The urge to punch Proust…
…is a strong one.
I am on the second volume of In Search Of Lost Time, and I find it very hard to separate Proust’s narrator with Proust himself. This feels like an autobiography, even though Proust did make an effort to make the narrator unlike himself, that’s hard to remember when the narrator doesn’t have a name, and shares a suspicious amounts of traits with Proust himself.
But arrgh! The wussiness! The annoyingness! In the first volume, as a child, the young narrator is delicate, passing notes to his mother in a bid to gain more affection, and generally being the kind of child a stiff wind,nay, mild breeze of a closing cupboard door would blow away. But it’s mean to judge children, they are products of so many influences and natures, but so far from what I have seen, Proust (sorry, his narrator) is not becoming any less infuriating now he is on the cusp of manhood.
He wants to see a play, Jean Racine’s ‘Phèdre’, starring his favourite actress ‘Berma’ (believed to be a combination of Gabrielle Réjane and Sarah Bernhardt). His parents are worried he is too delicate, and that much excitement may make him ill (and yet they want him to be a diplomat, travel and broker international agreements for a living!?). Delicate people in old novels are always seeing to become feverish due to exertion or upsets, often dying. I presume it’s the lack of distractions, wider perspectives and medications, and not having to get up for work. You rarely heard of women who worked in cotton mills pining away due to their beloved marrying someone else. No, they died of TB like sensible folk.
However, after much campaigning, he is finally allowed to go to the theatre. He then wonders if, now he is allowed, he really wants to go at all. His mother says she is letting him as she knows he will really enjoy it, and he finds that too, her expectation of him to have a good time, a huge burden. He then sees a poster for the performance, and is blown away with papery excitement wants to go after all. If a poster can do that, it’s probably just as well Proust wasn’t exposed to Youtube.
His impressions of his first visit to a theatre are amusing, especially his belief that the louder he claps, the better Berma will act, as she has not lived up to his expectations, and he feels he may as well be at home reading the play. I can understand this to a certain extent (insert here the name of every film that turned out to be not as good as the book) but really son, lighten up.