Thursday, July 27, 2006

Gardens in a Cup of Tea

My reading of Proust is progressing slower than a stroll along the Meseglise Way, and I feel like I'm falling behind here. Rather than wait until I am through Combray (about twenty-five more pages), I want to offer a couple initial thoughts.

I had the opportunity to browse a mega-chain bookstore a couple weeks ago, and picked up the new translation of Le Cote du Swann. I sat down and read the introduction which Stefanie has already discussed. Though it sounds as if a certain degree of collaboration went into the individual translations, I still don't like the idea of different people of different backgrounds working on pieces of a whole. And it sounds as if the Moncrieff version stays truer to the style and effect of the original, while the new versions try to give a more precise translation of the words. I'm a devoted fan of Moncrieff.

When the narrator and Mamma can't sleep, Mamma proposes they read. But no books are at hand. She says, "Would you like me to get out the books now that your grandmother is going to give you for your birthday?" Ah, the good old days, when books were given as birthday presents. Remember, books still make great gifts!

The narrator often thinks in his sleep of what he has just been reading. This has happened to me numerous times, when I am truly immersed in a book: I set it aside to go to sleep, and the story continues in the form of a lucid dream, so I become the author of what happens next. It occurs only when I first fall asleep, and I never cease to be astounded when I wake up and I am no longer holding a book.

The narrator has dreams of women who sometimes bear a resemblance to some woman he has met while awake. When dreams like this happen to me, I am left with an unsettling wonder about whether or not the person who has appeared in my dream has had the same dream, can see or sense the dream in me, or has somehow projected to me an unknown or hidden truth.

I feel as if I get lost in some of the passages of dialogue--lose myself along Swann's Way--but I am following the suggestion of others to plow ahead and gain the overall feeling of the work instead of trying to reread and gain a deeper understanding of each line. I did find the obtuse compliments paid to Swann quite amusing. Otherwise, the passages of narrative resonate with me better.

Finally, a great deal of this book centers around the phenomenon of involuntary memory. So far, and the general sense I have of it is, the experience is a positive one; the memories are fond. Is this always the way with involuntary memory? Do negative experiences become blocked in some way from being activated involuntarily? One passage on this point, or counterpoint, struck me as most interesting. The narrator was in the habit of making mental lists of the talents of actors
which I used to murmur to myself all day long: lists which in the end became petrified in my brain and were a source of annoyance to it, being irremovable.
The sense of being irremovable turns these into involuntary negative memories. I hope this side of the theme is explored further.


Blogger Stefanie said...

It's a very bookish book isn't it? A reader's book. I like that very much.

I have wondered the same thing about negative involuntary memories and hope Proust elaborates on it further.

7:01 PM  

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