The Cambridge Companion to Proust (Cambridge Companions to Literature)
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The Cambridge Companion to Proust provides a broad account of the major features of Marcel Proust's great work A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927). The specially commissioned essays, by acknowledged experts on Proust, address a wide range of issues relating to his work. Progressing from background and biographical material, the chapters investigate such essential areas as the composition of the novel, its social dimension, the language in which it is couched, its intellectual parameters and its humor.
Santeuil, that the key to his work lay submerged in the past. He saw the rich potential of such experiences, saying they were ‘alive on a higher level than memory or than the present so that they have not the ﬂatness of pictures but the rounded fullness of reality, the imprecision of feeling’ (Jean Santeuil, p.409). But he was years away from discovering how to make them serve a novel’s plot. Around 1899, unable to create a plot and ﬁnd the right point of view, he abandoned Jean Santeuil. From
lived for the sake of the plant without knowing it, without ever realising that my life needed to come into contact with those books which I had wanted to write and for which, when in the past I had sat down at my table to begin, I had been unable to ﬁnd a subject. And thus my whole life up to the present day might and yet might not have been summed up under the title: A Vocation.] (vi, 258–9/304) 38 Cambridge Companions Online © Cambridge University Press, 2006 The vast structure of
his second long essay of 1900, ‘John Ruskin’ (CSB, pp.105–41), Proust tells of another pilgrimage he had made, this time to the Cathedral of Rouen to see a small carving Ruskin described in The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Ruskin had pointed out the carving as representative of the vitality of medieval architecture, and had illustrated his text with a drawing of it. Proust cites Ruskin’s passage on this ‘petite ﬁgure’: . . . the fellow is vexed and puzzled in his malice; and his hand is pressed
Proust. The same improvements in the quality of lenses also helped to expand the astronomer’s vision outward with larger, more powerful telescopes. Heretofore unseen worlds were revealed on both the microscopic and the macroscopic levels. Developments in glass and iron brought about the perfection and proliferation of aquariums, allowing both the naturalist and sightseers to view the inhabitants of the undersea world under ‘natural’ conditions. These developments also resulted in architectural
heterogeneous (as when, to cite a minor example, the servants set themselves to ‘regarder tomber la poussière et l’émotion’ (i, 88) [‘watch the dust . . . and the excitement . . . subside’ (i, 105/123)]. Even the proliferating paradoxes which, on the one hand, are an apt reﬂection of life’s enigmas, function, on the other, to scale those enigmas down from a multi-dimensional conundrum to a set of straightforward binary oppositions (iii, 421–2; iv, 500–1/588–9). At its limit, style forces an