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Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi.

No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.

Translation: C.K. Scott Moncrieff

A vrai dire, j’aurais pu répondre à qui m’eût interrogé que Combray comprenait encore autre chose et existait à d’autres heures.

I must own that I could have assured any questioner that Combray did include other scenes and did exist at other hours than these.

Translation: C.K. Scott Moncrieff

Words and creation

I have this thing about words being the ultimate in creation.

Here’s why: Jews believe that in the Torah (and this is coming from a completely philosophic standpoint, not religious), the world was created through G-d’s pronouncements. Think about it, “G-d said…” “G-d said…” etc.

According the the philosophic interpretation, here’s what happened: G-d created the letters of the Hebrew alphabet first. Then, by various permutations of those letters created the universe. Through verbal decree. He was saying a lot. And, the world has a foundation in magic spells that will things into existence.

That said, there’s a section where Proust starts talking about his mother and grandmother. How they were, unlike that dirty, trashy George Sand, masterful speakers who could manipulate sentences beautifully. In ways that others cannot.

I can’t help but make a connection between the two things here. On the notion of Proust’s own literary heritage passed down from (interestingly) the women in his life. On the mother figure as creator.

And on the seeming break from character to delve into this (semi-)autobiographical tirade about his own writing.

That F-ing George Sand

So, there’s a tirade about George Sand. Blah blah blah something something blah blah blah about that shlock lit blah blah blah upset my sensibilities. 

Then we get the whole, “[…] these events, so mundane, these things so common, these words so used in regular expression, I felt like a strange intonation.” 

But, here’s the thing: Proust’s entire work, here, is about the mundane, the everyday, the regular expressions, the common things of life. I mean, dude spends pages upon pages talking about how he wants his mommy. 

It is interesting to see the disdain he uses for what he considers to be mundane lit, when really, this is a class judgment. His mundane lit is, at least, of a respectful, hauty family, that would never be caught dead reading that trashy George Sand.

Even though they do.




Ok, so I haven’t gotten to the (in)famous madeleine scene just yet, but I know it’s coming up. And I have read this (in)famous scene in the past.

The other night I went to an event at the Mast Brothers chocolate factory, where a materials design class from NYU’s ITP program presented their chocolate inspired work. One group presented small viles of distilled chocolate water. The point, they explained, was to play with smell and memory: each vile represented a memory of the chocolate factory and that night. While this was smell vs. taste, I immediately thought of Proust and the madeleine.

They started with the cocoa bean husks, boiled them down in water, strained the (brown) water, then distilled it into a clear liquid. Everyone there took a small vile of chocolate scent home with them.

Unfortunately, the distilled liquid smelled like cocoa husks (imagine that!) and not chocolate per se. While perhaps lacking in execution, a point was made.

Somewhat related: I need to start researching recipes for madeleines. Dieu sait I am going to be making a bunch of madeleines very soon. I feel like it’s a bizarre, inevitable ritual one happens upon while reading Proust. Right?

Ainsi, pour la première fois, ma tristesse n’était plus considérée comme une faute punissable mais comme un mal involontaire qu’on venait de reconnaître officiellement, comme un état nerveux dont je n’étais pas responsable; j’avais le soulagement de n’avoir plus à mêler de scrupules à l’amertume de mes larmes, je pouvais pleurer sans péché.

And thus for the first time my unhappiness was regarded no longer as a fault for which I must be punished, but as an involuntary evil which had been officially recognised a nervous condition for which I was in no way responsible: I had the consolation that I need no longer mingle apprehensive scruples with the bitterness of my tears; I could weep henceforward without sin.

Translation: C.K. Scott Moncrieff
Oh, so ghey. This photo apparently horrified Proust’s mother. I can’t imagine why…

Oh, so ghey. This photo apparently horrified Proust’s mother. I can’t imagine why…


I feel like I need to expand my vocabulary in English in order to be able to write about Proust.

Alternate beginning

Sometimes I think that instead of the madeleine, Proust intended on making the motherly kiss be the grand catalyst for remembrance. So. Much. Detail. About. The. Kiss.

Or, it’s just character set up. Still.



C’est-il pas malheureux pour des parents d’avoir un enfant pareil!

How unfortunate it is for parents to have such a child!