Friday, August 11, 2006

I Laughed Out Loud

So I'm reading along in Swann'a Way this afternoon and the narrator is going on and on about how he loves hawthorns and I don't recall ever seeing a hawthorn. Wikipedia helped and it turns out to be a pretty shrub in the rose family and suddenly I want a hawthorn of my own, but the pink ones are not hardy in my plant zone. The white ones are just as nice though and now I am on the lookout for a variety that will fit my yard. nevermind for now where it will go. If you would like a hawthorn but don't have a yard to plant it in, there is always the bonsai option.

But I am digressing. Proust has an interesting narrative style that has probably been going on the whole time but that I just really noticed. As the young boy narrator rhapsodizes about his love of hawthorns, an older, adult narrative voice intervenes with observations, but yet it is all from the boy as if it were happening here and now. Since we are reliving the boy's experiences I expect boyish observations. But the grown up narrator's observations are inserted as the boy's observations. But as the reader I know I am in the memory of the grown up narrator so the adult observations make sense. But for me as a reader, it is easy for me to forget that all this is memory. All of it produced a pleasantly odd sensation that I can't describe and so am babbling in circles trying to explain. Anybody know what I am trying to get at?

This is not what made me laugh though. Right after I'm shaken by the conjunction of the adult's and the boy's point of view, the narrator turns all boy in his longing for Gilberte:
I loved her, I was sorry I had not had the time or the inspiration to insult her, hurt her, and force her to remember me. I thought her so beautiful that I wished I could retrace my steps and shout at her with a shrug of my shoulders: "I think you're ugly, I think you're grotesque, I loathe you!"
Ah yes, I am sure if he had said any of that to Gilberte she would have fallen madly in love with him too because how could she resist such wooing words of love?


Blogger LK said...

Interesting observation about the technique. So subtle, so complex. Frankly, I don't know how Proust wrote it.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Dorothy W. said...

I laughed when I read that too!

And I know exactly what you're talking about with the child and adult voice -- it's the same thing in the Rebecca West novel, the thing I've been trying to figure out -- an adult telling the story but getting so involved in the telling of the story that it starts to feel like a child narrator so you forget it's not, and then the adult narrator speaks again, and it's a slight jolt.

I wonder if West was influenced by Proust at all ...

5:41 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

Thank you Dorothy for being able to express the technique in a more coherent way.

To me the question is, who hasn't been influenced by Proust? :)

8:27 AM  
Blogger Quillhill said...

It's a brilliant style that actually captures the experience of involuntary memory he is describing, that the whole past returns alive and complete in full detail.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

Good point Quillhill

6:06 PM  

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