29 Proust Quotes And Sayings

Marcel Proust (French: [prɔst]; 8 September 1871 – 18 November 1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist. He is known for his monumental seven-volume novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) (1913–27). Proust's work focuses on the close reading of material culture. His work is notable for its insightful character studies, in which he paints a vivid portrait of an individual's inner life through the external appearance of that person.

1
But genius, and even great talent, springs less from seeds of intellect and social refinement superior to those of other people than from the faculty of transforming and transposing them. To heat a liquid with an electric lamp requires not the strongest lamp possible, but one of which the current can cease to illuminate, can be diverted so as to give heat instead of light. To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth's surface, intersecting with a vertical line the horizontal line which it began by following, is capable of converting its speed into lifting power. Similarly, the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not int he intrinsic quality of the scene reflected. . Marcel Proust
2
He suffered greatly from being shut up among all these people whose stupidity and absurdities wounded him all the more cruelly since, being ignorant of his love, incapable, had they known of it, of taking any interest, or of doing more than smile at it as at some childish joke, or deplore it as an act of insanity, they made it appear to him in the aspect of a subjective state which existed for himself alone, whose reality there was nothing external to confirm; he suffered overwhelmingly, to the point at which even the sound of the instruments made him want to cry, from having to prolong his exile in this place to which Odette would never come, in which no one, nothing was aware of her existence, from which she was entirely absent. Marcel Proust
Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.
3
Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination. Marcel Proust
4
The impression given us by a person or a work (or an interpretation of a work) of marked individuality is peculiar to that person or work. We have brought with us the ideas of “beauty, ” “breadth of style, ” “pathos” and so forth which we might at a pinch have the illusion of recognising in the banality of a conventional face or talent, but our critical spirit has before it the insistent challenge of a form of which it possesses no intellectual equivalent, in which it must disengage the unknown element. It hears a sharp sound, an oddly interrogative inflexion. It asks itself: “Is that good? Is what I am feeling now admiration? Is that what is meant by richness of colouring, nobility, strength?” And what answers it again is a sharp voice, a curiously questioning tone, the despotic impression, wholly material, caused by a person whom one does not know, in which no scope is left for “breadth of interpretation.” And for this reason it is the really beautiful works that, if we listen to them with sincerity, must disappoint us most keenly, because in the storehouse of our ideas there is none that responds to an individual impression. . Marcel Proust
5
We enjoy lovely music, beautiful paintings, a thousand intellectual delicacies, but we have no idea of their cost, to those who invented them, in sleepless nights, tears, spasmodic laughter, rashes, asthmas, epilepsies, and the fear of death, which is worse than all the rest. Marcel Proust
6
We would like to go and see the field that Millet…shows us in his Springtime, we would like Claude Monet to take us to Giverny, on the banks of the Seine, to that bend of the river which he hardly lets us distinguish through the morning mist. Yet in actual fact, it was the mere chance of a connection or family relation that give… Millet or Monet occasion to pass or to stay nearby, and to choose to paint that road, that garden, that field, that bend in the river, rather than some other. What makes them appear other and more beautiful than the rest of the world is that they carry on them, like some elusive reflection, the impression they afforded to a genius, and which we might see wandering just as singularly and despotically across the submissive, indifferent face of all the landscapes he may have painted.’ It should not be Illiers-Combray that we visit: a genuine homage to Proust would be to look at our world through his eyes, not look at his world through our eyes. To forget this may sadden us unduly. When we feel interest to be so dependent on the exact locations where certain great artists found it, a thousand landscapes and areas of experience will be deprived of possible interest, for Monet only looked at a few stretches of the earth, and Proust’s novel, though long, could not comprise more than a fraction of human experience. Rather than learn the general lesson of art’s attentiveness, we might seek instead the mere objects of its gaze, and would then be unable to do justice to parts of the world which artists had not considered. As a Proustian idolater, we would have little time for desserts which Proust never tasted, for dresses he never described, nuances of love he didn’t cover and cities he didn’t visit, suffering instead from an awareness of a gap between our existence and the realm of artistic truth and interest. The moral? There is no great homage we could pay Proust than to end up passing the same verdict on him as he passed on Ruskin, namely, that for all its qualities, his work must eventually also prove silly, maniacal, constraining, false and ridiculous to those who spend too long on it.‘ To make [reading] into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement. Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life; it can introduce us to it: it does not constitute it. Alain De Botton
