A movie log 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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Proust Project, Day 28

Where this began
Day 27

Swann's Way (translated by Lydia Davis), pp. 399-410.

The section called "Place-Names: The Name" begins with ... a meditation on place names. Well, actually, it begins with the narrator thinking about the Grand-Hôtel de la Plage, at Balbec, and his
desire to see a storm at sea, not so much because it would be a beautiful spectacle as because it would be a moment of nature's real life unveiled; or rather for me there were not beautiful spectacles except the ones which I knew were not artificially contrived for my pleasure, but were necessary, unchangeable -- the beauties of landscapes or of great art.

He's in search of "those things which I believed to be more real than myself," things "most opposite to the mechanical productions of men." A pretty good definition of the Romantic temperament.

Place names embody what he's searching for:
Even in spring, finding the name of Balbec in a book was enough to awaken in me the desire for storms and Norman Gothic; even on a stormy day the name of Florence and Venice gave me a desire for the sun, for lilies, for the Palace of the Doges, and for Saint-Mary-of-the-Flowers.

Names have a synaesthetic effect on the narrator:
Bayeux, so lofty in its noble red-tinged lace, its summit illuminated by the old gold of its last syllable; Vitré, whose acute accent barred its ancient glass with black wood lozenges; gentle Lamballe, whose whiteness goes from eggshell yellow to pearl gray; Coutances, a Norman cathedral, which its final, fat, yellowing diphthong crowns with a tower of butter....

... and so on. It's a passage that links Proust with Rimbaud, who colorized the vowel sounds in "Voyelles":

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes.
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d'ombre ; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes ;

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

O, suprême Clairon plein de strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
-- O, l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux !

Unfortunately, when the narrator's parents give him the opportunity to travel, to visit Florence and Venice, which he imagines in terms derived from Ruskin (whom Proust translated), the excited youth falls ill and, on the doctor's advice not only has to cancel the trip but also miss a consolation prize: going "to the theater to hear La Berma; the sublime artist whom Bergotte had regarded as a genius."

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