French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
The particulars of life do not matter to the artist; they merely provide him with the opportunity to lay bare his genius.
The sleep which lay heavy upon the furniture, the room, the whole surroundings of which I formed but an insignificant pat and whose unconsciousness I should very soon return to share.
The warm glazes, the sparkling penumbra of the room itself and, through the little window framed with honeysuckle, in the rustic avenue, the resilient dryness of the sun-parched earth, veiled only by the diaphanous gauze woven of distance and the shade of the trees.
There is a degree of resemblance between the women we love at different times; and this resemblance, though it devolves, derives from the unchanging nature of our own temperament, which is what selects them, by ruling out all those who are not likely to be both opposite and complementary to us, who cannot be relied on, that is, to gratify our sensuality and wound our heart. Such women are a product of our temperament, an inverted image or projection, a negative of our sensitivity.
This dim coolness of my room was to the broad daylight of the street what the shadow is to the sunbeam, that is to say equally luminous, and presented to my imagination the entire panorama of summer, which my senses, if I had been out walking, could have tasted and enjoyed only piecemeal; and so it was quite in harmony with my state of repose which (thanks to the enlivening adventures related in my books) sustained, like a hand reposing motionless in a stream of running water, the shock and animation of a torrent of activity.
To be an artist is to fail, as no other dare to fail... failure is his world and the shrink from it desertion
The mysteries of life, of love, of death, in which children imagine in their optimism that they have no share...we perceive with a dolorous pride that they have embodied themselves in the course of years in our own life.
The past not merely is not fugitive, it remains present.
The soldier is convinced that a certain interval of time, capable of being indefinitely prolonged, will be allowed him before the bullet finds him, the thief before he is taken, men in general before they have to die.
The whole sky was formed of that radiant and almost pale blue which the wayfarer lying down in a field sees at times above his head, but so consistent, so intense, that he feels that the blue of which it is composed has been utilized without any alloy and with such an inexhaustible richness that one might delve more and more deeply into its substance without encountering an atom of anything but that same blue.
There is hardly a single action that we perform in that phase which we would not give anything, in later life, to be able to annul. Whereas what we ought to regret is that we no longer posses the spontaneity which made us perform them. In later life we look at things in a more practical way, in full conformity with the rest of society, but adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything.
This love of ours, in so far as it is a love for one particular creature, is not perhaps a very real thing, since, though associations of pleasant or painful musings can attach it for a time to a woman to the extent of making us believe that it has been inspired by her in a logically necessary way, if on the other hand we detach ourselves deliberately or unconsciously from those associations, this love, as though it were in fact spontaneous and sprang from ourselves alone, will revive in order to bestow itself on another woman.
To get through their days, nervous natures such as mine have various "speeds" as do automobiles. There are uphill and difficult day which take an eternity to climb, and downhill days which can be quickly descended.
The names of Northern railway stations in a timetable where he would like to imagine himself stepping from the train on an autumn evening when the trees are already bare and smelling strongly in the keen air, an insipid publication for people of taste, full of names that he has not heard since childhood, may have far greater value for him than five volumes of philosophy, and lead people of taste to say that for a man of talent, he has very stupid tastes.
The person with whom we are in love is to be recognized only by the intensity of the pain that we suffer.
The stellar universe is not so difficult of comprehension as the real actions of other people.
The wish for a total mutual absorption between the beloved mother and himself reveals itself as a leading motif in symbiotic love with its clearly oral implications. No closeness to the love object is ever satisfying to Proust unless it is unlimited in time and space. This is apparent in the basic scene [with his mother] and becomes even clearer in all the derivatives of other possessive, all-encompassing love situations, whether they are focused on an Albertine or an Albert.
There is in this world in which everything wears out, everything perishes, one thing that crumbles into dust, that destroys itself still more completely, leaving behind still fewer traces of itself than Beauty: namely Grief.
This malady which Swann?s love had become had so proliferated, was so closely interwoven with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he hoped for after his death, was so utterly inseparable from him, that it would have been impossible to eradicate it without almost entirely destroying him; as surgeons say, his love was no longer operable.
The nose is generally the organ in which stupidity is most readily displayed.
The Prince?s name preserved, in the boldness with which its opening syllables were?to borrow an expression from music?attacked, and in the stammering repetition that scanned them, the energy, the mannered simplicity, the heavy refinements of the Teutonic race, projected like green boughs over the Heim of dark blue enamel which glowed with the mystic light of Rhenish window behind the pale and finely wrought gildings of the German eighteenth century. This name included, among the several names of which it was composed, that of a little German watering-place to which as a small child I had gone with my grandmother, under a mountain honoured by the feet of Goethe, from the vineyards of which we used to drink at the Kurhof the illustrious vintages with their compound and sonorous names like the epithets which Homer applies to his heroes. And so, scarcely had I heard it spoken than, before I had recalled the watering-place, the Prince?s name seemed to shrink, to become imbued with humanity, to find large enough for itself a little place in my memory to which it clung, familiar, earthbound, picturesque, appetizing, light, with something about it that was authorized, prescribed.
The suppression of suffering? Can I really have believed it, have believed that death merely strikes out what exists, and leaves everything else in its place, that it removes the pain from the heart of him for whom the other?s existence has ceased to be anything but a source of pain, that it removes the pain and puts nothing in its place? The suppression of pain!
The woman whose face we have before our eyes more constantly than light itself...this unique woman--we know quite well that it would have been another woman that would now be unique to us if we had been in another town than that in which we made her acquaintance, if we had explored other quarters of the town, if we had frequented the house of a different hostess. Unique, we suppose; she is innumerable. And yet she is compact, indestructible in our loving eyes, irreplaceable for a long time to come by any other.
There is no idea that does not carry in itself a possible refutation, no word that does not imply its opposite.
This new concept of the finest, highest achievement of art had no sooner entered my mind than it located the imperfect enjoyment I had had at the theater, and added to it a little of what it lacked; this made such a heady mixture that I exclaimed, What a great artiste she is! It may be thought I was not altogether sincere. Think, however, of so many writers who, in a moment of dissatisfaction with a piece they have just written, may read a eulogy of the genius of Chateaubriand, or who may think of some other great artist whom they have dreamed of equaling, who hum to themselves a phrase of Beethoven for instance, comparing the sadness of it to the mood they have tried to capture in their prose, and are then so carried away by the perception of genius that they let it affect the way they read their own piece, no longer seeing it as they first saw it, but going so far as to hazard an act of faith in the value of it, by telling themselves It's not bad you know! without realizing that the sum total which determines their ultimate satisfaction includes the memory of Chateaubriand's brilliant pages, which they have assimilated to their own, but which, of course, they did not write. Think of all the men who go on believing in the love of a mistress in whom nothing is more flagrant than her infidelities; of all those torn between the hope of something beyond this life (such as the bereft widower who remembers a beloved wife, or the artist who indulges in dreams of posthumous fame, each of them looking forward to an afterlife which he knows is inconceivable) and the desire for a reassuring oblivion, when their better judgment reminds them of the faults they might otherwise have to expiate after death; or think of the travelers who are uplifted by the general beauty of a journey they have just completed, although during it their main impression, day after day, was that it was a chore--think of them before deciding whether, given the promiscuity of the ideas that lurk within us, a single one of those that affords us our greatest happiness has not begun life by parasitically attaching itself to a foreign idea with which it happened to come into contact, and by drawing from it much of the power of pleasing which it once lacked.