7
He wanted to know all about me and my family and especially my childhood.' That's where everything starts', he'd say. 'Both heaven and hell. Unknown
8
He wanted to know all about me and my family and especially my childhood. That's where everything starts, he'd say. Both heaven and hell. Unknown
9
He wanted to know all about me and my family and especially my childhood." That's where everything starts, " he'd say. "Both heaven and hell. Unknown
10
Only a determined and resourceful scholar could establish manuscript precedence - but in the race to masturbate on a printed page Proust definitely came first. Michael Foley
11
Translation error is compounded by bias error. We distort others by forcing into them our preferred ideas and gestalts, a process Proust beautifully describes: We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds, these ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen. Irvin D. Yalom
12
The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We’re increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism. Lev Grossman
13
This compulsion to an activity without respite, without variety, without result was so cruel that one day, noticing a swelling over his stomach, he felt an actual joy in the idea that he had, perhaps, a tumor that would prove fatal, that he need not concern himself with anything further, since it was this malady that was going to govern his life, to make a plaything of him, until the not-distant end. If indeed, at his period, it often happened that, though without admitting it even to himself, he longed for death, it was in order to escape not so much from the keenness of his sufferings as from the monotony of his struggle. Marcel Proust
14
He had so long since ceased to direct his life toward any ideal goal, and had confined himself to the pursuit of quotidian satisfactions, that he had come to believe, though without ever formally stating his belief even to himself that he would remain all his life in that condition, which only death could alter. Marcel Proust
15
Anyone who's read all of Proust plus The Man withour Qualities is bound t be missing out on a few other titles. Lorrie Moore
16
..the mode by which he "heard" the universe and projected it far beyond himself. Perhaps it was in this, I said to Albertine, this unknown quality of a unique world which no other composer had ever yet revealed, that the most authentic proof of genius lies, even more than in the content of the work itself. "Even in literature?” Albertine inquired. “Even in literature.” And thinking again of the sameness of Vinteuil’s works, I explained to Albertine that the great men of letters have never created more than a single work, or rather have never done more than refract through various media an identical beauty which they bring into the world. “If it were not so late, my sweet, ” I said to her, “I would show you this quality in all the writers whose works you read while I’m asleep, I would show you the same identity as in Vinteuil. These key-phrases, which you are beginning to recognise as I do, my little Albertine, the same in the sonata, in the septet, in the other works, would be, say for instance in Barbey d Aurevilly, a hidden reality revealed by a physical sign, the physiological blush.. Marcel Proust
17
Now I could appreciate the merits of a broad, poetical, powerful interpretation, or rather it was to this that those epithets were conventionally applied, but only as we give the names of Mars, Venus, Saturn to planets which have nothing mythological about them. We feel in one world, we think, we give names to things in another; between the two we can establish a certain correspondence, but not bridge the gap. Marcel Proust
18
One felt that in her renunciation of life she had deliberately abandoned those places in which she might at least have been able to see the man she loved, for others where he had never trod. Marcel Proust
19
Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years. And great fatigue followed by a good night's rest can to a certain extent help us to do so. For in order to make us descend into the most subterranean galleries of sleep, where no reflexion from overnight, no gleam of memory comes to light up the interior monologue–if the latter does not itself cease–fatigue followed by rest will so thoroughly turn over the soil and penetrate the bedrock of our bodies that we discover down there, where our muscles plunge and twist in their ramifications and breathe in new life, the garden where we played in our childhood. There is no need to travel in order to see it again; we must dig down inwardly to discover it. What once covered the earth is no longer above but beneath it; a mere excursion does not suffice for a visit to the dead city: excavation is necessary also. But we shall see how certain fugitive and fortuitous impressions carry us back even more effectively to the past, with a more delicate precision, with a more light-winged, more immaterial, more headlong, more unerring, more immortal flight, than these organic dislocations. Marcel Proust
20
