Sunday, June 25, 2006

Then, now

Odette's attitude toward Swann, then and now ("now" being page 332):

In those days, to everything he said, she would answer admiringly: "You — you will never be like anyone else"; she would look at his long face, his slightly bald head, about which the people who knew of Swann's successes with women would think: "He's not conventionally handsome, granted, but he is smart: that quiff of hair, that monocle, that smile!" and, perhaps with more curiosity to know what he was than desire to become his mistress, she would say: "If only I could know what is in that head!"

Now, to all of Swann's remarks she would reply in a tone that was at times irritated, at times indulgent: "Oh, you really never will be like anyone else!" She would look at that head, which was only a little more aged by worry (but about which now everyone thought, with that same aptitude which enables you to discover the intentions of a symphonic piece when you have read the program, and the resemblances of a child when you know its parents: "He's not positively ugly, granted, but he is absurd; that monocle, that quiff of hair, that smile!" creating in their suggestible imaginations the immaterial demarcation that separates by several months' distance the head of an adored lover from that of a cuckold), she would say: "Oh, if only I could change what's in that head, if only I could make it reasonable."
From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 332

I didn't expect Swann's Way to be so funny. (Does anyone else see a resemblance to Jane Austen?)

All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

comments: 5

flexnib said...

You're making me want to stop putting off my own reading of Proust.. Is this the first time you've read it? (Is it even possible to read it more than once in a lifetime??)

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, CW, I'm reading Proust for the first time. Are you putting off reading that's already in progress? Or reading not yet started?

The volumes I'm reading (or planning to read) add up to about 3400 pages. So someone reading 50 pages a day could read all of Proust every 68 days! But I doubt it'd be possible to do much else.

flexnib said...

Hi Michael, no I haven't started yet. I have the 3 volume Moncrieff (revised by Kilmartin) translation (Penguin) and it's just sitting there... Ok, I will start it next! I promise (myself)! :)

Anonymous said...

This isn't quite a comment on Proust, as I haven't yet worked up the spit to read him. I started once - a few years back - and then my mind wandered off to smaller gardens. The truth is I am a victim (unwillingly I think) of the latter 20th century's tendency toward "blurb culture," and so usually prefer shorter chunks of culture. Alas. I don't mean by this that I only read the backs of cereal boxes, only that I delve into such things as the gem-like Parables of Kafka, the tales of Musil and Walser, and a small boatload of poetry. Including (now) yours. I also write the stuff, and have (along with visual arts) made it my life, for good and bad! I am writing mainly to inform you that I like your page so much I have made it the opening page of my mail program; so much more refreshing than the usual tedious "semi-news" and celebrity hoo-ha provided by Netscape. A nice way to begin a day.

So thanks...

Michael Leddy said...

DMH, thanks for reading.