LINES I LIKE FROM IN THE SHADOW OF YOUNG GIRLS IN FLOWER BY MARCEL PROUST

  1. ...we must bear in mind that the character which a man exhibits in the latter half of his life is not always, though often is, his original character developed or withered, attenuated, or enlarged; it is sometimes the exact reverse, like a garment that has been turned.
  2. I should not have experienced the same delicious amazement at finding myself at last, with wide-open eyes, before the unique and inconceivable object of so many thousand dreams.
  3. ...illuminated to their very depths by the revealing smile of art.
  4. Nevertheless, when the curtain had fallen for the last time, I was disappointed that the pleasure for which I had so longed had not been greater, but at the same time I felt the need to prolong it, not to relinquish for ever, by leaving the auditorium...
  5. The questing, anxious, exacting way that we have of looking at the person we love, our eagerness for the word which will give us or take from us the hope of an appointment for the morrow, and, until that word is uttered, our alternate if not simultaneous imaginings of joy and despair, all this makes our attention in the presence of the beloved too
    tremulous to be able to carry away a very clear impression of her.
  6. ...like the native tongue which peoples in captivity endeavour to preserve among themselves so as not to forget the land that they will never see again.
  7. Life is strewn with these miracles for which people who love can always hope.
  8. However, with every occurrence in life and its contrasting situations that relates to love, it is best to make no attempt to understand, since in so far as these are as inexorable as they are unlooked-for, they appear to be governed by magic rather than by rational laws.
  9. ...I don't suppose for a moment she has mastered the Critique of Pure Reason; still, she's not unpleasant."
  10. ...whenever society is momentarily stationary, the people who live in it imagine that no further change will occur, just as, in spite of having witnessed the birth of the telephone, they decline to believe in the aeroplane.
  11. At half-past twelve I would finally make up my mind to enter the house which, like an immense Christmas stocking, seemed ready to bestow upon me supernatural delights.
  12. ...its windows beginning to dream already in the blue light of afternoon.
  13. I was left alone there in the company of orchids, roses, and violets...
  14. But that disappointment was scarcely more than spiritual.
  15. Besides, it was she whom I loved and whom I could not therefore see without that anxiety, without that desire for something more, which destroys in us, in the presence of the person we love, the sensation of loving.
  16. Sometimes, before going to dress, Mme Swann would sit down at the piano. Her lovely hands emerging from the pink, or white, or often vividly coloured sleeves of her crêpe-de-Chine housecoat, drooped over the keys with the same melancholy which was in her eyes but was not in her heart.
  17. Since I was able to enjoy everything that this sonata had to give me only in the succession of hearings, I never possessed it in its entirety: it was like life itself. But, less disappointing than life, great works of art do not begin by giving us the best of themselves.
  18. And we shall love it longer than the rest because we have taken longer to get to love it.
  19. The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. It is his work itself that, by fertilising the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply.
  20. Only horoscopes are not always accurate, and the necessity, when judging a work of art, of including the temporal factor in the sum total of its beauty introduces into our judgment something as conjectural, and consequently as barren of interest, as any prophecy the non-fulfillment of which will in no way imply any inadequacy on the prophet's part,
    for the power to summon possibilities into existence or to exclude them from it is not necessarily within the competence of genius; one may have had genius and yet have believed in the future of railways or of flight, or, although a brilliant psychologist, in the infidelity of a mistress or of a friend whose treachery persons far less gifted would have foreseen.
  21. You must admit it's lovely; it shows all the static side of moonlight, which is the essential part.
  22. (as one puts by for an invalid the dainties that he has not been able to eat)
  23. There was something abrupt and harsh in the closing words of a cheerful sentence, something faint and dying at the end of a sad one.
  24. However characteristic it may be, the sound that escapes from a person's lips is fugitive and does not survive him.
  25. 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 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...
  26. ...it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.
  27. A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it. Partaking of the universal community of minds, it infiltrates, grafts itself on to, the mind of him whom it refutes, among other contiguous ideas, with the aid of which, counter-attacking, he complements and corrects it; so that the final verdict is always to some extent
    the work of both parties to a discussion. is to ideas which are not, strictly speaking, ideas at all, to ideas which, based on nothing, can find no foothold, no fraternal echo in the mind of the adversary, that the latter, grappling as it were with thin air, can find no word to say in answer.
  28. “Our friends were telling me that you had been ill. I’m very sorry. And yet, after all, I’m not too sorry, because I can see quite well that you are able to enjoy the pleasures of the mind, and they are probably what means most to you, as to everyone who has known them.”
  29. Nine tenths of the ills from which intelligent people suffer spring from their intellect. They need at least a doctor who understands that disease. How do you expect Cottard to be able to treat you? He has made allowances for the difficulty of digesting sauces, for gastric trouble, but he has made no allowance for the effect of reading Shakespeare.
  30. It is always thus, impelled by a state of mind which is destined not to last, that we make our irrevocable decisions.
