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Lost Time Thursday: Not A Real Writer

“Have you noticed how often a writer’s letters are superior to the rest of his work? What’s the name of that author who wrote Salaambo?”

I should have liked not to reply in order not to prolong the conversation, but I felt it would be disobliging to the Prince d’Agrigente, who had pretended to know perfectly well who Salaambo was by and out of pure politeness to be leaving it to me to say, but who was now in a painful quandary.

“Flaubert,” I ended up by saying, but the vigorous signs of assent that came from the Prince’s head smothered the sound of my reply, so that my interlocutress was not exactly sure whether I had said Paul Bert or Fulbert, names which she did not find entirely satisfactory.

“In any case,” she went on, “how intriguing his correspondence is, and how superior to his books! It explains him, in fact, because one sees from everything he says about the difficulty he has in writing a book that he wasn’t a real writer, a gifted man.”

Guermantes is so good, you guys, even if Proust may not be one hundred percent fair to his hosts all the time. I’ve finished it, but I still have a vague but hopeful ambition to say a few things about structure and whatnot next week, before I start Sodom and Gomorrah in earnest.

In The Guermantes Way, Little M. goes to a couple of parties, and in the meantime, in a comparatively brief section that cuts straight down through the middle of the book like one of Bloody Stupid Johnson's moats, his grandmother has a stroke and eventually dies. More on this later, I think?

It’s interesting to me that we seem to see so little of Little M. (still and almost certainly forever unnamed in the text) actually interacting with people – so much of his narrative energy goes toward either describing them or speculating about them or describing their effect on him, or describing the effect on him of inanimate objects and plants, or of weather, or of the rooms in which he fails to sleep. When we do see him with others, he can be surprisingly unlikable. But I don’t even know if “unlikable” is the right word – his internal monologue about Albertine can be patronizing and calculating, for example, but it also gives such a convincing impression of being someone’s secret machinery of thought, despite being obviously part of a widely-available printed book that I am reading, that I can’t actually be mad. I always enjoy the uncomfortable illusion of mind-reading.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2016 10:58 am (UTC)
Little M does seem to live in his own world...

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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