Friday, May 25, 2007

Swann's little phrase

One year ago, M. Swann was deeply affected by a phrase in a sonata for violin and piano. "The little phrase," as it comes to be called, is affecting him still:

Now, like certain confirmed invalids in whom, suddenly, a country they have arrived in, a different diet, sometimes a spontaneous and mysterious organic development seem to bring on such a regression of their ailment that they begin to envisage the unhoped-for possibility of belatedly starting a completely different life, Swann found within himself, in the recollection of the phrase he had heard, in certain sonatas he asked people to play for him, to see if he would not discover it in them, the presence of one of those invisible realities in which he had ceased to believe and to which, as if the music had had a sort of sympathetic influence on the moral dryness from which he suffered, he felt in himself once again the desire and almost the strength to devote his life.

From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 218-19
This passage reminds me of the famous line from Rilke's "Archaïscher Torso Apollos" [Archaic Torso of Apollo]:
Du mußt dein Leben ändern.
[You must change your life.]

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