Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Visual disturbances: Eleven

‘In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower’, Marcel Proust, trans. James Grieve, Penguin, 2002 (originally published as ‘A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur’, 1919), from pages 296-7:
We drove down towards Hudimesnil, and suddenly I was filled with a feeling of profound bliss, which I associated with Combray but had seldom felt since those days, rather like the feeling I had once had from things such as the steeples of Martinville. This time, however, nothing came of it. It was just three trees which I had noticed, set back a little from the steeply cambered road we were on, looking as though they stood at the entrance to a covered drive, and making a pattern which I knew I had seen somewhere before. I could not manage to recognize the place they had, as it were, been separated from; but I sensed that it must have been somewhere familiar to me, long ago; and as my mind stumbled about between a former year and the present moment, the countryside round Balbec shifted and faltered, and I had to ask myself whether this whole thing was not just some figment, Balbec merely a place where I might once have been in my imagination, Mme de Villeparisis someone out of a novel, and the three old trees nothing but the solid reality that meets the eye of a reader who glances up from a book, his mind still held by the spell of a fictional setting.
I gazed at the three trees, which I could see quite clearly; but my mind suspected they hid something on which it could have no purchase, as our fingertips at the full stretch of our arm may from time to time barely touch but not quite grasp objects which lie just out of reach. 
Having come home from a walk in the city where, before lunch, I took – just after midday on 28 May – the following photo, I read the passage inserted above.

No comments: