Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Writing and dressmaking

As Marcel thinks about the work of writing he’s about to begin, he tries out various metaphors. He imagines working alongside his servant Françoise: the writer as another dressmaker.

Marcel Proust, Finding Time Again, trans. Ian Patterson (London: Penguin, 2003).

And here’s another writer, Godfrey St. Peter, professor, historian, who shares his attic study with a dressmaker, Augusta, who comes to sew for his family, three weeks every spring, three weeks every fall. St. Peter and his wife Lillian are moving to a new and far grander house, but he insists on continuing to rent the old house so that he can work in the attic. And he insists on keeping Augusta’s dress forms there. But he’s willing to let her dress patterns go.

Willa Cather, The Professor’s House (New York: Knopf, 1925).

Cather will later write that it is in the attic that St. Peter’s notes and ideas are ”woven into their proper place in his history.”

Cather called Proust “the greatest French writer of his time,” but there’s no possibility of influence here. The Professor’s House appeared three years after Proust’s death and two years before Le Temps retrouvé. I take these passages as a remarkable instance of synchronicity.

A related post
Proust and Cather

[Supplementary pages? A glance will give you an idea.]

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