Proust – 100th anniversary of “Du côté de chez Swann” – November 2013
(inspired by a special edition of “LeFigaro)
‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ (ALRTP) is made up like a cathedral which foundation is ‘Du côté de chez Swann’. Contrary to what is generally perceived as a work looking backwards, ALRTP is forward-looking , full of ‘signs’ that only take on their full meaning at the end of the novel, to better mimic the languor of time.
The language is enriched with colors and metaphors, constituting the style of Proust. But language also stages other codes : Social vanity signs ( ‘le côté de Guermantes’ ) , Misunderstandings ( Charlus thinks he is discovered in ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ when Verdun launches “So you’re one of them” ), or Enunciation of social class, geographical origin or aspirations in ‘le parler’ .
In the final volume ‘Le temps retrouvé’, we discover Proust’s philosophy of life, his vision of the world, of time and of art .
Proust gives voice to the disturbing coincidences in life, echoing memories and distant experiences that only art can keep from time passing. In the Hôtel de Guermantes , he wipes with a starched napkin that has the same stiffness than one in Babec long ago and suddenly it is as if “the servant had opened the window on the beach ” ; in the hotel’s courtyard , stumbling on two uneven cobblestones , he finds himself in Venice St-Marc years earlier… and finally he finds a book in the library of the Prince ‘François le champi’, the book he had spent a whole night reading with his mother, as a child.
Only art has the power to communicate these moments of pure JOY, allowing you to enjoy the essence of things and time. A la recherche du temps perdu is an impressionistic canvas of this statement .
The artistic emotion, music, paintings are the only true voyage , the only fountain of youth that allows to sense the ineffable and see the world through the eyes of another .
Such an intense artistic emotion is experienced by the writer Bergotte ( in ‘Prisoner’) before the ‘little patch of yellow painted wall’ in ‘View of Delft’ by Vermeer :
… “He noticed for the first time, small figures in blue, the pink sand, and finally the precious substance of the tiny patch yellow painted wall ” …
Proust has Bergotte dying before the painting and reflecting :
“This is how I should write … My last books are too dry , I should have passed on several layers of color, turned my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall.”
This Vermeer was the last painting Proust contemplated in May 1921 at the Dutch exhibition in Jeu de Paume .
A few hours before his death, Proust was still dictating fragments of Bergotte’s death.