhere to it, coincide with it.
When a belief vanishes, there survives it -- more and more vigorously so as to cloak the absence of the power, now lost to us, of imparting reality to new things -- a fetishistic attachment to the old things which it did once animate, as if it was in them and not in ourselves that the divine spark resided, and as if our present incredulity had a contingent cause -- the death of the gods.
While Elstir, at my request, went on painting, I wandered about in the half-light, stopping to examine first one picture, then another. Most of those that covered the walls were not what I should chiefly have liked to see of his work, paintings in what an English art journal which lay about on the reading-room table in the Grand Hotel called his first and second manners, the mythological manner and the manner in which he shewed signs of Japanese influence, both admirably exemplified, the article said, in the collection of Mme. de Guermantes. Naturally enough, what he had in his studio were almost all seascapes done here, at Balbec. But I was able to discern from these that the charm of each of them lay in a sort of metamorphosis of the things represented in it, analogous to what in poetry we call metaphor, and that, if God the Father had created things by naming them, it was by taking away their names or giving them other names that Elstir created them anew.
The oddities of charming people exasperate us, but there are few if any charming people who are not, at the same time, odd.
The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.
The thirst for something other than what we have ... to bring something new, even if it is worse, some emotion, some sorrow; when our sensibility, which happiness has silenced like an idle harp, wants to resonate under some hand, even a rough one, and even if it might be broken by it.
The world was not created once and for all time for each of us individually. There are added to it in the course of our life things of which we have never had any suspicion.
There is not a woman in the world the possession of whom is as precious as that of the truths which she reveals to us by causing us to suffer.
This very parallel between desire and travel made me vow to myself that one day I would grasp a little more closely the nature of this force, invisible but as powerful as any faith, or as, in the world of physics, atmospheric pressure, which exalted to such a height cities and women so long as I did not know them, and slipped away from beneath them as soon as I had approached them, made them at once collapse and fall flat upon the dead level of the most commonplace reality.
The one thing more difficult than following a regimen is not imposing it on others.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
The time which we have at our disposal every day is elastic; the passions that we feel expand it, those that we inspire contract it; and habit fills up what remains. Since railways came into existence, the necessity of not missing the train has taught us to take account of minutes whereas among the ancient Romans, who not only had a more cursory science of astronomy but led less hurried lives, the notion not of minutes but even of fixed hours barely existed.
Their love--and consequently their fear--of the crowd being one of the most powerful motives in all men, whether they seek to please other people or to astonish them, or to show them that they despise them.
There is probably no one, however rigid his virtue, who is not liable to find himself, by the complexity of circumstances, living at close quarters with the very vice which he himself has been most outspoken in condemning -- without altogether recognizing it beneath the disguise of ambiguous behavior which it assumes in his presence.
This was many years ago. The staircase wall on which I saw the rising glimmer of his candle has long since ceased to exist. In me, too, many things have been destroyed that I thought were bound to last forever and new ones have formed that have given birth to new sorrows and joys which I could not have foreseen then, just as the old ones have been difficult for me to understand. It was a very long time ago, too, that my father ceased to be able to say to Mama, Go with the boy. The possibility of such hours will never be reborn for me.
The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes, in seeing the universe with the eyes of another, of hundreds of others, in seeing the hundreds of universes that each of them sees.
The reality that I had known no longer existed. The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.
The tiny, initial clue... by allowing us to imagine what we do not know stimulates a desire for knowledge.
Then from those profound slumbers we awake in a dawn, not knowing who we are, being nobody, newly born, ready for anything, the brain emptied of that past which was life until then. And perhaps it is more wonderful still when our landing at the waking-point is abrupt and the thoughts of our sleep, hidden by a cloak of oblivion, have no time to return to us gradually, before sleep ceases. Then, from the black storm through which we seem to have passed (but we do not even say we), we emerge prostrate, without a thought, awe that is void of content.
There is probably not one person, however great his virtue, who cannot be led by the complexities of life?s circumstances to a familiarity with the vices he condemns the most vehemently?without his completely recognizing this vice which, disguised as certain events, touches him and wounds him: strange words, an inexplicable attitude, on a given night, of the person whom he otherwise has so many reasons to love.
This was not to say, however, that she did not long, at times, for some greater change, that she did not experience some of those exceptional moments when one thirsts for something other than what is, and when those who, through lack of energy or imagination, are unable to generate any motive power in themselves, cry out, as the clock strikes or the postman knocks, for something new, even if it worse, some emotion, some sorrow..; however cruel.
The only thing that does not change is that at any and every time it appears that there have been great changes..
The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. It is his work itself that, by fertilizing the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply.