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

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Proust Project, Day 40

Where this began
Day 39


In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (translated by James Grieve), pp. 138-150.

Gilberte, we learn, is "golden-skinned" with "fairish hair," unlike Odette, who is "dark." She "resembled a portrait of her mother, verging on a good likeness, but done by a fanciful colorist who had made her pose in semi-disguise." Sometimes, she has "the frankness of her father's fine, open gaze on the world." But "if you inquired about what she had been doing, those same eyes filled with the devious, forlorn embarrassment that used to cloud Odette's as, in answer to a question from Swann about where she had been, she told one of those lies which had once reduced her lover to despair, but which now made her husband, a prudently uninquiring man, quickly change the subject."
Swann was one of those men whose lives have been spent in the illusions of love, who, having afforded comforts and, through them, greater happiness to many women, have not been repaid by gratitude or tenderness toward themselves; but in their child they believe they can sense an affection which, by being materialized in the name they bear, will outlive them.

The dinner with Bergotte goes well: Swann compliments the narrator for raising the tone of the conversation, which the narrator takes to mean that their usual entertainment of Bergotte is more casual. It makes him realize that he had not been at all shy about sharing his opinions and feelings freely with the writer, and that "both my great attraction to the works of Bergotte and the unaccountable disappointment I had experienced at the theater were sincere, spontaneous reactions of my own mind," and that Bergotte "was very likely not so utterly alien and hostile to my disappointment, or to my inability to articulate it."
Just as the priests with the broadest knowledge of the heart are those who can best forgive the sins they themselves never commit, so the genius with the broadest acquaintance with the mind can best understand ideas most foreign to those that fill his own works.

When they share a carriage home after the dinner, Bergotte says he's sorry to hear from the Swanns that the narrator is "not in the best of health.... Although I must say I am not too sorry for you, as I can see you must enjoy the pleasures of the intellectual life." This strikes the narrator as at odds with de Norpois's attitude toward his intellectual and artistic pursuits:
M. de Norpois's words had made me see my moments of idle reflection, enthusiasm, and self-confidence as being purely subjective, devoid of reality. Yet Bergotte, who seemed quite familiar with the situation I found myself in, seemed to be implying that the symptoms to ignore were actually my self-disgust and doubts about my abilities.

Moreover, Bergotte has a radically different view of Dr. Cottard as physician from de Norpois's. Bergotte has met Cottard at the Swanns' and recognized him as "a prize idiot!"
"Cottard will bore you, and boredom alone will prevent his treatment from working. ... With intelligent people, three-quarters of the things they suffer from come from their intelligence. The thing they can't do without is a doctor who's aware of that form of illness. How on earth could Cottard cure you?"
The narrator remains skeptical of this advice, however.

Bergotte also suggests that Swann is in need of a good doctor because "here is a man who married a trollop, who accepts being snubbed every day of the week by women who choose not to know his wife, or looked down on by men who have slept with her."

The narrator decides that one reason Swann has introduced him to Bergotte was to impress his parents, who are among those who have been unwilling to receive Odette. But when he mentions to his parents that the Swanns introduced him to Bergotte, his father is scornful -- the more so when the narrator tells him that Bergotte "had nothing good to say about M. de Norpois." His father says that opinion shows "what a nasty and bogus mind" Bergotte has. Fortunately, the narrator is able to mention that Odette reported to him that Bergotte "thought I was highly intelligent." This of course delights his parents, even causing his father to admit that de Norpois is "not always full of goodwill."

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