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Lost Time Thursday: The Moving Threshold

But apart from that, in speaking of my inclinations as no longer liable to change, and of what was destined to make my life happy, he aroused in my two very painful suspicions. The first was that (at a time when, every day, I regarded myself as standing upon the threshold of a life which was still intact and would not enter upon its course until the following morning) my existence had already begun, and that furthermore, what was yet to follow would not differ to any extent from what had gone before. The second suspicion, which was really no more than a variant of the first, as that I was not situated somewhere outside Time, but was subject to its laws, just like those characters in novels who, for that reason, used to plunge me into such gloom when I read of their lives, down at Combray, in the fastness of my hooded wicker chair. In theory one is aware that the earth revolves, but in practice one does not perceive it, the ground upon which one treads seems not to move, and one can rest assured. So it is with Time in one's life. And to make its flight perceptible novelists are obliged, by wildly accelerating the beat of the pendulum, to transport the reader in a couple of minutes over ten, or twenty, or even thirty years. At the top of one page we have left a lover full of hope; at the foot of the next we meet him again, a bowed old man of eighty, painfully dragging himself on his daily walk around the courtyard of a hospital, scarcely replying to what is said to him, oblivious of the past. In saying of me, 'He's no longer a child,' 'His tastes won't change now,' and so forth, my father had suddenly made me conscious of myself in Time, and caused me the same kind of depression as if I had been, not yet the enfeebled old pensioner, but one of those heroes of whom the author, in a tone of indifference which is particularly galling, says to us at the end of a book: 'He very seldom comes up from the country now. He has finally decided to end his days there.'

-- Within a Budding Grove, "Madame Swann at Home," p. 74-75

Within a Budding Grove isn't quite as enchanting as Swann's Way yet, but there's time. It picks up, apparently, more or less where we left off.

Little Marcel is about fourteen or fifteen, still "delicate," still easily overwhelmed, still quietly obsessed with Gilberte and her family. When people who know the Swanns come to visit, he tries to get them to say the name so he can have the guilty thrill of hearing it. He goes to see an actress he has mythologized and begins an endless struggle with disappointment. One of his parents' friends knows Bergotte, the favorite writer, but has nothing good to say about him. He goes on a long tear about Bergotte's failings as a writer and as a person, and his probable bad influence on Marcel's own writing, filling the latter with doubt.

I want to say more about Little M.'s relationship to time (and to Bergotte and Berma, the actress), but I'm on a bad keyboard and a little behind schedule, so it'll have to wait. It's not like Proust isn't going to bring it all up again.


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Mar. 17th, 2016 10:00 pm (UTC)
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blase ev

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