Saturday, November 17, 2007

Proust and the Muse of history

Here she is:

the Muse, whom we should fail to recognize for as long as possible if we want to preserve the freshness of our impressions and some creative power, but whom precisely those of us who have avoided her shall meet in the evening of our lives in the nave of some old village church, at a moment when all of a sudden they feel less touched by the eternal beauty expressed in the carvings on the altar than by the diverse fates which they have suffered, as they moved into a distinguished private collection or a chapel, then into a museum, or by the feeling that we are treading on an almost sentient flagstone, composed of the last remains of Arnauld or Pascal, or quite simply by deciphering the names of the daughters of the nobleman or the commoner inscribed on the copper plate of a wooden prie-dieu, imagining perchance the fresh young faces of these village maidens, the Muse who has assumed everything rejected by the higher Muses of philosophy and art, everything unfounded in truth, everything which is merely contingent but which also reveals other laws: the Muse of history!

Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, translated by Peter Collier (London: Penguin, 2003), 640

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