French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
The men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.
The great men of letters have never created more than a single work or rather have never done more than refract through various mediums an identical beauty which they bring into the world.
The mistakes made by doctors are innumerable. They err habitually on the side of optimism as to treatment, of pessimism as to the outcome.
The great modification which the act of awakening effects in us is not so much that of ushering us into the clear life of consciousness, as that of making us lose all memory of the slightly more diffused light in which our mind had been resting, as in the opaline depths of the sea. The tide of thought, half veiled from our perception, on which we were still drifting a moment ago, kept us in a state of motion perfectly sufficient to enable us to refer to it by the name of wakefulness. But then our actual awakenings produce an interruption of memory. A little later we describe these states as sleep because we no longer remember them.
The great renunciation of old age as it prepared for death, wraps itself up in its chrysalis, which may be observed at the end of lives that are at all prolonged, even in old lovers who have lived for one another, in old friends bound by the closest ties of mutual sympathy, who, after a certain year, cease to make the necessary journey or even to cross the street to see one another, cease to correspond, and know that they will communicate no more in this world.
One morning indeed, I felt a sudden misgiving that she not only had left the house but had gone for good: I had just heard the sound of a door which seemed to me to be that of her room. On tiptoe I crept towards the room, opened the door, stood upon the threshold. In the dim light the bedclothes bulged in a semi-circle that must be Albertine who, with her body bent, was sleeping with her feet and face to the wall. Only, overflowing the bed, the hair upon that head, abundant and dark, made me realize that it was she, that she had not opened her door, had not stirred, and I felt that this motionless and living semi-circle, in which a whole human life was contained and which was the only thing to which I attached any value, I felt that it was there, in my despotic possession.
Parties of this sort are as a rule premature. They have little reality until the following day, when they occupy the attention of the people who were not invited.
Proust's life changed due to a very large inheritance he received (in today's terms, a principal of about $6 million, with a monthly income of about $15,000).
So few are the easy victories as the ultimate failures.
Swann's love [was] so closely interwoven with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life...was so entirely one with him that it would have been impossible to wrest it away without almost entirely destroying him; as surgeons say, his case was past operation.
The courage of one's opinions is always a form of calculating cowardice in the eyes of the "other side."
One never finds quite as high as one has been expecting a cathedral, a wave in a storm, a dancer's leap in the air.
People can have many different kinds of pleasure. The real one is that for which they will forsake the others.
Reading is a friendship [and] the fact that it is directed to one who is dead, who is absent, gives it something disinterested, almost moving.
So it is with all great writers: the beauty of their sentences is as unforeseeable as is that of a woman whom we have never seen; it is creative, because it is applied to an external object which they have thought of -- as opposed to thinking about themselves -- and to which they have not yet given expression.
Sweet Sunday afternoons, beneath the chestnut-tree in our Combray garden, from which I was careful to eliminate every commonplace incident of my actual life, replacing them by a career of strange adventures and ambitions in a land watered by living streams, you still recall those adventures and ambitions to my mind when I think of you, and you embody and preserve them by virtue of having little by little drawn round and enclosed them (which I went on with my book and the heat of the day declined) in the gradual crystallization, slowly altering in form and dappled with a pattern of chestnut-leaves, of your silent, sonorous, fragrant, limpid hours.
The critics of each generation confine themselves to maintaining the direct opposite of the truths admitted by their predecessors.
One pretended not to know that the body of a hostess was at the disposal of all comers, provided that her visiting list showed no gaps.
People claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.
Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.
So long as I know what's boiling in my pot I don't bother my head about what's in other people's.
That is not what I meant,' interrupted my father, as obstinate as the trees and as pitiless as the sky.
The decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle classes, that occurred in France during the Third Republic and the fin de siŠcle
One says the things which one feels the need to say, and which the other will not understand: one speaks for oneself alone.
People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.