A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Proust Project, Day 9

Where this began
Day 8


Swann's Way (translated by Lydia Davis), pp. 102-117.

Thanksgiving, a day of rituals (turkey, cranberry sauce, yams, etc.), is a good day to read about the routines and rituals of Combray.

We focus again on Aunt Léonie and Françoise, as they await the arrival of Eulalie with news about the church service. Rain begins to fall, and Françoise reports that Mme. Amédée, the narrator's grandmother (who has previously been identified as "Bathilde"), has gone out for a walk.
"That doesn't surprise me at all," said my aunt, lifting her eyes to the heavens. "I've always said that her way of thinking is different from everyone else's...."

"Mme. Amédée is always as different as she can be from everyone else," said Françoise gently, refraining until she should be alone with the other servants from saying that she believed my grandmother was a little "touched."

Finally, Eulalie arrives, but her visit coincides with that of the garrulous curé -- "an excellent man," the narrator observes, "with whom I am sorry I did not have more conversations, for if he understood nothing about the arts, he did know many etymologies." His visit tires out Aunt Léonie, who sends Eulalie away without learning the "important" information whether "Mme. Goupil arrived at Mass before the elevation."

Françoise, who detests Eulalie, is unhappy that Aunt Léonie always gives Eulalie money.
She would not, however, have seen any great harm in what my aunt, whom she knew to be incurably generous, allowed herself to give away, so long as it went to rich people. Perhaps she thought that they, having no need of gifts from my aunt, could not be suspected of showing fondness for her because of them.

And so the routine goes on, interrupted only by the kitchen maid's suddenly going into labor, an event that deprives Aunt Léonie of Françoise's ministrations while she is sent to fetch a midwife. The narrator, sent to check on his aunt, looks in to find her awaking with a look of terror on her face. He lingers to hear her murmur, "I've gone and dreamed that my poor Octave had come back to life and was trying to make me go for a walk every day!" There are even subroutines within the routine, as when lunch is served early on Saturdays because Françoise goes to the market in the afternoon. Any stranger who is ignorant of this change in routine, or even any family member who forgets it, is subject to ridicule.
The surprise of a barbarian (this was what we called anyone who did not know what was special about Saturday) who, arriving at eleven o'clock to talk to my father, found us at table, was one of the things in her life which most amused Françoise.

We also meet the "extremely prudish" M. Vinteuil and his "tomboyish" daughter, and we go on a Sunday walk with the narrator and his parents, following a circuitous route familiar only to the father until they reach home.
And from that moment on, I would not have to take another step, the ground would walk for me through that garden where for so long now my actions had ceased to be accompanied by any deliberate attention: Habit had taken me in its arms, and it carried me all the way to my bed like a little child.



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