French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
To understand a profound thought is to have, at the moment one understands it, a profound thought oneself; and this demands some effort, a genuine descent to the heart of oneself? Only desire and love give us the strength to make this effort. The only books that we truly absorb are those we read with real appetite, after having worked hard to get them, so great had been our need of them.
We construct our life for one person and, when finally we are ready to receive that person in our life, she does not come, then dies in our eyes and we live as prisoners of that which was meant only for her.
We ought never to feel resentment towards other people, ought never to judge them by some memory of an unkind action, for we do not know all the good that, at other moments, their hearts may have sincerely desired and realized; no doubt the evil form which we have established once and for all will recur, but the heart is far more rich than that, has many other forms that will recur... I am brought up against the difficulty of presenting a permanent image as well of a character as of societies and passions. For it changes no less than they, and if we seek to portray what is relatively unchanging in it, we see it present in succession different aspects (implying that it cannot remain still but keeps moving) to the disconcerted artist.
When at the outbreak of the war [Proust] expected to be called for military duty, he was terribly concerned lest he be summoned at an inconvenient hour of the day. The summons finally arriving, Proust presented himself promptly at three A.M. Naturally he found no one there; he had misread the notice which set the hour for eight A.M.
Why, what in the world is there that we should care for if it's not our lives, the only gift the Lord never offers us a second time.
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.
The true paradises are the lost paradises.
Then it would begin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a former existence must be to a reincarnate spirit; the subject of my book would separate itself from me, leaving me free to choose whether I would form part of it or no; and at the same time my sight would return and I would be astonished to find myself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for the eyes, and even more, perhaps, for my mind, to which it appeared incomprehensible, without a cause, a matter dark indeed.
There was a time when my ancestors were proud of the title of chamberlain or butler to the King, said the Baron. There was also a time, replied Morel haughtily, when my ancestors cut off your ancestors' heads.
Those who have created for themselves an enveloping inner life, pay little heed to the importance of current events. What alters profoundly the course of their thinking is much more something which seems to be of no importance in itself and yet which reverses the order of time for them, making them live over again an earlier period of their life. The song of a bird in the park of Montboissier, a breeze laden with the scent of mignonette, are obviously incidents of less importance than the outstanding dates of the Revolution and the Empire. Yet they inspired Chateaubriand in his M‚moires d'Outre-tombe to write pages of an infinitely greater value.
The only true paradise is paradise lost.
The regularity of a habit is generally in proportion to its absurdity.
The true paradises are the paradises that we have lost.
Theoretically, we know that the world turns, but in fact we do not notice it, the earth on which we walk does not seem to move and we live on in peace. This is how it is concerning Time in our lives. And to render its passing perceptible, novelists must... have their readers cross ten, twenty, thirty years in two minutes.
There was nothing abnormal about it when homosexuality was the norm.
Those who have played a big part in one?s life very rarely disappear from it suddenly for good. They return to it at odd moments ? before leaving it for good.
The only true paradises are the paradises which we have lost.
The remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.