  31. What makes us so happy is the presence in our hearts of an unstable element which we contrive perpetually to maintain and of which we cease almost to be aware so long as it is not displaced. In reality, there is in love a permanent strain of suffering which happiness neutralises, makes potential only, postpones, but which may at any moment become,
    what it would long since have been been had we not obtained what we wanted, excruciating.
  32. But I told myself that, after all, laughter was not a language so well defined that I could be certain of understanding what this laugh really meant.
  33. The perpetual vision of that imagined happiness helped me to endure the destruction of my real happiness.
  34. We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.
  35. The first of January was exceptionally painful to me that winter. So, no doubt, is everything that marks a date and an anniversary, when we are unhappy. But if our unhappiness is due to the loss of someone dear to us, our suffering consists merely in an unusually vivid comparison of the present with the past.
  36. When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves. It radiates towards the loved one, finds there a surface which arrests it, forcing it to return to its starting-point, and it is this repercussion of our own feeling which we call the other’s feelings and which charms us more then
    than on its outward journey because we do not recognise it as having originated in ourselves.
  37. But I was still a long way from such a death of the past. I was still in love with her, even though I believed that I detested her.
  38. We construct our lives for one person, and when at length it is ready to receive her that person does not come; presently she is dead to us, and we live on, prisoners within the walls which were intended only for her.
  39. And as the average span of life, the relative longevity of our memories of poetical sensations is much greater than that of our memories of what the heart has suffered...
  40. Often, our life being so careless of chronology, interpolating so many anachronisms into the sequence of our days, I found myself living in those—far older days than yesterday or last week—when I still loved Gilberte. And then no longer seeing her became suddenly painful, as it would have been at that time.
  41. The self that had loved her, which another self had already almost entirely supplanted, would reappear, stimulated far more often by a trivial than by an important event.
  42. It was not for the first time that I felt that those who love and those who enjoy are not always the same.
  43. ...a separation suddenly looms up, impossible to endure when it is no longer possible to avoid, concentrated in its entirety in one enormous instant of impotent and supreme lucidity.
  44. ...an existence in which I should see less of her, in which (a thing that not even in my nightmares had yet been revealed to me) she would already have become something of a stranger to me, a lady who might be seen going home by herself to a house in which I should not be, asking the concierge whether there was a letter for her from me.
  45. ...and it was with a heavy heart that I gazed at her as though she were already torn from me...
  46. I had returned by myself to the train, at any rate I found nothing to distress me in the night which followed; this was because I did not have to spend it imprisoned in a room whose somnolence would have kept me awake; I was surrounded by the soothing activity of all those movements of the train which kept me company, offered to stay
    and talk to me if I could not sleep, lulled me with their sounds...
  47. Sunrise is a necessary concomitant of long railway journeys, like hard-boiled eggs, illustrated papers, packs of cards, rivers upon which boats strain but make no progress.
  48. I felt on seeing her that desire to live which is reborn in us whenever we become conscious anew of beauty and of happiness.
  49. So it is that a well-read man will at once begin to yawn with boredom when one speaks to him of a new “good book,” because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read, whereas a good book is something special, something unforeseeable, and is made up not of the sum of all previous masterpieces
    but of something which the most thorough assimilation of every one of them would not enable him to discover, since it exists not in their sum but beyond it. Once he has become acquainted with this new work, the well-read man, however jaded his palate, feels his interest awaken in the reality which it depicts.
  50. ...waiting on a bench, I took refuge in the innermost depths of my being, strove to migrate to a plane of eternal thoughts, to leave nothing of myself, nothing living, on the surface of my body...
  51. I applied to her face, which was blurred in the twilight, the mask of my most impassioned dreams, but read in her eyes as they turned towards me the horror of my own nonentity.
  52. But he vouchsafed no answer, whether from astonishment at my words, preoccupation with his work, regard for etiquette, hardness of hearing, respect for holy ground, fear of danger, slowness of understanding, or the manager’s orders.
  53. Perhaps this fear that I had—and that is shared by so many others—of sleeping in a strange room, perhaps this fear is only the most humble, obscure, organic, almost unconscious form of that great and desperate resistance put up by the things that constitute the better part of our present life against our mentally acknowledging the possibility of
    a future in which they are to have no part; a resistance which was at the root of the horror that I had so often been made to feel by the thought that my parents would die some day, that the stern necessity of life might oblige me to live far from Gilberte, or simply to settle permanently in a place where I should never see any of my old friends;
  54. For in order to understand how beautiful an elderly woman may once have been one must not only study but translate every line of her face.
  55. Convinced that the music that I heard there (the Prelude to Lohengrin, the Overture to Tannhäuser and suchlike) expressed the loftiest of truths, I tried to raise myself in so far as I could in order to reach and grasp them, I drew from myself, in order to understand them, and put back into them all that was best and most profound in my own nature
    at that time.
  56. And even if I were fated, now that I was ill and did not go out by myself, never to be able to make love to them, I was happy all the same, like a child born in a prison or a hospital who, having long supposed that the human organism was capable of digesting only dry bread and medicines, has learned suddenly that peaches, apricots and grapes are
    not simply part of the decoration of the country scene but delicious and easily assimilated food. Even if his gaoler or his nurse does not allow him to pluck those tempting fruits, still the world seems to him a better place and existence in it more clement.
