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Thread: PROUST: Not to be read in bed

  1. #1
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    PROUST: Not to be read in bed

    Part 1:

    Marcel Proust(1871-1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time. The title was first translated as Remembrance of Things Past(RTP), and that seems to be what has stuck. In RTP he transformed the frivolous experiences of his youth into a luminous meditation on the nature of time and memory and loss. RTP is not so much a book, as Germaine reminds us, “as an armful of books.”1 Proust’s work is, for Greer, no luminous mediation. “No bookshop can be relied upon to have all the volumes of this 2400+ page work in stock at any one time,” Greer writes, “and the cost of the whole work is likely to be prohibitive, unless you can read it in French in the one-volume paperback edition. RTP is so heavy that you can't read it in bed let alone in the bath.”1

    Proust wrote lying in bed in a soundproof room swaddled in layers of wool, gasping with asthma, trying to recapture with words the lost sensations of a lifetime: his mother's kiss, her voice, the voices of his friends, the tensions of his early and middle childhood. But, like Einstein, Marcel Proust was in his own way a theorist of time and space. "An hour is not merely an hour," Proust wrote, "it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates." Proust also said that: ''A book is the product of a different self from the one we manifest in our habits, our social life and our vices.'' I also find this to be the case with the several books, hundreds of essays and thousands of poems I’ve written. The creative self seems to tap into some other world, some parallel universe, or not so parallel.

    Part 2:

    Countless volumes have been written about Proust who died some ninety years ago in 1922. Proust's novel RTP is often referred to by his few enthusiasts as simply The Novel. A two-volume study by George Painter, published in 1959 and 1965, is acknowledged, at least by some, to be one of the finest literary biographies in English. In the late 1950s and 1960s I knew nothing of Proust, occupied as I was with graduating from high school and then university, dealing with the early manifestations of bipolar disorder, sorting out my relationship with the opposite sex and, then, a new Faith which claimed to be the latest of the Abrahamic religions.

    I had joined the Baha’i Faith in 1959 at the age of 15, and found myself as the only youth in my school and my town, and then my university, who had affiliated with some group other than salvation’s complacent trinity of Catholic, Protestant and Jew.

    Two immense new biographies, both, as it happens, called, Marcel Proust: A Life will be in some bookshops this year. One is by William Carter, a professor of French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published (at 946 pages) in January by Yale University Press. The other (934 pages), by Jean-Yves Tadié, a professor at the Sorbonne, is to be released in August by Viking.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Germaine Greer, “Why do people gush over Proust? I'd rather visit a demented relative,” The Guardian, 8 November 2009.

    Part 3:

    Marcel had trouble breaking his
    umbilical cord; he also had a lot
    of trouble turning out his 2400++
    page novelistic autobiography that
    is keeping those who come into his
    famous novel, RTP, as busy as little
    beavers trying to figure it all out!!!

    In our world of print and image-glut
    there are few who will try Proust on
    for size, inspite of the biographies &
    all the gushing over that massive RTP.

    I’ve written a good deal in notebooks,
    but nothing like Proust’s notebooks, &
    nothing like his 50,000 letters, serving
    as they do as his journal as well as his
    social & emotional contacts as his bad
    health made him more & more isolated
    as he headed for death at just the age-51.

    If it was not for modern medicine I think
    I, too, would be long gone and in the land
    of those who speak and dream no more. I’d
    go into one of those holes with the worms.(1)

    (1) Fortunately, I believe this will happen only to my body. I have had a strong belief in the afterlife, the “undiscovered country” as Shakespeare calls it, for at least the last 50 years after converting to the Baha’i Faith in 1959. Traditional beliefs in Shakespeare’s time(1564-1616) often held that an untimely death was a punishment for one’s sin. It was, therefore, a thing to be feared.

    Since the medical knowledge of the time could not explain the plagues which often wiped out whole villages, it was assumed that these mass fatalities were signs of God's displeasure. By Shakespeare's time, humanism and the revival of classical philosophy resulted in the growing influence of alternative ways of thinking about death. As a subject for dramatists, death became a more complicated issue than it had been in the earlier morality plays of the middle ages: 400 to 1400(circa).

    Instead of representing death simply as a hooded figure who would call upon an Everyman or Mankind to account for his life, Shakespeare and other writers explored the many intellectual possibilities, and controversies, raised by new ways of thinking about mortality. Hamlet in particular explores the idea of death as an "undiscovered country” as opposed to the clearly defined territory of medieval Christian doctrine. The dramatists drew on currents of thought which were being worked out by Renaissance intellectuals, as humanist and classical thought converged with traditional Christian beliefs.(2) See this link2) http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/L...on/death2.html

