Friday, December 23, 2011

Rememberance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Reading broadens so much more than simply vocabulary. It opens worlds that a reader would never experience, provides travel back and forward in time, and greatly challenges a reader's imagination.

It has a definite educational focus, too. I was reading that, on this day in 1912, a French publication rejected printing an excerpt from Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. Why would this be notable, I wondered.

Turns out that this series of seven volumes had an unquestionable impact on the modern novel. Proust began this tome in 1909, ending only when his long illness caused his death in 1922. at 1.5 million words, it is one of the longest novels in world literature. Involuntary memory plays a major role in this work, with the most famous being the "episode of the madeleine":

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt LĂ©onie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

It was quite ground breaking that this book was not driven by a central plot, but more by the character's perceptions and growth in maturity because of their experiences. Memory and inner contemplation replaced action and external influences.

While we take this kind of writing for granted today, we owe our own wealth of literature choices to authors such as Marcel Proust.

No comments:

Post a Comment