Proust Book Group Meeting

Proust Book Group Meeting

Not everyone made it to this meeting and so we used it as an excuse (opportunity?) to focus on the just start of the second part of ‘A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs’.

Key Observations

  • the narrator’s focus on the blue of the blind at the window of the train carriage. Significance – to underline the importance of what we see ( in this case the colour) as opposed to what we know we see ( it is a blind).
  • the importance of light and its impact on what we see. As seen in the changing impressions of the same scene as observed through the train window as the train follows its winding track. Same scene, different perspective. Affected by time, light, distance.
  • the relevance of these visual experiences become clear when the narrator describes what he sees through his hotel window. eg he describes the sea as a mountain, the crests of its waves as snow.

Proust here makes the distinction between intelligence and intuition/ sensory response.  He reveals to us his developing aesthetic – that to touch the truth, create art, he needs to respond to the impression, to be faithful to what he sees, rather than to allow what he knows to come between its expression.  (cf. voluntary and involuntary memory)

To place this in a historical context, these ideas are clearly connected to those of the Impressionists.

We are told that the artist Elstir, even before he is introduced,  will have a significant influence on the narrator’s artistic evolution.

It is also aesthetically important that Baudelaire is mentioned here.  Baudelaire’s use of synaesthesia within some of his poems has a definite correlation to Proust’s use of metonymy here. To taste the smell of a rose is akin to seeing the mountain in the sea.

further points for discussion

  • humour. Now we’ve spotted it we see it everywhere. Perhaps the narrator’s grandiose claims and anguished exclamations are intended to express genuine pathos, but we can’t help but hear a self-conscious, self-mocking bathos – the voice of a wiser, more knowing older self who is prepared to elicit humour out of his more naive younger self, even in his most despairing of moments.  Waiting at the train station; seeing the milk girl; drinking the alcohol.

By concentrating on such a small section we managed to talk about the writing in detail. It really is a joy to be able to read ‘A la Recherche’ in this way and to see how much we’ve still got left to read makes my heart soar as it means we’ve got so much more to explore.

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NEXT MEETING : Friday 5th February

TARGET : To finish reading the 2nd part of ‘A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles…’ or, at least, try to.

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