There’s a reason everyone’s heard of Marcel Proust. There’s also a reason so few people have actually read him. Proust’s prose, labyrinthine and obscure, challenges even the stoutest of readers. I’m not saying I could write a dissertation on Pynchon, nor am I asserting that, like Virginia Woolf’s Mr. Ramsay in To The Lighthouse, I can make it to Q (but not R) in her brilliant suggestion of the extent of an individual’s intellectual development as being measured by his progress through the alphabet. But I do like it when my mind is stretched, taken out for a grueling run (sorry if the personification doesn’t work for you), worked over at the hands of a capable literary master, which brings us back to M. Proust. I have compiled a few of his statements. They’re worth pondering, if chiefly for their brevity in contrast with his usual multi-clause marvels.
“A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it.”
“The variety of our defects is no less remarkable than the similarity of our virtues.”
“A photograph acquires something of the dignity which it ordinarily lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of reality and shews us things that no longer exist.”
“Our most intensive love for a person is always the love, really, of something else as well.”
Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Random House: New York, 1961. Page numbers of actual quotes available upon request.
What would Proust think of the lines in the Louvre for La Gioconda?