Friday, January 6, 2012

Edmund White on Proust

This is an excerpt from Edmund White's essay on Proust in his new collection of essays Sacred Monsters :

"Modern readers are responsive to Proust's tireless and brilliant analyses of love because we too no longer take love for granted. Readers today are always making the personal public, the intimate political, the instinctual philosophical. Proust may have attacked love, but he did know a lot about it. Like us, he took nothing for granted. He was not on smug, cozy terms with his own experience. We read Proust because he knows so much about the links between childhood anguish and adult passion. We read Proust because, despite his intelligence, he holds reasoned evaluations in contempt, and understands that only the gnarled knowledge that suffering brings us is of any real use. We read Proust because he knows that in the terminal stage of passion we no longer love the beloved. The object of our love has been overshadowed by love itself. Proust writes:

and this malady, which Swann's love had become, had so proliferated, was so closely interwoven with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he hoped for after his death, was so utterly inseparable from him, that it would have been impossible to eradicate it without almost entirely destroying him. As surgeons say: his love was no longer operable.

Proust may be telling us that love is a chimera, a projection of rich fantasies onto an indifferent, certainly mysterious surface. But nevertheless, those fantasies are undeniably beautiful, intimations of paradise, the artificial paradise of art."

1 comment:

DCSteve1441 said...

Thanks for sharing this, Robert. Very insightful! Cheers, Steve