Archive for June 29th, 2022

29
Jun
22

In Search of Lost Time 6-29-2022

I am about 20 pages from finishing The Guermantes Way, book three of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Sometimes I wonder if a novel, short story, or poem has a thesis. I think they do, but they are usually implicit, but in this long novel, I believe Proust explicitly tells us the thesis of In Search of Lost Time: “There is no need to travel to be able to see it again; we need to go deep into ourselves to find it” (85). In Search of Lost Time, as many critics have acknowledged, is based on Marcel Proust’s life, and Proust is not time travelling to see a something or someone again. He is digging deep into himself to re-experience past events in vivid detail, details that often last 5, 10, or even 133 pages.

Much of this book is also about experiencing time. Sometimes we experience time moving fast and sometimes slow. Proust on occasion will write about a detail, such as the inside of a church or person’s appearance or personality, for five to ten pages. When he does this, time slows for the narration. It’s like a lyrical moment in a narrative poem. Time stand stills. The Guermantes Way is 595 pages long and covers quite a few years from around 1895/1896 (based on referencing new evidence of the Dreyfus Affair but happening before the invention of the aspirin in 1897) to 1906/1907 (there is a reference to Richard Strauss’s Salome, which premiered December 9, 1905, but the characters wouldn’t have heard it until 1906 or 1907 (the year of the first recording of Salome)). So ten, eleven, or twelve years have passed in 595 pages. However, at least 133 pages of the book is devoted to a dinner party or 148 if count when the narrator finally leaves the party. That means one quarter of the book is devoted to a dinner party. So a couple of hours receives 148 pages. Time has crawled to a stall. Perhaps, he did that to mimic how boring the dinner party was. Much of the passage reads long and boring. Proust, at times, is clearly making fun of dinner parties and how people sometimes act at dinner parties. This isn’t a dinner like you or I would have with friends. This is a dinner party with aristocracy, wealthy people, and people who want to be wealthy and aristocrats or to know them or be acknowledge by them. So Proust shows how boring these type of people are. Proust even tells us so a little after the dinner party ended when he writes, “Dinner parties are boring because our imagination is absent, and reading interests us because it is keeping us company” (567). Oddly, there was very little description of the food. Nonetheless, if you want to read a a book with lots of detail including psychological detail, In Search of Lost Time is the book to read.

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(Side note: while doing research to figure out the time line of this book, I discovered that on July 22, 1799, the metric system became the only legal standard for measuring length and mass in France. Also, many consider Garbiel Mouton as the inventor of the metric system as he “proposed a decimal system of measurement that French scientists would spend years further refining” (https://www.metricmetal.com/history-of-the-metric-system/).) I did not realize the metric system was so old. 

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During this novel, we encounter racism and quite a bit of anti-Semitism. The racism is a bit different than what I was a aware of. The characters often describe a person from a country as a race, like the Greek race or Turkish race, which I found odd. I also found it odd that Bloch, a pretentious Jewish friend of the narrator, made anti-Semitic remarks. What I found odder was that the Guermantes family was considered a race and that servants were considered a race. It’s not clear from just reading In Search of Lost if Proust was racist or anti-Semitic or if he is just depicting the racism and anti-Semitism of the day. But there is a lot of anti-Semitism is this series. 😟

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Words of the Day

anfractuous (p. 34) – sinuous or circuitous

madrepores (p. 52) – any true or stony coral of the order Madreporaria, forming reefs or islands in tropical seas. “Mother of pores.”

orrisroot (p. 77) – the root stock of orris, used in perfumery, medication, etc. (orris – an iris [an unexplained alteration of “iris”].)

nielloed (niello) (p. 90) – ornamental work. “A black mixture, usually of sulphur, copper, silver, and lead” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niello).

