Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

You have strange compatriots. An American girl who assures me she is very beautiful, twenty-seven years old (since she lives in Rome, the Villa Wolkonsky, I have forgotten her name, I don’t give a hang, anyway) writes me that for three years she has done nothing night and day but read my books. I shouldn’t repeat what she said (because I never repeat this sort of thing) except for the conclusion which, if it doesn’t belittle her, humiliates me: “And after three years of uninterrupted reading, my conclusion is this: I understand nothing, but absolutely nothing. Dear Marcel Proust, don’t be a poseur, descend for just once from your empyrean. Tell me in two lines what you wished to say.” Since she didn’t understand it in two thousand lines, or rather since I didn’t know how to express it, I decided it was useless to reply. And she will find me a poseur. Do you know who she is (although it is of no importance)?

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Walter Berry, December 9, 1921. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co., 2006).
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comments: 3

Pete said...

"Tell me in two lines what you wished to say." Being six weeks into Crime and Punishment, I can relate.

Anonymous said...

If Marcel said it in two lines, he would be Hemingway and the world did not need another Hemingway. Even one was too much. More Proust, s'il vous plait, and thank you, Michael, for the anniversaire reminder.

Michael Leddy said...

Pete, maybe a summarize Dostoyevsky contest is in order (slightly NSFW).

Mari, that reminds me of the story about Miles Davis asking John Coltrane why his solos were so long. Answer: “It took that long to get it all in.”