    Ron Price
    28/2/’13
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

  2. #2
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Funny you post this I was just looking up Sartre. You could not have two more very different characters. Thanks for posting
    Last edited by cacian; 03-02-2013 at 06:36 AM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  3. #3
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    Thanks, cacian. Yes, indeed, two very different writers and thinkers. You are a busy little beaver here at this literature site, canian. I wish you well in your literary and intellectual journey, to say nothing about the other aspects of your life. I'll post a little something on Sartre while I'm here. This is especially for you in appreciation for your prompt response.-Ron Price, Australia
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    As I try to weld my life into one seemless whole, into one granite-like solidity of truth with its rainbow-like intangibility of personality, I look back on those days in late 1973 and I think Jean-Paul Sartre offers some helpful words: "There are no true stories. Things happen. You tell about them one way. They are often quite the opposite when viewed by another." Or, as Lytton Strachey puts it: "Facts about the past are not history any more than butter, eggs, salt and herbs are an omlette." You have to whip them up in a certain way. Sometimes I have whipped myself as I whipped the story up. Sometimes I have been kinder. I leave it to the reader to make his own bacon and eggs here.
    --------------------------------------------
    Jean-Paul Sartre's pronouncement that prose is an attitude of mind applies equally well to poetry. It is telling, too, that Conrad himself associated the symbolic, suggestive, and inconclusive quality of prose writing specifically with poetry and art. To be a writer, he wrote in a letter in 1895, "you must treat events as the outward signs of inward feelings," and to accomplish this "you must cultivate your poetic faculty.”(1) Conrad wrote in another letter:

    “A work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and not necessarily tending to a definite conclusion. And this for the reason that the nearer it approaches art, the more it acquires a symbolic character. All the great creations of literature have been symbolic, and in that way have gained in complexity, in power, in depth and in beauty.”2 Ron Price with thanks to: 1 Joseph Conrad, "To Edward Noble: 28 Oct 1895,” The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume I: 1861-1897, eds.Frederick R. Karl and Laurence Davies, Cambridge University Press, NY, 1983, p.252; and 2Joseph Conrad,"To Barrett H. Clark," 4 May 1918. Joseph Conrad on Fiction, ed. Walter F. Wright, University of Nebraska Press, Lincohn, p.36.

    (1) John Parras, “Poetic Prose and Imperialism: The Ideology of Form in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness,” Nebula, April 2006.
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

  4. #4
    I had started to read this book a couple of years ago and I found it a great book, full of great thought and feelings and ranges of remembrances. The writer had got the book presented it differently than the rest of writers and even in terms of the size this 2400 paged volume of books is really a great treatise. Though I had taken the initiative to reaD the book I could not continue for the lack of patience also.

  5. #5
    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    Your experience, osho, is very common---not only with Proust's massive work. The X,Y and Z generations want immediate gratification and that is why, among other reasons, they prefer to watch TV than to read and, when they read, it is in little gulps and drinks. Proust has no chance with the vast majority of 21st century readers, say, under 50 years old. My generation, the war babies, and the baby-boomers also had toruble with Proust. So you've got lots of company, osho.--Ron
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

  6. #6
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Price View Post
    Thanks, cacian. Yes, indeed, two very different writers and thinkers. You are a busy little beaver here at this literature site, canian. I wish you well in your literary and intellectual journey, to say nothing about the other aspects of your life. I'll post a little something on Sartre while I'm here. This is especially for you in appreciation for your prompt response.-Ron Price, Australia
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    As I try to weld my life into one seemless whole, into one granite-like solidity of truth with its rainbow-like intangibility of personality, I look back on those days in late 1973 and I think Jean-Paul Sartre offers some helpful words: "There are no true stories. Things happen. You tell about them one way. They are often quite the opposite when viewed by another." Or, as Lytton Strachey puts it: "Facts about the past are not history any more than butter, eggs, salt and herbs are an omlette." You have to whip them up in a certain way. Sometimes I have whipped myself as I whipped the story up. Sometimes I have been kinder. I leave it to the reader to make his own bacon and eggs here.
    --------------------------------------------
    Jean-Paul Sartre's pronouncement that prose is an attitude of mind applies equally well to poetry. It is telling, too, that Conrad himself associated the symbolic, suggestive, and inconclusive quality of prose writing specifically with poetry and art. To be a writer, he wrote in a letter in 1895, "you must treat events as the outward signs of inward feelings," and to accomplish this "you must cultivate your poetic faculty.”(1) Conrad wrote in another letter:

    “A work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and not necessarily tending to a definite conclusion. And this for the reason that the nearer it approaches art, the more it acquires a symbolic character. All the great creations of literature have been symbolic, and in that way have gained in complexity, in power, in depth and in beauty.”2 Ron Price with thanks to: 1 Joseph Conrad, "To Edward Noble: 28 Oct 1895,” The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume I: 1861-1897, eds.Frederick R. Karl and Laurence Davies, Cambridge University Press, NY, 1983, p.252; and 2Joseph Conrad,"To Barrett H. Clark," 4 May 1918. Joseph Conrad on Fiction, ed. Walter F. Wright, University of Nebraska Press, Lincohn, p.36.

    (1) John Parras, “Poetic Prose and Imperialism: The Ideology of Form in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness,” Nebula, April 2006.
    Ron I thank you so much for posting this. It is a great post.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  7. #7
    I like the book despite its bulky sight. Unlike Ulysses, a epical treatise is really great book.

  8. #8
    Uh oh...I read all 7 books in bed.

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