Wednesday 24 April 2013

Proust's sublime beings:

A recently encountered sentence in the fourth volume of Proust's A la recherche:
"...therefore one meets in polite society only a few novelists, a few poets, of those sublime beings who speak precisely about what one should not talk about."
Proust, p. 215 in Vol IV, Sodome et Gomorrhe (nrf, my translation).

This volume focuses on sexuality and some of it is decidedly dark. The inevitable suffering makes me a reluctant reader at times.The protagonist has a skewed relationship with a young woman, which involves lies of a various kinds.The writing grinds along and reading can be hard work.

But in the early part of the book - I have not finished it yet - Proust describes a meeting between two ageing homosexuals in a beautiful sequence of images: a man leaning against a door post, looking out from his workshop into a courtyard as another man passes by, who is a rich aristocrat with a reputation to protect. Their eyes meet and each recognises and desires the other. A slow dance ensues between them, a pavane where desire and fear are in conflict. The fear emanates from the lie they are obliged to live in 19th century Paris, the risk they are taking in reaching out to each other in a public place, in the light of day.

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