Life,  Read

The Genius of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s death. The status of him and his novel “In Search of the Lost Time” in the history of literature has been recognized by the world. Just as the French writer Moloya said, what Proust discovered and excavated was not a “mineral lode”, but a “mineral deposit” that had never been discovered before.

There is another well-known feature of this novel-length.

France has a famous saying: ” Life is too short, Proust is too long. ” This is what he said to the second volume of “Pursuit” (“Under the Shadow of the Maiden Flower”) when he was a judge of the Goncourt Prize Words—thankfully, this masterpiece finally conquered the aged French and won his precious vote.

The so-called long, one refers to the volume and length. The entire seven-volume novel was translated into Chinese, with about 2.5 million words. The second refers to the length of the sentence. Proust gives the impression of being particularly fond of long sentences. According to statistics, one-third of the sentences in the book exceed five lines, and one-quarter of the sentences exceed ten lines.

It’s long, but is it verbose? As a translator, my feeling is “before translating, I feel right, but after translating, I feel wrong”. Translation is the most delicate reading. I wrote about this feeling of “feeling wrong” in the translation preface of the first volume: “Every few paragraphs I translate, I always have a premonition that there are wonderful things waiting for me in front of me. It is often covered with a hard shell, and you have to force (often use all your strengths) to open the shell, and you will be pleasantly surprised to find the shiny content inside.”

But this kind of beauty, even the archetypal characters in the novel may not appreciate it. When Proust was young, he often went to the salons of the upper class circle, and he was the lovely “Little Marcel” in the eyes of the hostess of the salons. After the publication of the first volume, Proust sent a copy to the house of the Marquise de Chevigne. The Marquise, who knew what was going on in advance, became so angry that she refused to open the book for the rest of her life.

Writers and editors may not appreciate it. The first volume has not been published for a long time, and a writer who was commissioned to read it said: “This manuscript of more than 700 pages is simply incomprehensible. What is it talking about? Where is it going to take the reader?——I just It can be said that I know nothing, and I have no comment!” Another editor-in-chief of a publishing house said: “I may not be enlightened, I really don’t understand, a gentleman wrote that he couldn’t sleep, tossed and turned on the bed, how could it be true? I could write dozens of pages.”

In this regard, Proust said excitedly in a letter to his friends: “You have concentrated (not diluted and added) the experience of spiritual life, your thoughts, and your pain in these seven hundred pages of manuscripts. Inside, that person held the manuscript in his hand, but he dismissed it and said something like this!”

No. 1 best novel is not for nothing, all we need is patience

So what’s so good about novels? This is a big question. I’m just talking about my personal impression from the translator’s point of view.

Proust writes in Book VII: What literature is about is real life, or the only completely real life—not only one’s own life, but the lives of others. There are two ways for the protagonist to go out from Combray’s house: the Swann’s side means bourgeois, love, and music; the Gelmont’s side means aristocratic family, socializing, painting and literary writing. In the end, the two “sides” were intertwined, and the author wrote this “big book” that condensed his experience of spiritual life, his thoughts, and his pain.

Proust often said a word: Allons plus loin. (Let us go further.) He wrote about all kinds of characters, social life, human weaknesses, and even still lifes and scenery, which make people have ” Write down” feeling. Even writing about a cup of linden tea, a river in my hometown, and a pond of water lilies are all so wonderfully written.

For example, when reading and writing passages of still life or scenery, I would think of Liu Zongyuan’s “Little Rock Lake” and Zhang Dai’s “Huxin Pavilion”. Although the languages ​​are completely different, the meaningful flavor is similar . In the novel, different characters speak different words. This superb ability of speaking and speaking reminds me of “A Dream of Red Mansions”. He wrote about his mother reading George Sand’s novels to little Marcel before going to bed, about Marcel going to the theater to see Rabema’s performance, about Vanteuil’s violin piano sonata and septet, about Dostoyevs Ji’s “novel beauty” made my eyes shine and my heart was full of emotion. The second part of the first volume, “Swann’s Love”, describes the process of Swann’s love for Odette from initiation to decline. The so-called jealousy of love is really written by Proust. His arty writing about Legrandin often makes me smile knowingly. His association with the magnificent place names amazed me and made me intoxicated. The great writer Bergotte and the great painter Elstir described by him all made me sigh that the author’s writing power is really beyond the reach of others.

Yes, he writes very long, but he writes so richly, delicately, calmly, and even humorously. It is enjoyable to read such words. Such long sentences are not only necessary, but also extremely exciting!