  57. As to the pretty girls who went past, from the day on which I had first known that their cheeks could be kissed, I had became curious about their souls. And the universe had appeared to me more interesting.
  58. But if my mind was thus to collect itself, to gather momentum, I should have to be alone.
  59. I sat there thinking of nothing, then with my thoughts collected, compressed and strengthened I sprang further forward in the direction of the trees, or rather in that inner direction at the end of which I could see them inside myself.
  60. And meanwhile they were coming towards me; perhaps some fabulous apparition, a ring of witches or of Norns who would propound their oracles to me. I chose rather to believe that they were phantoms of the past, dear companions of my childhood, vanished friends who were invoking our common memories.
  61. But the characteristic feature of the ridiculous age I was going through—awkward indeed but by no means infertile—is that we do not consult our intelligence and that the most trivial attributes of other people seem to us to form an inseparable part of their personality. In a world thronged with monsters and with gods, we know little peace of mind.
    There is hardly a single action we perform in that phase which we would not give anything, in later life, to be able to annul. Whereas what we ought to regret is that we no longer possess the spontaneity which made us perform them. In later life we look at things in a more practical way, in full conformity with the rest of society, but adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything.
  62. He had been himself a man of intelligence, who had transcended the narrow confines of his life as a man of the world.
  63. ...who in his neophyte zeal was not always very exact about degrees of greatness.
  64. ...in the state of mind in which we “observe” we are a long way below the level to which we rise when we create.
  65. Self-centredness thus enabling every human being to see the universe spread out in descending tiers beneath himself who is its lord,...
  66. (although among her expressions I caught that tiresome phrase “living one’s own life”)
  67. To strip our pleasures of imagination is to reduce them to their own dimensions, that is to say to nothing.
  68. I was no longer in a sufficiently calm or disinterested state of mind to receive any really profound impression of beauty.
  69. ...fixed melancholy eyes upon a distant dream...
  70. I could hear the twanging of my nerves, in which there was a sense of well-being independent of the external objects that might have produced it, and which the least shifting of my body or of my attention was enough to make me feel, just as to a closed eye a slight compression gives the sensation of colour.
  71. But while I was humming softly to myself the notes of this tune and returning its kiss, the pleasure peculiar to itself which it made me feel became so dear to me that I would have left my father and mother to follow it through the singular world which it constructed in the invisible, in lines alternately filled with languor and vivacity.
  72. But after all, I was doing no more than concentrate in a single evening the carelessness that, for most men, is diluted throughout their whole existence, in which every day they face unnecessarily the dangers of a sea-voyage, of a trip in an aeroplane or motor-car, when there is waiting for them at home the person whom their death would
    shatter, or when the book whose eventual publication is the sole reason for their existence is still stored in the fragile receptacle of their brain.
  73. I should have died in and with that sensation, I should have let myself be slaughtered without offering any resistance, without a movement, a bee drugged with tobacco smoke that had ceased to take any thought for preserving the accumulation of its labours and the hopes of its hive.
  74. But I could not get to sleep; I sensed the approach of morning; peace of mind, health of body were no longer mine. In my distress it seemed to me that I should never recapture them. I should have had to sleep for a long time if I were to find them again.
  75. But, for lack of congenial company, he lived in an unsociable isolation which fashionable people called pose and ill-breeding, the authorities a recalcitrant spirit, his neighbours madness, his family selfishness and pride.
  76. If a little day-dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time. One must have a thorough understanding of one’s day-dreams if one is not to be troubled by them; there is a way of separating one’s dreams from one’s life which so often produces good results that I wonder whether one oughtn’t to
    try it just in case, simply as a preventative, as certain surgeons suggest that, to avoid the risk of appendicitis later on, we ought all to have our appendixes taken out when we’re children.”
  77. The particulars of life do not matter to the artist; they merely provide him with the opportunity to lay bare his genius.
  78. I have come to realise that the lives of many of the people in front of whom I plant myself when a bomb bursts are more valueless even than my own.
  79. We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.
  80. I can see that the picture of what we were at an earlier stage may not be recognisable and cannot, certainly, be pleasing to contemplate in later life. But we must not repudiate it, for it is a proof that we have really lived, that it is in accordance with the laws of life and of the mind that we have,...
  81. ...for existence is of little interest save on days when the dust of realities is mingled with magic sand,...
  82. Pleasure in this respect is like photography. What we take, in the presence of the beloved object, is merely a negative, which we develop later, when we are back at home, and have once again found at our disposal that inner dark-room the entrance to which is barred to us so long as we are with other people.
  83. She was one of those women with whom shaking hands affords so much pleasure that one feels grateful to civilisation for having made of the handclasp a lawful act between boys and girls when they meet.
  84. At these words I was swept back past the days when I loved Gilberte to those when love seemed to me not simply an external entity but one that could be realised.