Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Proustblogging

The Hombre from Combray has a nice way with large-scale echoes; here's an example I think is particularly appealing. First, in Vol. 1, the illustration:

We would return by the Boulevard de la Gare, which contained the most attractive villas in the town. In each oftheir gardens the moonlight, copying the art of Hubert Robert, hadscattered its broken staircases of white marble, its fountains of waterand gates temptingly ajar. Its beams had swept away the telegraph office.All that was left of it was a column, half shattered, but preserving thebeauty of a ruin which endures for all time. [...]

Suddenly my father would bring us to a standstill and ask my mother--"Where are we?" Utterly worn out by the walk but still proud of her husband, she would lovingly confess that she had not the least idea. He would shrug his shoulders and laugh. And then, as though it had slipped, with his latchkey, from his waistcoat pocket, he would point out to us, when it stood before our eyes, the back-gate of our own garden, which had come hand-in-hand with the familiar corner of the Rue du Saint-Esprit, to await us, to greet us at the end of our wanderings over paths unknown.

And the echo, in vol. 6:
If our memories do indeed belong to us, they do so after the fashion of those country properties which have little hidden gates of which we ourselves are often unaware, and which someone in the neighborhood opens for us, so that from one direction at least which is new to us, we find ourselves back in our own house.


zbs said...

Yes, this is really the overall conceit of the book. Whatever its localized merits, MP has put himself in the tricky position by 'Time Regained' of having to gather, philosophically, both the nature of his endeavor as prose and the narrative paths characters he has scattered in the previous six volumes. The success of the final book, if not perhaps the entire series, depends on how convincing you eventually find its miniature concerto of the uneven stone, napkin, spoon, etc.

Zed said...

I basically agree with that; would say, though, that a lot of the other books -- esp. Swann, the G's way, and Sodom -- are plausibly major works even if you don't think the series is much more than the sum of its parts.