This novel lacks nothing but one thing: an exciting plot. This is precisely because Proust has no intention of doing this—not competing with Alexandre Dumas for the job.

This seven-volume novel is often ranked first in the selection of the best novels in the Western literary circles, and this is by no means a vain name. And all the wonderful things in the novel are waiting for readers who love literature, have patience and time to share.

For example, the more than forty pages of text at the beginning of the whole novel show a unique writing technique, just as Proust said: “This is a very realistic book, but, to simulate involuntary memories, to a certain extent It borrows the form of recalling the past, so that it has an elegant shape and has a stalk as a support.”

Numerous characters and places (they, or they, will appear in later volumes) flash across the screen of the novel one by one: the characters are father and mother, grandmother and her two sisters, the maid Françoise, Swann (On him, more ink was spent, which paved the way for the following “Swann’s Love”), aunt, Aunt Leonie, Marquise de Villebalisis, and even Genevieve de Brabant (the legendary ancestor of the Guermantes family); Paris, Combray, Balbec, Doncières, and even Venice.

To write a novel is to write language, and the charm of novels lies first in language (Wang Zengqi’s language) . Proust’s novels bring the charm of French to the extreme. There are quite a few passages in these forty pages, which already show the charming style of language in Proust’s novels. These passages, either with a philosophical meaning or with a warm sentiment, are impressive and unforgettable.

For example: when a person is asleep, the series of time surrounds him; once this arrangement is confused, memory is like a helping hand reaching down from above, pulling him out of this quagmire of nothingness. It is worth mentioning that expressing the hazy feelings of ordinary people in clear and philosophical language is a common narrative method used by Proust; ); Swann’s visit (adding a light, witty touch to the tone of the long sentence); and, of course, a long description of the famous madeleine.

There are many sentences, which are the golden sentences in my mind. For example: “Habit is a deft and belated master of coordination.” “Our social image is the product of other people’s thinking.” In some material object that we do not expect at all.” “This object, we can meet it before death, or never meet it, purely by chance.” “All in all, colorful, It’s specific and small, and it all emerges from my teacup.”

A gentleman with insomnia thought so much in bed and wrote a wonderful manuscript of more than forty pages. This shows what? It shows that this gentleman is a real master.

The Genius Writer Foresaw Before He Died
home of this masterpiece

For Proust, writing was the most important part of his life. In the seventh volume of his novel, he confided his heartfelt voice: “True works are not born of bright sunshine and gossip, they should be the product of night and silence.” He is strong in heart, but weak in body. He only lived to be 51 years old. He died the same year he wrote “Fin” at the end of all first drafts.

This masterpiece embodies all the painstaking efforts of this talented writer in the last ten years of his life. After it came out, he had a bosom friend, and the second volume of it also won the Goncourt Prize. However, it has never received the attention it deserves. This situation did not completely change until the 1950s.

Today, it has been undoubtedly recognized as a rare classic in the history of world literature. And when we read the following passage in the second volume, we will be surprised to find that the fate of this work seems to have been foreseen by Proust long ago:

“Genius does not want to see the crowd around him ignore his masterpieces, and may say to himself that his contemporaries lack the necessary aesthetic distance, and that works written for future generations should be left for future generations to read, and some paintings stand too close to Don’t appreciate the law, isn’t that the truth?

In fact, why should he be so weak, lest people judge him unfairly, which is inevitable.

The reason why the works of genius are difficult to be admired immediately is because the people who write such works are unique and different from ordinary people. Such works always cultivate a very small number of confidantes first, and then have a large number of readers.

It took fifty years for Beethoven’s quartets (Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15) to conceive, create an audience for Beethoven’s quartets, and thus (like all masterpieces) achieve a Breakthroughs, not to mention making the composer’s value recognized by the world, at least formed a team of listeners with a level of appreciation, that is, who really love them-and when the works came out, such listeners were few and far between.

The so-called posterity refers to the posterity of the work. Works should create posterity for themselves. If the work is sealed up and not released to the public until later generations, then as far as this work is concerned, such later generations are not later generations, but a group of contemporaries who just lived fifty years later.

Therefore, if an artist wants his work to go on its own track, he cannot hide it in a famous mountain, but must let it go on the market until the distant future. This future is the true destination of masterpieces. ”

Our present is the future predicted by Proust, the posterity he wants to create for his works. Such classics are immortal and worth trying to read in our own way.

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