Dinsdag, Junie 14, 2016

Marcel Proust

Proust was die laaste van die groot leeglêers - gebore in 'n aristokratiese geslag wat "gerus het vir 'n lewe" en vir altyd sou verdwyn met die Eerste Wereldoorlog.

Soos ons almal maar het hy in later lewe sin probeer maak uit die gemorsde jare en 'n massiewe boek geskryf : In Search of Lost Time.

Ek het van jongs af verskeie pogings aangewend om dit te lees, maar Proust is baie moeilik. Nie net die lengte van die teks nie, maar ook die ellelange sinne, soos 'n cowboy se lasso, wat vir bladsye lank strek totdat jy nie meer die kloutjie by die oor kan hou nie.

Neem bv iets so eenvoudig soos sy beskrywing van wakker word:

I was convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice as though I were not there; in which a strange and pitiless rectangular cheval-glass, standing across one corner of the room, carved out for itself a site I had not looked to find tenanted in the soft plenitude of my normal field of vision; in which my mind, striving for hours on end to break away from its moorings, to stretch upwards so as to take on the exact shape of the room and to reach to the topmost height of its gigantic funnel, had endured many a painful night as I lay stretched out in bed, my eyes staring upwards, my ears straining, my nostrils flaring, my heart beating; until habit had changed the colour of the curtains, silenced the clock, brought an expression of pity to the cruel, slanting face of the glass, disguised or even completely dispelled the scent of vetiver, and appreciably reduced the apparent loftiness of the ceiling. 

Proust se eerste flabbergasted lesers het hom beskuldig daarvan dat hy met 'n "mikroskoop" skryf, waarop sy antwoord was - on the contrary it was a telescope that I had used to observe things which were indeed very small to the naked eye, but only because they were situated at a great distance, and which were each one of them in itself a world.

Die boek begin met 'n "Overture" waarin ou, afgetakelde Proust die sleutel tot sy jeug, sy lewe soek. Hy spekuleer dat die verlede nie in 'n foto sal herleef nie, maar 'n sensasie, 'n chemiese reaksie. Dat dit iewers in iets opgesluit is, soos in die Keltiese geloof waar die siel van mense na hul dood in 'n dier ingaan en dat jy eendag weer jou afgestorwe geliefde in 'n hond of voëltjie sal teekom.

In hierdie gees kom die beroemde oomblik wanneer Proust 'n Franse botterkoekie (madeleine) in tee dip en proe.

And as soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents; and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognisable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

Proust begin in sy kinderdae met 'n lang beskrywing van twee staproetes wat die gesin gereeld gedoen het: Swann's Way en die Guermantes Way. Daarna volg sy grootword, sy eerste liefdes - beide Platonies (die teater en letterkunde) en seksueel.

Soos James Joyce en Shakespeare het hy 'n ongelooflike vermoë om woorde te vind. Maar anders as happy-go-lucky Shakespeare - wat homself aan niks verbind het nie - is Proust se toon totaal die teenoorgestelde. Hy skryf in 'n ernstige, benoude, soekende stem - nooit snaaks of witty nie; nooit hartseer of soet nie. Dit is dadelik duidelik dat hy skryf om by sy eie persoonlike waarheid uit te kom, 'n waarheid wat nie gekies word nie.

Om die eerste twee boeke te lees is soos om 'n tweeliter Cokebottel oop te maak wat met die trappe afgerol het - soveel gasborrels spuit uit dat dit onmoontlik is om te weet wat die vloeistof daaronder is, of hoe dit gaan proe. Proust het soveel wat hy wil sê en so min wat hy wil vertel, aanvanklik. Daar is feitlik geen ontwikkeling of dramatiese verloop nie. Hy staan stil by 'n oomblik vir 'n honderd bladsye en onderbreek homself vir nog 'n honderd voordat hy weer terugkeer.

Dis eers van die derde boek af dat daar iets in die tru-spieël is, iets waarop die karakters kan terugkyk en verder bou.

