Monday, July 9, 2007

Proust: "like talking to an octopus"

Frail from birth, living with asthma, Proust had ample reason to meditate upon illness and the body:

It is illness that makes us recognize that we do not live in isolation but are chained to a being from a different realm, worlds apart from us, with no knowledge of us, and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might manage to make him conscious of his own personal interest, if not of our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like talking to an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the sea, and with which we should be terrified to find ourselves condemned to live.

The Guermantes Way, translated by Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002), 291-92

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