The enchantments of the past must always become the disenchantments of the future. But memory, a preservative, may intervene. The embalmer of original enchantments, it is the only human faculty that can outwit the advance of chronological time. Art, the embalmer of memory, is the only human vocation in which the time regained by memory can be permanently fixed. Howard Moss
21
It was that evening, when my mother abdicated her authority, that marked the beginning, along with the slow death of my grandmother, of the decline of my will and of my health. Everything had been decided at the moment when, unable to bear the idea of waiting until the next day to set my lips on my mother's face, I had made my resolution, jumped out of bed, and gone, in my nightshirt, to stay by the window through which the moonlight came, until I heard M. Swann go. My parents having gone with him, I heard the garden gate open, the bell ring, the gate close again.. . Marcel Proust
22
I do not mean, of course, that we can always accurately express our conscious thoughts with Proustian accuracy. Consciousness overflows language: we perceive vastly more than we can describe. Stanislas Dehaene
23
Western civilisation, the élitists all understood, is built upon discrimination: a culture that does not rest on discrimination, that penalises people who discriminate, or rewards the undiscriminating, is worth very little and has only callow, childish pleasures. Richard DavenportHines
24
In the case of the solitary, his seclusion, even when it is absolute and ends only with life itself, has often as its primary cause a disordered love of the crowd, which so far overruled every other feeling that, not being able to win, when he goes out, the admiration of his hall-porter, of the passers-by, of the cabman whom he hails, he prefers not to be seen by them at all, and with that object abandons every activity that would oblige him to go out of doors. Marcel Proust
25
A real person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. Marcel Proust
26
Yet the Narrator’s quest is not only for his own identity and vocation. He seeks an understanding of art, sexuality and worldly and political affairs: he is a snoop and a voyeur; he comments and classifies; his taxonomic impulse makes the novel appear to be a vast compendium, replete with burrowing wasps and bedsteads, military strategies, stereoscopes, asparagus and aeroplanes. Adam A. Watt
27
.. 'You can't read everything. I've never got beyond the beginning of Proust. I love him, but I can't seem to get beyond about page three.' They were comfortable in each other's company, and this confession seemed to accentuate the ease of their relationship. The confession itself was not entirely true; Isabel had read more Proust than that, but other people undoubtedly found it reassuring to think that one had only read a few pages. Certainly those who claimed to have read Proust in his entirety got scant sympathy from others. And yet, she suddenly wondered, should you actually lie about how much Proust you've read? Some politicians, she reminded herself, did that--or the equivalent--when they claimed to be down-to-earth, no-nonsense types, just like the voters, when all the time they were secretly delighting in Proust . . Alexander McCall Smith
28
All these things and, still more than these, the treasures which had come to the church from personages who to me were almost legendary figures (such as the golden cross wrought, it was said, by Saint Eloi and presented by Dagobert, and the tomb of the sons of Louis the Germanic in porphyry and enamelled copper), because of which I used to go forward into the church when we were making our way to our chairs as into a fairy-haunted valley, where the rustic sees with amazement on a rock, a tree, a marsh, the tangible proofs of the little people’s supernatural passage – all these things made of the church for me something entirely different from the rest of the town; a building which occupied, so to speak, four dimensions of space – the name of the fourth being Time – which had sailed the centuries with that old nave, where bay after bay, chapel after chapel, seemed to stretch across and hold down and conquer not merely a few yards of soil, but each successive epoch from which the whole building had emerged triumphant, hiding the rugged barbarities of the eleventh century in the thickness of its walls, through which nothing could be seen of the heavy arches, long stopped and blinded with coarse blocks of ashlar, except where, near the porch, a deep groove was furrowed into one wall by the tower-stair; and even there the barbarity was veiled by the graceful gothic arcade which pressed coquettishly upon it, like a row of grown-up sisters who, to hide him from the eyes of strangers, arrange themselves smilingly in front of a countrified, unmannerly and ill-dressed younger brother; rearing into the sky above the Square a tower which had looked down upon Saint Louis, and seemed to behold him still; and thrusting down with its crypt into the blackness of a Merovingian night, through which, guiding us with groping finger-tips beneath the shadowy vault, ribbed strongly as an immense bat’s wing of stone, Théodore or his sister would light up for us with a candle the tomb of Sigebert’s little daughter, in which a deep hole, like the bed of a fossil, had been bored, or so it was said, “by a crystal lamp which, on the night when the Frankish princess was murdered, had left, of its own accord, the golden chains by which it was suspended where the apse is to-day and with neither the crystal broken nor the light extinguished had buried itself in the stone, through which it had gently forced its way. Marcel Proust