Sunday, January 28, 2007

With the research of the wasted time

The earlier version of Proust's introduction to Ruskin's Sesame with Lilies, Sur la Lecture ,was published in 1905. Sur la Lecture translates in Google, though it packs up half way.

The final version, Journées de Lecture, is not readily available in English on the web. There is a paper in French with no author titled Journées de Lecture from The Association for the Diffusion of French Thought. The Google translation converts A la Reserche du Temp Perdu into ' With the research of the wasted time ', which cannot be unfunny for those who are struggling to read around Proust while procrastinating over The Novel itself: I take this to be a hint from the realms of cyber-mechanico translation to stop fiddling at the margins and get on with it. As usual with Google it gives up translating half way through. The bit is does do is comprehensible after a fashion.

I keep on getting images - What else with Proust on my mind? - of the man himself desperately attempting to translate Ruskin without help, then trying out the results on his mother and his friend Marie Nordlinger - before they collaborated in the effort - to rigolous effect. They roll around the place as they read his attempts to gets to grip with English, eventually realising they must step in to help him.

The more you use the internet to scout around Proust the more you realise only a small faction of the verbiage on him and his book will be of any use to what one might call the averagely intelligent reader in preparing for the novel itself. This paper, for example, titled Reading the age of names in A la recherche du temp perdu, might seem like a good idea to read before tackling it, or even part way through it, but soon the mind drifts off to the more tangible. In my case a single, hazy, monochrome photographs of Marcel Proust playing air guitar with a tennis racket, and thoughts of how he might interview on TV arts programmes now: a steely determination to avoid fascile answers to stupid questions by talking at every opportunity about how modern cars compare with the ones he rode in, driven around by Agostinelli.

It has been suggested that the academic, quasi-academic and pseudo-academic writing on Proust can only damage one's reading experience of it. Having tried reading some of these offerings, it is beginning to seem to me this might be true. Though trying to find any excuse not to start right at the beginning - such as Swann's Way being too familar what with all the adaptations - the more read about the novel the more I am feeling I must cast aside almost all the opinions and theories and start. There have been enough interesting tit-bits - rather like the disparate and unconnected evidence a detective might gather in a murder enquiry which psychologically motive him and make him feel he will eventually solve the case - to pump up my enthusiasm for the real thing.

Raul Ruiz’s Time Regained and Filming the Unfilmable is an example of how not reading Proust but about Proust can be instructive and good preparation.

Proust's is not an ordinary novel. It might not best be picked up like a best-seller at an airport to stave off the horrors of a long haul flight. Just as one might gain more by studying Venice - might not you waste your precious holiday time walking round in ignorant circles getting tired, thirsty hungry? - before doing a tour, so there are a few things to train for before reading Proust that might help. One of these is Proust's aesthetic of reading, which this one page sample tantalisingly, but comprehendibly introduces. (Anyone got this? Please post up a bit more of it....).

Another is to grasp :

Proust's reliance on and exploration of the imagery of the optical and visual in his theory of perception, of which the Recherche is his greatest elaboration.

which comes from the except of
Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten 1966- "Book review: The Mottled Screen: Reading Proust Visually" Configurations - Volume 6, Number 3, Fall 1998, pp. 397-399 (again, please let me have some more of this if you have it).

Finally, and which is reflected in, and symbolised by, the way Pinter used the yellow wall in Vermeer's view of Delft in his Proust Screenplay, this is a book about how we can understand people through their art. And this, if you are piecing things together from little fragments like me, will take you through Ruskin to Venice and Turner, amongst others. And that's why I am beginning to read Albertine Disparue - chapter 3 as well as the Balbec sections for my introduction to Proustian 'love'. My argument is simple: one, it ain't chonological, so why do I have to read it from the beginning; two, it is more than a novel so treat it that way.


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