Daar is twee boekdele wat mekaar komplimenteer, op verskillende plekke

Place-names: the name

en

Place-names: the place

In die eerste praat hy oor hoe name sy drome inspireer - die name van mense en plekke wat onwillekeurig vir hom droomstof opsuig, nog lank voordat hy die mens ontmoet of die plek besoek.

Doubtless whatever it was that my imagination aspired to, that my senses took in only incompletely and without any immediate pleasure, I had committed to the safe custody of names; doubtless, because I had accumulated there a store of dreams, those names now magnetised my desires; ... so the production of these dreams of the Atlantic and of Italy ceased to depend exclusively upon the changes of the seasons and of the weather. I need only, to make them reappear, pronounce the names Balbec, Venice, Florence, within whose syllables had gradually accumulated the longing inspired in me by the places for which they stood.

Later, in die tweede deel, besoek hy die dorp Balbec vir die eerste keer, waar hierdie kasarm uiteindelik aan die gang sal kom. Die binnetree van die dorp is soos die verlies van sy maagdelikheid, sy illusies

but as for Balbec, no sooner had I set foot in it than it was as though I had broken open a name which ought to have been kept hermetically closed, and into which, seizing at once the opportunity that I had imprudently given them, expelling all the images that had lived in it until then, a tramway, a café, people crossing the square, the branch of the savings bank, irresistibly propelled by some external pressure, by a pneumatic force, had come surging into the interior of those two syllables which, closing over them, now let them frame the porch of the Persian church and would henceforth never cease to contain them.

Hierdie onvermoë om romantiek te keer vs die wrede werklikheid is 'n tema wat dwarsdeur die boek trek.

Die eerste boeke bevat lang dele oor hul buurman Charles Swann, die seun van 'n ryk makelaar. Swann word verlief op 'n courtesan Odette en almal in high-society is verstom dat hy haar nie kan afskud nie.

I do feel it’s absurd that a man of his intelligence should let himself suffer for a woman of that sort, and one who isn’t even interesting, for they tell me she’s an absolute idiot!” she added with the wisdom invariably shown by people who, not being in love themselves, feel that a clever man should only be unhappy about a person who is worth his while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the comma bacillus.

"Liefde" in Proust is 'n bitter, pessimistiese ding. Dis 'n verslawing soos kokaine, die kompulsie om te besit, en daar is geen plesier in nie. Hy beskryf die verhouding tussen twee mense as 'n pendulum tussen verveeldheid (wanneer sy by jou is) en angstigheid (wanneer sy nie by jou is nie).

Daar is een hele boek - The Captive - waarin hy sonder trots of verleendheid beskryf hoedat hy sy eie liefdesobjek, Albertine, "gevange hou, soos 'n Chinese Prinses in 'n bottel". Hy vergelyk hierdie weefsel van persente, beloftes, leuens en dreigemente tussen hom en haar met die 1001 Arabiese nagte; Albertine as Scherezade wat stories van liefde vertel sodat sy nog 'n dag kan leef.

Die siel kan nie besit word nie - dit is die tema van soveel van die grootste letterkunde in die wereld.

Maar as jy dit nie kan besit nie, kan jy dit ook nie los nie.

It is terrible to have the life of another person attached to one’s own like a bomb which one holds in one’s hands, unable to get rid of it without committing a crime.

Is dit moontlik dat 'n skrywer te goed kan skryf vir sy eie beswil, het ek halfpad deur gewonder? Die oneindige vermoë om te artikuleer word 'n doel, sonder substansie wat agterbly.

Proust se beskrywings is in baie opsigte net vel-diep - dis ryk mense se toegangsbeheer en skinder wat niks nuuts bring nie. The question is not to be or not to be, but to belong or not to belong.

...as he approached Swann, he seemed to be exhibiting at once an utter contempt for his person and the most tender regard for his hat.

Dis is op 'n manier ook Proust se houding, hy het minder simpatie vir sy karakters as vir hul klere. Laat in die boek erken hy dat hy nie die oppervlak van menswees kan waardeer nie

So the apparent, copiable charm of things and people escaped me, because I had not the ability to stop short there—I was like a surgeon who beneath the smooth surface of a woman’s belly sees the internal disease which is devouring it. If I went to a dinner-party I did not see the guests: when I thought I was looking at them, I was in fact examining them with X-rays.

