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Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

Fragmented Genesis, demanding structure, endless writing, impossible novel. But tireless designs. Proust’s life is found in his notebooks, papers, fragments of texts, confusion of literary genres, incessant recrituras. Everything he felt, suffered, saw him come to a good end one day. Proust is an inmate, obsessive and magnificent, for whom the only reality (choice and psychological necessity) is: the book.

Biography of Marcel Proust

A frail and insignificant child, extremely shy and attached to his mother, Proust suffers very early from asthma attacks that force him to rest. From his imprisonment there will be a compulsive need to gather his impressions, to pour into words. He gets involved in a work that devours him incessantly and leads him to an impossible and unequal struggle with destructive time, a vector of creative anguish and melancholy, and the question of Scripture. Its style is embodied in its phrases-rivers, for it unpronounceable; They extend over entire lines by slipping from the description to the critical proof, to the dialogue, to the fortuitous blasting of the impressions. Proust writes beyond its own being, sentences which exhaust it by the breath, lead it to where its lungs of asthmatic would never lead it alone, without this literature of nerves detailing a life of excess and the spreading glass.

Between a medical father who writes books about his illnesses without being able to cure him ever, and a cultured mother who builds with this son a fused relationship based on anxiety and reciprocal requirement, Marcel the teenager retires in the silent shadows of his Room to write. Small texts, news, poems. After a brilliant schooling, literary studies (Letters, philosophy, law) interspersed with crises of “asphyxiation” increasingly violent, it pursues literary halls and leads a dilettante existence of young social writer. There is already in him a physiological rejection of any profession, by the exercise of the writing that he erect in the real profession, the obsessive and necessary activity.

Literary influence

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust

The influence and feelings that bound Marcel and his mother, Jeanne, were decisive in the construction and intentions of Proust’s work. His relationship is so exclusive and absolute that Marcel writes: “I like to have convulsions [of asthma] and please him that he does not like and does not have. ”

It is Madame Proust who transmits her literary and artistic tastes and gives her the keys to direct her writing work: discipline and firmness. He even goes so far as to help her in his translation business of the English philosopher and the scholar Ruskin, whom Proust admires. From this collaboration will be published the Bible of Amiens (1904), and Sesame and the Lilies (1906). The rare voyages (Amiens, Venice, Rome) carried out first with its mother, then only in Holland, where Marcel discovers the sight of Delft of Vermeer will feed the lost time. The leaflets of Proust, sketches of the investigation rooted in this family history whose mother is the cornerstone. Born of the Jewish bourgeoisie of Alsace and Germany, Jeanne Weil married Adrien Proust, an atheist Catholic doctor, less fortunate but offering a good situation and integration. This double genealogy, the mixture of people and places, will also be at the center of the research. Auteuil and Illiers, the feugos of their parents, will inspire to a great extent to combray with Proust.

With the death of his/her mother in 1905, which shortly after that of his/her father (1903), Marcel was collapsed and inconsolable. But of what is lost forever, i.e. the original unity of the mother and her son, the certainty of being loved, and more generally love; The need to create, in writing, other reports (memories, places, time) arises. This impossible duel becomes a fundamental engine in the opening of the material of the Proustiana writing. If Proust remained a cultivated aesthet, a worldly columnist concerned about the conventions; Most of your project is beginning to draw. Then begins his new rhythm of life. Not submissive to old maternal demands, sleeps the day and writes at night, gradually withdrawing from social life. Also begins the coexistence with the chauffeur-Secretary Agostinelli, in fact Proust companion. Delivered, in pain without a doubt, of an intemperate maternal relationship, Marcel can live fully his sentimental relationships, and devote himself to writing.

The greatness of his work

Proust received a classical education, and a good knowledge of the French literary corpus is assumed. His personal tastes relate to the world of classical literature: Sévigné, Saint-Simon, Flaubert, Zola, Stendhal, and Sainte Beuve, against whom he takes fiercely part in contre Sainte Beuve (1954, posthumously published). The reading of the brothers Goncourt, Mauriac, Anatole France and Paul Valéry will be the capital for the construction of its character Bergotte. He is also very aware of the art of his time, fascinated by the great world, as well as by artists (naturalism, Symbolism, modern Art). Musically, it will be Saint Saëns, Fauré, Franck and Wagner who serve as model for Vinteuil. As for pictorial art, Monet and Vermeer will meet in the person of Elstir. Attending literary Paris of the time, he met Mallarmé, Whistler, Degas, Lecomte de l’Isle, Huysmans, Verlaine, Barrès, Gide, Morand, Cocteau, Giraudoux, among others.

Its first texts carry the imprint of the narrow environment in which it evolves, a brilliant essayist, nobody knows that it began a novel of Jean Santeuil, fictitious autobiography. He is then interested in all possible forms of pleasure through painting, music, literature, which are the subject of the news published in Les Plaisirs and Les Jours (1896). The years follow each other and apart from some trips (TROUVILLE and Venice) that will feed the lost time, Proust leaves less and fewer. Asthma, the amorous sufferings (separation and death of Agostinelli) change their vision of the world, as much as the Great War will do. He ends his life Reclusiva but frantic in writing, to refine, again and again, his work.

Collections of news, essays, drafts of novel (Jean Santeuil), are only fragments of the future investigation of Puzzle, which covers a period of 45 years, four generations. Rejected by several publishers, the first volume is published in the account of the author, but the second, in the shade of the young in Bloom, crowned by the Prix Goncourt in 1919.

