More on Proust

Yamamoto Masao - 834

The idea of textile & text -- sifted from AS Byatt's essay in the Guardian -- I began thinking of Penelope at her loom, and also thinking of Wilson's comments on Proust as a great un-teller -- his skill at presenting the individual in many moments -- contradictory moments which seem like nothing of the sort when they aren't falsely juxtaposed, but rather present themselves as situations and contexts change.

He weaves an individual, an emotion, a state of mind, and then he slowly, imperceptibly rips it back out. I wasn't aware of it when I was reading -- I wasn't aware of much. Sometimes I felt as if I had been stung by a torpedo-fish, or perhaps cocooned up in the fine filaments of his prose. I've written of this before -- of the sea-chamber feeling of reading him. Submergence -- the occasional disturbance -- but otherwise abandoned. Even in those long sections I couldn't understand, about Dreyfus, about the society-figures -- even those ensorcelled me -- not the song of the siren but rather the babble of some underwater current I couldn't access.

I didn't even realize the unravelling process -- not until the end, then, in a small series of shocks, everything was revealed differently. I didn't see the signs along the way, or maybe I did but didn't note them. In passing I would find it strange how the characters had changed -- how they had shed the glamour added by a youthful perspective. But the small series of shocks -- they woke me from whatever spell of eternity -- I wasn't on the watch like Penelope's suitors -- I wasn't waiting for anything. That's the spell of a long book -- it unrolls itself over so many days -- months, it fills in the spaces between other books, other experiences -- even life-changing events. It was residing with me in a sense, and exerting influence I was only just aware of.

But the pattern that had been traced over me -- it was revised, erased, eradicated -- I didn't even know it. I was so surprised -- maybe even offended -- I wasn't expecting to be surprised. I wasn't expecting anything -- I had been lying in a high-vaulted room, in a bed, sheets rumpled around me, sunlight falling down through slat-board shutters. I had been reading for years -- I had been reading this book for years -- and then I was tricked. And now, in re-reading notes I took from those years of reading -- in reading the thoughts of others on this book -- now I realize I have been tricked so deeply that I must re-read it. I must find my sea-chamber. I must submerge and forget again.

For memory is just as much about forgetting.