A date with Proust

 

A date with Proust

This book has been accompanying me for the last few years. It is a series of books actually, the famous Remembrance of things past or In search of lost time by Marcel Proust. I try to read some pages every week-end when I have more time in my hands. I savour every word of the original French. It is my secret appointment or should I call it a date with Proust? Because very soon I realized that I was falling in love with him. Every week-end it is as if he is offering me a present, an exquisite piece of chocolate or maybe a fluffy buttery madeleine. He takes me with him to the homes of his aristocratic acquaintances and introduces me to some persons of more obscure background like Odette or Rachel.

During the lockdown, I was one of the few people who had to go to work everyday. This was a particularly stressful time for me, so I offered myself a greater dose of Proust to keep me going.

Proust had to stay home a lot because of his poor health. He didn't enjoy a new environment and when he had to visit his friend St Loup and stay at a hotel, he felt miserable.

I wanted to stay at home but had to go out instead and face the unpleasant facts of everyday life. I envied those people who felt bored and isolated. They would post messages on the social media, reporting all the household chores they had to do, telling the world how lonely and useless they felt. In this strange new reality of the healthy ill, I had to use my imagination in order to keep my mental health intact. Therefore, I would immerse myself into Proust and follow the intrigues and affairs of his social circle in order to forget the dark reality around me.

Having generally considered myself a realist, I found out that this time I didn't want to hear the news nor study the maps tracking the march of the virus. I sincerely wanted to evade reality and felt that I had the right to do so. Proust would invite me to his world of art and would explain to me in detail some paintings of the Renaissance. He would take me with him to the theatre to a performance of a great actress of his time, Berma, or we would visit together the studio of the painter Elstir (a hero of his book based on either Monet or Manet or Renoir).

Living in a world so different than my own, Proust would provide me with all the change of scenery I needed. At the same time his world was not always frivolous as he himself would not deny introspection. In these gloomy times I would not want my beloved to be silly and carefree all the time.

Thus the dreary winter went by. My love story with Proust still goes on.

LS, June 2020