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Category: Marcel Proust

Allowances can be made

“The most dangerous of all concealments is that of the crime itself in the mind of the guilty party. His constant awareness of it prevents him from imagining how generally unknown it is, how readily a complete lie would be accepted, and on the other hand from realising at what degree of truth other people will begin to detect an admission in words which he believes to be innocent. In any case there was no real need to try to hush it up, for there is no vice that does not find ready tolerance in the best society, and one has seen a country house turned upside down in order that two sisters might sleep in adjoining rooms as soon as their hostess learned that theirs was more than a sisterly affection.” – Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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You don’t want to get any on your hands

“Writers are a pretty low class. True, it’s not a bad thing to meet them once in a way, for thanks to them, when one reads a book or an article, one ‘gets to know the inside story,’ one ‘sees people in their true colours.’ On the whole, though, the wisest thing is to stick to dead authors.” – Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Get back to work

“We can as we choose abandon ourselves to one or other of two forces, of which one rises in ourselves, emanates from our deepest impressions, while the other comes to us from without. The first brings with it naturally a joy, the joy that springs from the life of those who create. The other current, that which endeavors to introduce into us the impulses by which persons external to ourselves are stirred, is not accompanied by pleasure, but we can add pleasure to it, by a sort of recoil, in an intoxication so artificial that it turns swiftly into boredom, into melancholy—whence the gloomy faces of so many men of the world, and all those nervous conditions which may even lead to suicide.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Deflation of the demos

“It would seem that in an egalitarian society social etiquette would vanish, not, as is generally supposed, from want of breeding, but because on the one side would disappear the deference due to a prestige which must be imaginary to be effective, and on the other, more completely still, the affability that is gracefully and generously dispensed when it is felt to be of infinite price to the recipient, a price which, in a world based on equality, would at once fall to nothing like everything which has only a fiduciary value.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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It’s right in front of you and you’re headed straight for it

“We may, indeed, say that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we think of that hour as situated in a vague and remote expanse of time; it does not occur to us that it can have any connexion with the day that has already dawned and can mean that death—or its first assault and partial possession of us, after which it will never leave hold of us again—may occur this very afternoon, so far from uncertain, this afternoon whose timetable, hour by hour, has been settled in advance. One insists on one’s daily outing so that in a month’s time one will have had the necessary ration of fresh air, one has hesitated over which coat to take, which cabman to call; one is in the cab, the whole day lies before one, short because one must be back home early, as a friend is coming to see one; one hopes that it will be as fine again tomorrow; and one has no suspicion that death, which has been advancing within one on another plane, has chosen precisely this particular day to make its appearance, in a few minutes’ time.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Where would we be without us?

“Submit to being called a neurotic. You belong to that splendid and pitiable family which is the salt of the earth. Everything we think of as great has come to us from neurotics. It is they and they alone who found religions and create great works of art. The world will never realise how much it owes to them, and what they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it. We enjoy fine music, beautiful pictures, a thousand exquisite things, but we do not know what they cost those who wrought them in insomnia, tears, spasmodic laughter, urticaria, asthma, epilepsy, a terror of death which is worse than any of these, and which you perhaps have experienced.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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We’ve got a pill for that

“Medicine being a compendium of the successive and contradictory mistakes of medical practitioners, when we summon the wisdom of them to our aid the chances are that we may be relying on a scientific truth the error of which will be recognised in a few years’ time. So that to believe in medicine would be the height of folly, if not to believe in it were a greater folly still, for from this mass of errors a few truths have in the long run emerged.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Ghosts trapped in a crumbling prison

“It is in sickness that we are compelled to recognise that we do not live alone but are chained to a being from a different realm, from whom we are worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might perhaps succeed in making him sensible of his own personal interest if not of our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing in front of an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the tides, and with which we should be appalled to find ourselves condemned to live.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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That’s why bullets are made out of lead

“Diplomats know that, in the scales which ensure that balance of power, European or otherwise, which we call peace, good feeling, fine speeches, earnest entreaties weigh very little; and that the heavy weight, the true determinant consists in something else, in the possibility which the adversary enjoys, if he is strong enough, or does not enjoy, of satisfying a desire in exchange for something in return.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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A place upon which, later, many flowers will grow