Een pragtige uitsondering is die dood van sy ouma, iemand vir wie hy duidelik baie lief was.

An hour or two later Françoise was able for the last time, and without causing it any pain, to comb that beautiful hair which was only tinged with grey and hitherto had seemed less old than my grandmother herself. But now, on the contrary, it alone set the crown of age on a face grown young again, from which had vanished the wrinkles, the contractions, the swellings, the strains, the hollows which pain had carved on it over the years. As in the far-off days when her parents had chosen for her a bridegroom, she had the features, delicately traced by purity and submission, the cheeks glowing with a chaste expectation, with a dream of happiness, with an innocent gaiety even, which the years had gradually destroyed. Life in withdrawing from her had taken with it the disillusionments of life. A smile seemed to be hovering on my grandmother’s lips. On that funeral couch, death, like a sculptor of the Middle Ages, had laid her down in the form of a young girl.

Die hele boek is geskryf in die eerste-persoon, in die vorm van 'n herinnering. Dit vermy alle pogings om te drama te maak. Daar is geen onverwagte besoekers by die deur nie; geen konflik en resolusie; geen diskriminasie tussen belangrik en onbelangrik nie, die onkruid is tussen die blomme.

Moet 'n mens dit dan as die waarheid lees? Indien wel, wie is ons held?

Proust neem name inderdaad baie ernstig op: M. de Charlus bly M. de Charlus die hele boek lank, terwyl sy liefdesobsessie "Charlie" is. Hoekom is die een so formeel en die ander so informeel? Meer nog, die teks word kunsmatig gewring sodat ons verteller se naam nooit een keer genoem word nie, Nie in die aanspreek of enige ander verwysing nie. Proust is so paranoies hieroor dat hy ook nie sy pa en ma se naam of familienaam ooit laat val nie.

Die storie volg die styg en val van Proust in high-society. Wat maak hom aantreklik vir mense? Ek dink nie Proust, wat so diep skepties oor alles en almal is nie, weet self nie.

Op 'n stadium noem hy dat die basiese onsekerheid tussen mense spruit uit die feit dat jy jou gedagtes ken maar nooit jou liggaam sien nie. In ander mense kan jy hul liggaam sien maar ken nooit hul gedagtes nie.

Een na die ander word feitlik al die karakters - mans en vrouens - as homoseksueel "ontmasker". Proust vertel sy ontdekking daarvan elke keer asof dit met verstomming en pyn was.

Almal is gay behalwe "hy". Die werklike Proust was gay, so in 'n sekere opsig moet alles seker op sy kop gedraai word. Dis nie die waarheid nie, dis 'n ander soort waarheid, "a unity unaware of itself".

reminiscences of the kind evoked by the noise of the spoon or the taste of the madeleine, or those truths written with the aid of shapes for whose meaning I searched in my brain, where—church steeples or wild grass growing in a wall—they composed a magical scrawl, complex and elaborate, their essential character was that I was not free to choose them, that such as they were they were given to me. And I realised that this must be the mark of their authenticity.

Die grootsheid van hierdie ding, het ek gedink, gaan nie in die skryf, die karakters of die drama wees nie. As dit sal kom, sal dit moet kom in 'n idee.

Aan die einde van hierdie epos is 'n boek met die naam Time Regained. Dis 'n ambisieuse titel.

Dit kom op 'n stadium wanneer Proust onttrek uit die samelewing en 'n semi-kluisenaarsbestaan begin voer. Na 'n dekade of wat kom die Eerstewereldoorlog en dan verdere epiphanies: soos die madeleine se smaak aan die begin hoor Proust, in die leë kasteel van die Guermantes familie waar hy soveel keer gekuier het, die klink van 'n lepel op 'n bord.

Dit is soos 'n roepstem van die misterieuse waarheid.

Sy ou vriendin Gilberte - angstig om hom uit die huis uit te kry - bied aan om vir hom 'n partytjie te gooi met 'n groep intellektuele vriende, maar hy vra haar om hom eerder aan jong meisies voor te stel that they should serve to renew within me the dreams and the sadnesses of my youth and perhaps, one improbable day, a single chaste kiss.