Niello Exmaple

Niello example: Devotional Diptych with the Nativity and the Adoration. Other examples include rings, spoons, figurines, brooch, etc.

rubieund (p. 91) – red or reddish, ruddy

tu (multiple places) – a French word for “you,” but it is an informal, singular, subjective pronoun that indicates an intimate, amicable, and/or equal relationship between two people. This becomes an important pronoun between the narrator and Saint-Loup. When the narrator references Saint-Loup by “tu,” Saint-Loup acts as if the narrator had just said, “I love you.”

telephonist (p. 128) – an operator of a switchboard

Punchinello (p. 128) – a short, stout, comical looking person

tilbury (p. 132) – “is a light, open, two-wheeled carriage, with or without a top” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilbury_%28carriage%29)

Tilbury

agglutination (p. 166) – the act or process of uniting by glue or other tenacious substance. That which is used to unite.

bluestocking (p. 179, 189 (2x), and 443) – an intellectual or literary woman

praetorian (p. 236) – of or relating to praetor. (In the ancient Roman Republic, one of a number of elected magistrates chraged chiefly with the administration of civil justice and ranking next below a consul.)

pronunciamento (p. 236) – a proclamation, manifesto

demimindaine (p. 260) – a woman of demimonde. (demimonde – (especially during the last half of the 19th century) a class of women who have lost their standing in respectable society because of indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity.)

brigand (p. 292) – a bandit, especially one of a band or robbers, in mountain or forest regions

Brigand

febrifuge (p. 293) – serving to dispel or reduce fever. A cooling drink.

ciborium (p. 320) – Any container designed to hold the consecrated bread or sacred wafers for Eucharist.

ignipuncture (p 321) – surgical closing of a break in the retina due to retinal separation by cauterizing the site of the break with a hot needle

jongleur (p. 366) – (in medieval France and Norman England) an itinerant minstrel or entertainer who sang songs, often of his own composition, and told stories

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Happy Hour Food and Drinks

chocolate – 7 (“chocolate drop”), 75 (2x, once as “cup of chocolate”), 342 (“cup of chocolate”)

wine – 11, 20 (“white wine”), 20 (“red wine”), 74, 157, 158, 165

coffee – 11,228

grapes – 11

meat – 20, 406 (“butcher’s meat”), 500

cherries – 20

toast – 20, 21, 501 (“buttered toast”)

liqueurs – 25

orangeade – 25, 510 (2x), 511 (2x)

bonbons – 34, 36 (2x), 37 (2x, once as “cherry bonbon”)

fruit – 36

milk – 70 (3x)

egg – 70, 202 (2x as “eggs”), 500, 501 (4x, once as “ortolan eggs” and once as “rotten eggs)

cream – 70

champagne – 74

partridges – 74

tea – 89

chickens – 92 (2x), 398 (“cold chicken wing”), 404 (“chicken wing”)

pigs – 92

lobster – 92

fowl – 92

fish – 92, 112 (“a fish cooked in court bouillon”)

grouse – 92

woodcock – 92

pigeons – 92

desserts – 92

oyster – 112 (“scaly-surfaced stoup of the oyster”)

grapes – 112

bluish herbs – 112

shellfish – 112

satellite animalcules – 112

crab – 112

shrimps – 112

mussels – 112

water – 157

champagne – 158, 164 (2x), 404

brandy – 167

tea – 192

cakes – 192

cider – 202

petits fours – 237

beer – 398

hot toddy – 398

poultry – 406

cream–stuffed éclairs – 439

biscuits – 454

chestnut purée – 484

bouchées à la reine (“bites to the queen”) – 484 

bouchées à la reine

A puff pastry with a savory filling.

Gruyère – 486

asparagus – 496 (“asparagus sauce mousseline”), 3x (once as “green asparagus”)

poulet financière – 500

poulet financière

A classic French dish made with chicken, mushrooms, and chicken livers.

omelette – 501

brill poached in carbolic acid – 502

sublime potatoes – 506

Yquems (a white wine) – 510

ortolans (Eurasian bird) – 510

tilleul – 510, 511

stewed cherry – 511

pear juice – 511

juice – 511

fruit-juice concoction – 511

vanilla flavoring – 514

ice cream – 514

madeline – 549

madelines

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The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Material Matters

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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