“A battlefield has never been, and never will be throughout the centuries, simply the ground upon which a single battle has been fought. If it has been a battlefield, that was because it combined certain conditions of geographical position, of geological formation, even of certain defects calculated to hinder the enemy (a river, for instance, cutting it in two), which made it a good battlefield. And so what it has been it will continue to be. You don’t make an artist’s studio out of any old room; so you don’t make a battlefield out of any old piece of ground.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Nested

“Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.” – Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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A long march

“We may talk for a lifetime without doing more than indefinitely repeat the vacuity of a minute, whereas the march of thought in the solitary work of artistic creation proceeds in depth, in the only direction that is not closed to us, along which we are free to advance—though with more effort, it is true—towards a goal of truth.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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No one is born with a gold star

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by everything evil or commonplace that prevailed round about them. They represent a struggle and a victory.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Dreaming with my eyes wide open

“When a mind has a tendency towards day-dreams, it’s a mistake to shield it from them, to ration them. So long as you divert your mind from its day-dreams, it will not know them for what they are; you will be the victim of all sorts of appearances because you will not have grasped their true nature. If a little day-dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time. One must have a thorough understanding of one’s day-dreams if one is not to be troubled by them.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Still, there’s a lot about it I don’t miss

“The characteristic feature of the ridiculous age I was going through—awkward indeed but by no means infertile—is that we do not consult our intelligence and that the most trivial attributes of other people seem to us to form an inseparable part of their personality. In a world thronged with monsters and with gods, we know little peace of mind. There is hardly a single action we perform in that phase which we would not give anything, in later life, to be able to annul. Whereas what we ought to regret is that we no longer possess the spontaneity which made us perform them. In later life we look at things in a more practical way, in full conformity with the rest of society, but adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Ambushed

“The memories of love are no exception to the general laws of memory, which in turn are governed by the still more general laws of Habit. And as Habit weakens everything, what best reminds us of a person is precisely what we had forgotten (because it was of no importance, and we therefore left it in full possession of its strength). That is why the better part of our memories exists outside us, in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past has in store, the richest, that which, when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at the source, can make us weep again.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Put that in your grin and bear it

“Happiness can never be achieved. If we succeed in overcoming the force of circumstances, nature at once shifts the battle-ground, placing it within ourselves, and effects a gradual change in our hearts until they desire something other than what they are about to possess. And if the change of fortune has been so rapid that our hearts have not had time to change, nature does not on that account despair of conquering us, in a manner more gradual, it is true, more subtle, but no less efficacious. It is then at the last moment that the possession of our happiness is wrested from us, or rather it is that very possession which nature, with diabolical cunning, uses to destroy our happiness. Having failed in everything related to the sphere of life and action, it is a final impossibility, the psychological impossibility of happiness, that nature creates. The phenomenon of happiness either fails to appear, or at once gives rise to the bitterest reactions.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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You can’t dodge the one with your name on it

“The soldier is convinced that a certain interval of time, capable of being indefinitely prolonged, will be allowed him before the bullet finds him, the thief before he is caught, men in general before they have to die. That is the amulet which preserves people—and sometimes peoples—not from danger but from the fear of danger, in reality from the belief in danger, which in certain cases allows them to brave it without actually needing to be brave.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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Cast stones, unclean slates

“There may be vice arising from hypersensitiveness just as much as from the lack of it. Perhaps it is only in really vicious lives that the problem of morality can arise in all its disquieting strength. And to this problem the artist offers a solution in the terms not of his own personal life but of what is for him his true life, a general, a literary solution. As the great Doctors of the Church began often, while remaining good, by experiencing the sins of all mankind, out of which they drew their own personal sanctity, so great artists often, while being wicked, make use of their vices in order to arrive at a conception of the moral law that is binding upon us all. It is the vices (or merely the weaknesses and follies) of the circle in which they live, the meaningless conversation, the frivolous or shocking lives of their daughters, the infidelity of their wives, or their own misdeeds that writers have most often castigated in their books, without, however, thinking to alter their way of life or improve the tone of their household.” – Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

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