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Lost Time Thursday: The Favorite Writer

"And so, too, in later years, when I began to write a book of my own, and the quality of some of my sentences seemed so inadequate that I could not make up my mind to go on with the undertaking, I would find the equivalent in Bergotte. But it was only then, when I read them in his pages, that I could enjoy them; when it was I myself who composed them, in my anxiety that they should exactly reproduce what I had perceived in my mind's eye, and in my fear of their not turning out 'true to life,' how could I find time to ask myself whether what I was writing was pleasing! [. . .] And so, when I came suddenly upon similar phrases in the writings of another, that is to say stripped of their familiar accompaniment of scruples and repressions and self-tormentings, I was free to indulge to the full my own appetite for such things, like a cook who, for once having no dinner to prepare for other people, at last has the time to enjoy his food. When, one day, I came across in a book by Bergotte some joke about an old family servant which the writer's solemn and magnificent prose made even more comical, but which was in principle the same joke I had often made to my grandmother about Francoise, and when, another time, I discovered that he considered not unworthy of reflection in one of those mirrors of absolute truth which were his writings a remark similar to one which I had occasioned to make about our friend M. Legrandin (and moreover my remarks on Francoise and M. Legrandin were among those which I would most resolutely have sacrificed for Bergotte's sake, in the belief that he would find them quite without interest), then it was suddenly revealed to me that my own humble existence and the realms of the true were less widely separated than I had supposed, that at certain points they actually coincided, and in my newfound confidence and joy I had wept upon his printed page as in the arms of a long-lost father."

- Swann's Way, "Combray," p. 132-133

And then his grown-up neighbor Swann notices him reading, and offers to have Bergotte write something in his book, because somehow Bergotte is real and alive somewhere and Swann KNOWS BERGOTTE (!?!) and little Marcel -- he still doesn't have a name in the text, so let's just call him Marcel -- finds this BEYOND IMAGINING and politely declines, but screws up the courage to ask -- remember his passion for ranking actors? -- whether Swann knows who Bergotte's favorite actor is. Marcel, are you trying to kill me with your own adorableness? It's working.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Jan. 22nd, 2016 01:17 am (UTC)
Why does no one ever mention that Proust is strangely adorable? I've always gotten the impression that Proust was totally impenetrable (and, okay, that is a very long sentence you quoted), sort of like James Joyce but with madeleines.
evelyn_b
Jan. 22nd, 2016 05:42 am (UTC)
Maybe he gets impenetrable later! Right now he's about as impenetrable as a bright summer brook, and extremely adorable.

<3
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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