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Proust: In Search of Lost Time

Proust's understand of his writing as a race against and a defiance of time.

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A Prose-Poem In Appreciation of Marcel Proust

  • Jun 29, 2010
Rating:
+4

 THE LAST WORD

 

In order for the novelist Marcel Proust to seriously begin writing his famous novel In Search of Lost Time he had to create an imaginary deadline.1   Proust did this by coming to see and understand his writing as a race against and a defiance of time.  In this way he confronted the temporality of his writing, his publishing, and whatever he and others read by producing a novel which resists simplification and analysis.  In this confrontation with time Proust created a sense of urgency, an intensity and a build-up of meaning in relation to what he was writing at any particular time.  

 

Proust gave a sense of fixity and facticity to his life’s precariousness and the inevitability of its endless process and duration by using writing.  Writing helped him to see his life as an existence which was soon to run out.  By slowly coming to perceive his life in terms of its transformation into a work of art and by trying to recapture his past moment by moment, he aimed to bring the myriad of moments in his life under a microscope, to halt time and wrestle it from the flux of duration.  By fixing the events of his life forever in a semblance of eternity, sub specie aeternitatis, much like the work of a photographer, he created what for some was a romantic reminiscence in a plotless labyrinth, in a vast ediface of a life and autobiography; and what for others felt like “a conspiracy against readers” with its “clumsy centipedalian crawling of interminable sentences.”2

 

I, too, had had a sense of urgency and was always in a rush as my father pointed out to me especially at dinner-time when I gobbled-up yet another evening meal.  By my mid-thirties this sense of urgency was supplemented by a death-wish, due mainly to the affects of a bipolar disorder, a wish which was especially strong just before going to bed.  The effect of this combination, this death-wish and this sense of urgency, was to create in my mind these same imaginary deadlines, this race against time, this sense of the precariousness of my present state and so propel me into thinking that these words, the ones I had written that day, might just be my last.

 

Proust warmed-up to write his great opus of some 3200 pages with nineteen years(1890-1909 circa) of writing reviews, fiction and doing translations.   From 1909 to his death in 1922 he worked on his seven volume work of nostalgia, a work acknowledged by some as the greatest piece of fiction by the greatest novelist of the 20th century.  I, too, warmed-up to the writing of my autobiography with at least nineteen years of literary plodding(1983-2002 circa).  By the literary recreation of my life, by the transformation of the transformation that had been my life, by the immersing of myself in memories of what was lost and what was gained in the process of living my life over more than six decades, I slowly came to see my lifetime as the only adequate unit in which to express my succession of selves.  It was an irresistible autobiographical impulse; it took possession of me from 2002 and showed no sign of diminishing seven years later at the age of 65.  -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 4 January 2009 with thanks to 1Christine Cano, Proust’s Deadline, University of Illinios Press, 2006 and 2Roger Shattuck, Marcel Proust: Chapter 1, Penguin.

 

I can hear them say: life is too short

and Price is too long.  And who can

blame them?  Millions of words and

more pages than I would even want

to try and count any more. There are

two kinds of writer-poets which I try,

quite unconsciously, to combine, or so

it seems to me, thanks to Mr.Aciman’s

review of Proust in that fine journal---

The New York Review of Books.1

 

The swallow’s quick, agile, speedy

travel across long, tireless stretches

of the world, taking it in the ways

whales take in water and plankton,

with mistakes easily corrected, bad

times put to good use,  judgements

which are unwise just tweaked here

and there in some implacable line

of words where the only pieces that

are thrown away are those which had

problems with the printer or were lost

in cyberspace because I pressed those

wrong keys---and then---the snail’s

slow, deliberate, fussy, cramped and

burrowing into itself, ingesting choice

bits down some multichambered spiral

and with an appetite for a whorled vision.

 

1 Andre Aciman, “Proust’s Way?” The New York Review of Books, Vol.52, No. 19, 1 December, 2005.

 

Ron Price

4 January 2009

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June 29, 2010
Great review Ron! Did you mean to post it in the Cafe Libri community? Right now you have it in the Community Founders on Lunch community, which is a place for founders to discuss Lunch functionalities. Perhaps you wanted it in Pioneering Over Four Epochs? You can easily move it, just hover over Actions under your review title, click on Remove From Community. Then when the page reloads, just click on Add to a Community under the review title, pick the community you want it in from the drop down menu. If you need help, just ask!
June 30, 2010
Thanks, EcoMama....I cannot see/find the word "Actions" under my review title. I'm happy to move my article but I can't figure out how.-Ron
June 30, 2010
I found the word Actions, but then was unable to find the words "Remove From Community." Are those words the same as "delete?"-Ron
July 02, 2010
No, delete with remove the review entirely from Lunch. You don't want that! :) When you hover over Actions you should get a drop down menu of 6 items, one of them is "Remove From Community."
July 02, 2010
I'll give that a try.-Ron
July 02, 2010
I gave it a try and got the words "move the review" and then "what is the review about?" And so, I'm back where I started. I have never been good at filling in boxes and following the instructions...one of life's little hazzards....Ron
July 02, 2010
That's alright Ron, I'll see if I can get someone to move it for you. Do you want it in the the  Cafe Libri community or in Pioneering Over Four Epochs?
July 03, 2010
You are very helpful, Ecomama. Cafe Libri is fine....with appreciation...Ron in Australia
 
June 29, 2010
This prose-poem might be a little long for the sensibilities of many internet users who have come to prefer the oft'-experienced cyberspace convention of short posts, little dabbles back and forth. I encourage such readers to give this piece of writing a miss or just skim and scan here and there. Alternatively, some readers might like to google Marcel Proust for an interesting life and writing. I leave all this, these options, with you, dear readers.-Ron in Australia
 
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