Gilberte is die dogter van Odette en Swann - "a whore and a Jew" - soos iemand hulle beskryf.

Na Swann se dood trou Odette met haar skelm lover de Forcheville en ma en dogter verander hul familienaam, sodat geen spikkel Joodsheid, geen herinnering van Swann in hul lewens oorbly nie.

Na 'n lang draai, kom Proust terug na die oomblik waar hy Gilberte vir jong meisies vra.

“Let me fetch my daughter for you,” she said, “I should so like to introduce her to you. She is over there, talking to young Mortemart and other babes in arms who can be of no possible interest. I am sure that she will be a charming little friend for you.

I was astonished to see at her side a girl of about sixteen, whose tall figure was a measure of that distance which I had been reluctant to see. Time, colourless and inapprehensible Time, so that I was almost able to see it and touch it, had materialised itself in this girl, moulding her into a masterpiece, while correspondingly, on me, alas! it had merely done its work. 

I thought her very beautiful: still rich in hopes, full of laughter, formed from those very years which I myself had lost, she was like my own youth.


Hierdie meisie - in vlees en bloed - is die verlore tyd.

Aan die einde skryf hy oor die wegval van doodsvrees, omdat hy besef dat hy reeds gesterf het met elke liefdesverlies

These successive deaths, so feared by the self which they were destined to annihilate, so painless, so unimportant once they were accomplished and the self that feared them was no longer there to feel them, had taught me by now that it would be the merest folly to be frightened of death. Victor Hugo says:


Grass must grow and children must die.


Proust op sy doodsbed


***

Na Swann se dood dink Proust aan die raaisels van die afgestorwe man se lewe en die dinge waaroor hy nooit gevra het nie.

The death of others is like a journey one might oneself make, when, already sixty miles out of Paris, one remembers that one has left two dozen handkerchiefs behind, forgotten to leave a key with the cook, to say good-bye to one’s uncle, to ask the name of the town where the old fountain is that you want to see. While all these oversights which assail you, and which you relate aloud and purely for form’s sake to your travelling companion, are getting as sole response a blank disregard from the seat opposite, the name of the station, called out by the guard, only takes you further away from henceforth impossible realisations, so much so that you cease to think about irremediable omissions, and you unpack your lunch and exchange papers and magazines.

1 opmerking :

  1. Sjoe, Mnr Rautenbach, geniet ek hierdie stuk van u darem! Dit het my op een magtige reis deur die internet gesit - ek het probeer uitvind wat daar al kwytgeraak is oor die verhouding tussen Derrida en Proust.

    In die proses het ek onder andere afgekom op J. Hillis Miller ('n baie goeie en baie lesersvriendelike skrywer oor Derrida) se "THE OTHER'S OTHER: JEALOUSY AND ART IN PROUST" (1995, Qui parle, beskikbaar via Muse).

    Dit begin: “Intimate and unbreakable connections bind together a cluster of topics in both Marcel Proust’s work and Jacques Derrida’s: lies, performative language, death, testimony, diplomacy secret, love, jealousy, the other or others, and art in the sense of painting, music, and literature."

    Miller verwys na Derrida wat in 1995(?) 'n seminar aangebied het oor jok in Proust. Ek het dit nog nooit onder oge gehad nie, maar ek sal dit nou op my lysie sit. Dit sou net ongehoorde pret kon wees om te lees – 'n buitensporige speelse skrywer wat oor ‘n ander buitensporige speelse skrywer se werk skryf … twee erotieke?! Soos Miller dit stel: “Proust and Derrida overlap but do not quite coincide. The slight lack of fit is instructive.”

    Dan het ek ook afgekom op die blogger Daniel Hartley waar hy op sy blog “Thinking Blue Guitars” 'n reeks getiteld “Cliché: Proust and Derrida” aanbied – ook met 'n paar mooi foto’s. Ek lees dit so stuk-stuk - as ek dit klaar gelees het en weer 'n leeglê momentjie het kom ek dalk terug na u toe.

    Sien uit na u volgende stuk.

    AntwoordVee uit