The Flowers by Henri Fantin-Latour

It is a beautiful sentence that the journalist and author Philippe Lançon once said in an interview about Proust and his “research”: “Proust is like an old house for me, a family house. I know every room, every thing in it, I enter this house and feel comfortable in it.”

What he didn’t say, maybe because he really doesn’t feel that way, maybe because he enters Proust’s house every day: the things in it may be so well known, they may invite you to feel good – but they still want to do something new every time be looked at closely.

The memory of her becomes more vague with time spent away from home, with time spent on other literary journeys. she fades In short: you simply forget a lot, despite double or triple “research” reading. Of course, that’s not only the case with Marcel Proust, but after a lot of reading.

This forgetting is often a nuisance. After all, you don’t just want to preserve the books, not just the memory of reading them (where, when, under what circumstances, often of no small importance), but of course their content: the big scenes, the aesthetic subtleties, the literary beauty.

A lighthouse is Aunt Léonie’s room

For example, that in the first volume of “Research” after the Swann story there is a small section about names and place names, the narrator’s entire love story for Gilberte is told in a comparatively short space, plus a wonderful passage about the Bois de Bologne – although I’ve read it two or three times, recently it almost seemed like a first reading, given all the knowledge about the scenes with Gilberte that follow the Swann-Odette story, and not without reason.

So, band after band, they are beacons, so to speak, that stand out. Like Aunt Léonie’s room in Combray. How natural the Madeleine scene that comes so early, a surprise every time! Like the hotel in Balbec with its restaurant. Like the Duchess’s red shoes at the end of the “Guermantes” volume.

Charlus in the brothel

Like the grandmother’s death before, the doctors’ visit, Professor E., who cares more about his outfit for the evening than about his patient. Like the flower paintings of the painter Henri Fantin-Latour (Why actually? Because Madame de Villeparisis, who also paints? Or because you googled the name and looked at the pictures of Fantin-Latour on the net?).

Like – basically unforgettable after the first reading thirty years ago – the meeting of Charlus and Jupien at the beginning of the fourth volume, “Sodom and Gomorrah”. Like a Venice scene, when the narrator wants to leave earlier and therefore suffers anguish because of his mother. Like, also this scene indelible, at the end the brothel, Charlus and how he is observed by the narrator in an adjoining room.

How…, oh, yes, yes: a lot falls away spontaneously in this arbitrary memory work. And yet: There is no way around entering the Proust House at short intervals. High frequencies increase the feel-good factor.

Source: Tagesspiegel

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