July 10, 2018


NOT EVERYONE LOVES PROUST (Emily Temple, 7/10/18, LitHub)

Kazuo Ishiguro, in an interview with HuffPo:

To be absolutely honest, apart from the opening volume of Proust, I find him crushingly dull. The trouble with Proust is that sometimes you go through an absolutely wonderful passage, but then you have to go about 200 pages of intense French snobbery, high-society maneuverings and pure self-indulgence. It goes on and on and on and on. But every now and again, I suppose around memory, he can be beautiful.

Evelyn Waugh, in a 1948 letter to Nancy Mitford:

I am reading Proust for the first time--in English of course--and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time. He can't remember anyone's age. In the same summer as Gilberte gives him a marble & Francoise takes him to the public lavatory in the Champs-Elysees, Bloch takes him to a brothel. And as for the jokes--the boredom of Bloch and Cottard.

D. H. Lawrence, in his essay "The Future of the Novel":

Let us just for the moment feel the pulses of Ulysses and of Miss Dorothy Richardson and M. Marcel Proust . . . Is Ulysses in his cradle? Oh, dear! What a grey face! . . . And M. Proust? Alas! You can hear the death-rattle in their throats. They can hear it themselves. They are listening to it with acute interest, trying to discover whether the intervals are minor thirds of major fourths. Which is rather infantile, really.

So there you have the "serious" novel, dying in a very long-drawn-out fourteen-volume death-agony, and absorbedly, childishly interested in the phenomenon "Did I feel a twinge in my little toe, or didn't I?" asks every character of Mr. Joyce or of Miss Richardson or M. Proust. Is my aura a blend of frankincense and orange pekoe and boot-blacking, or is it myrrh and bacon-fat and Shetland tweed? The audience round the death-bed gapes for the answer. And when, in a sepulchral tone, the answer comes and length, after hundreds of pages: "It is none of these, it is abysmal chloro-coryambasis," the audience quivers all over, and murmurs: "That's just how I feel myself."

Which is the dismal, long-drawn-out comedy of the death-bed of the serious novel. It is self-consciousness picked into such fine bits that the bits are most of them invisible, and you have to go by smell.

Germaine Greer, writing in The Guardian:

If you haven't read Proust, don't worry. This lacuna in your cultural development you do not need to fill. On the other hand, if you have read all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, you should be very worried about yourself. As Proust very well knew, reading his work for as long as it takes is temps perdu, time wasted, time that would be better spent visiting a demented relative, meditating, walking the dog or learning ancient Greek.

The point of such writing is not to entertain the reader but to dominate him.

Posted by at July 10, 2018 4:33 AM