November 1: proust and more unknowability

Continuing to read through Proust and arriving at a section that deals with Marcel’s relationship with his grandmother in the ‘Guermantes’ volumes. The narrator speaks to her by phone and, shocked to hear her thin voice coming to him filtered and channelled down a phone line, feels he is hearing her in a pure state, though when the line goes dead he feels the melancholy of her absence like never before. Something like how I feel with Skype, which emphasises the absence of the person, especially when there is the delay on the reception or when the screen freezes momentarily. Technology can do this, I think: bring home the futility or paltriness of the communication process.
Marcel then hurries back to Paris to sample her so to speak real presence but when he comes into the room to see her she does not notice him at first and he sees her engaged in her own thoughts. He sees her living her life without him.
“…pour un instant, car elle disparut bien vite, j’apercus sur le canape, sous la lampe, rouge, lourde et vulgaire, malade, revassant, promenant au-dessus d’un livre des yeux un peu fous, une vieille femme accablee que je ne connaissais pas.” (Le Cote des Guermantes)
(“… for a moment only, for the image quickly disappeared, I saw on the sofa, under the lamp, red, heavy and vulgar-looking, sickly and distracted, scanning a book with slightly mad eyes, a peoccupied-looking old woman I did not recognise.”) (The Guermantes)
Sometimes we have a shocking inkling of the other life of a friend; some sharp remark that reveals a whole stratum of their temperament that was unknown to you, or their suddenly expressing a desire which seems to cast into doubt every idea you ever held about their behaviour and motivations. These are melancholy moments when you realise you know nothing about anybody.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s