The originality of this endless novel, “fictional autobiography”, is due to its Constitution: confusion of literary genres, long sentences, unpunctuated dialogues, massive presence of parentheses and dashes (distance between narrator and characters) intrigue almost absent, chronology Husted. The length and the Constitution of the sentence provoke fascination or rejection of the proustien style. But they successfully spread the shake to the whole narrative, and thus escape the notation literature of the Goncourt brothers. In search of lost time is a learning novel, the “truth” is not known from the outset, but conquered by the Narrator: in the time found he discovers that the book was already written in him and that his task is that of a simple translator. An unproductive aesthet, he understands only at the end that he must become a writer, and write the search. The signs that punctuated his course prefigured in a neous way this destiny: initiation to art by Swann, frequations of the literary milieu. But it is the structure and not the topic that matters. The plot is rejected, dislocated by the impromptu arrival of the involuntary memory, which recomposes the textual fragments and assigns to the narrative a fluctuating aspect. The abolition of frontiers between literary genres does not preclude the proustian method of following a very strict plan. The structure is circular, rigorous, despite the impressive growth of the text. On the side of Swann appeared in 1913, in the shadow of the young girls in bloom in 1918, the side of Guermantes I in 1920, the side of Guermantes II and Sodom and Gomorrah I in 1921, Sodom and Gomorrah II in 1922. The prisoner (1923), Albertine disappeared (1925), the time recovered (1927), the last three strands of in search of lost time, are published after his death.

Proust’s considerable work is based on an exploded Genesis. Proust wrote in a completely disorderly way, by all ends at once, juxtapoting written fragments, pastiches, poems, verses, proses, texts previously published in journals. The order is not chronological, the subtle thread that underlies the whole are the main themes: the love and its necessary during the jealousy, the degradation of the worldly life, the genius and laziness, the redemption by the art. Between fiction and criticism, a social novel and a long poem in prose, life and laws, Proust cannot resolve himself to choose: only reminiscence comes to organize the narrative, through this intermediate self that during insomnia is invaded by remembrance.

Proust wrote more than ten thousand pages, he first began by throwing his countless ideas on notebooks, 75 sketchbooks, some thirty of which would have been destroyed under his command by his governant. Passages are written and corrected several times on different notebooks and then assembled. After a first sorting, he wrote some twenty pages, always annotating them, before correcting, deleting, and rereading. Following the addition of the paper quilling (small pieces of paper that Proust was biting on a nail on his desk and which contained an idea, a Word, a phrase, which served to nourish his work from the inside). The novel persists as long as life can feed it. Before publication, until the last minute, and to the chagrin of his printers, Proust rewrote the proofs, to such an extent that it was necessary to redactylograph and thus read all, and re-assemble, indefinitely. There is in the biography of Proust by André Maurois an interesting analysis of the concept of paperolles. Starting from there, Maurois believes that Jean Santeuil becomes the search in one, three, five, then seven volumes and that this could have continued infinitely. The beginning and the end of the search are already contained in the first volume, the rest is a digression. And, precisely, Proust’s genius is to give his reader the impression of discoveries while the diverging paths lead to the same place. Proust cares about us, and his joke is called literature.

The reconquest of time

If the subject, the plot of the search is invisible is because the narrative tells the discovery of its subject: the ignored vocation of the hero whose mission is to write the book that we are reading and that is in him. That is why the linear, too obvious and limiting process cannot be agreed. Rather, it is a question of juxtaposing impressions, coincidences but without ever clearly affirming the common, discreet and transparent intuition that bases the work. In order to preserve the dislocation of history and give it an ephemeral form. Each version, shutter, part of the novel, ready to be published is therefore precarious, incessantly on the verge of being retouched.

There is a dissolution not only of the narrative but also of the characters, based on the irremediable, negative, destructive progression of time. At the end as at the beginning, the Narrator is alone. In the meantime, there has been an apparition, disappearance, recurrence, of more than 500 characters. This Romanesque method modifies situations, geography, social ranks according to volumes. The variety of characters and that of the social circles make them elusive shadows that slip away their secret. The same characters go by and pass but the syntax, the vocabulary peculiar to each character varies as it evolves. Their psychology is not determined, the heroes when they reappear always leave a different image. As the passion, which is described only for what it contains of imaginary, of anguish, they are not described for themselves, but for the sensations that their presence prints in us. In this sense, the novel is structured through the impressions experienced by the narrator and affirms the transient character of everything. The unifying and mediating consciousness is that of the Narrator, witness and Repeater who juxtaposes the experiments, infinitely, in order to give a palette of impressions the widest and least immutable possible. The elements of history being subject to his point of view, there is no objective truth, but of changing sketches and impressions. The interest of the book is less in reality than it reflects in the singular vision it expresses.

If time changes beings, however, it is possible to regain it in the work, which discovers and brightens the profound reality. Involuntary remembrance or “affective memory” is the only one capable of bringing forth a moment of the past in the present by restoring its sensitive power and real intensity. It is necessary to the Narrator to the point that it is taken from a stun. If he does not lose consciousness, it is only because the current place or moment emerges victorious from the struggle with the distant place of remembrance. The memory is therefore real but not current, it is the presence of a virtuality. This gushing is only possible in the unexpected, when consciousness and attention are relaxed, relaxed. In other words, only a slackening – relative – of attention to the present allows the remembrance, in the impression of the past, to re-emerge clearly from an unfathomable nothingness. The Narrator is then out of this time that organizes the uninterrupted unfolding of phenomena. It escapes the flow of which death scans the term. The reconciliation of the two moments (memory of a past moment/actual impression in the present) creates a miraculous moment which is a poetry.


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