LINES I LIKE FROM SWANN'S WAY BY MARCEL PROUST

  1. I would fall asleep again, and thereafter would reawaken for short snatches only, just long enough to hear the regular creaking of the wainscot, or to open my eyes to stare at the shifting kaleidoscope of the darkness, to savour, in a momentary glimmer of consciousness, the sleep which lay heavy upon the furniture, the room, that whole of which
    I formed no more than a small part and whose insensibility I should very soon return to share.
  2. Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them.
  3. ...remembering again all the places and people I had known, what I had actually seen of them, and what others had told me.
  4. ...while upon them either the cold or some sad reflection invariably left the drying traces of an involuntary tear.
  5. But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people.
  6. Whenever she saw in others an advantage, however trivial, which she herself lacked, she would persuade herself that it was no advantage at all, but a drawback, and would pity so as not to have to envy them.
  7. ...the anguish that comes from knowing that the creature one adores is in some place of enjoyment where oneself is not and cannot follow
  8. Many years have passed since that night. The wall of the staircase up which I had watched the light of his candle gradually climb was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which I imagined would last for ever, and new ones have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days
    I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are hard to understand.
  9. ...with all the sweetness to be found in generosity, all the melancholy to be found in love
  10. But when my anguish was assuaged, I could no longer understand it
  11. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.
  12. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing tomorrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.
  13. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, it's disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory--this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence;
    or rather this essence was not in me, it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal.
  14. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how? What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail t nothing. Seek?
    More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, which it alone can make actual, which it alone can bring into the light of day.
  15. ...are not the thoughts of the dying often turned towards the practical, painful, obscure, visceral aspect, towards that "steamy side" of death which is, as it happens, the side that death actually presents to them and forces them to feel, and which far more closely resembles a
    crushing burden, a difficulty in breathing, a destroying thirst, than the abstract idea to which we are accustomed to give the name of Death?
  16. And at once the novelist has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and
    sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slow course of their development prevents us from perceiving them...
  17. It is the same in life; the heart changes, &it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality, it's alteration, like that or certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different stages, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.
  18. Had my parents allowed me, when I read a book, to pay a visit to the region it described, I should have felt that I was making an enormous advance towards the ultimate conquest of truth.
  19. Why, what in the world should we care for if it's not our lives, the only gift the Lord never offers us a second time?
  20. ...never allow myself to be influenced in the smallest degree either by atmospheric disturbances or by the arbitrary divisions of what is known as time.
  21. Whenever he spoke of something whose beauty had until then remained hidden from me, of pine-forests or of hailstorms, of Notre-Dame Cathedral, if Athalie or of Phèdre, by some piece of imagery he would make their beauty explode into my consciousness.
    And so, realising that the universe contained innumerable elements which my feeble senses would be powerless to discern did he not bring them within my reach, I longed to have some opinion, some metaphor of his, upon everything in the world
  22. But did he not realise that to postulate that the accuracy of his information was of some importance was tantamount to professing an opinion?
  23. Like Aswan, they would say of Bergotte: "He has a delightful mind, so individual, he has a way of his own of saying things, which is a little far-fetched, but so agreeable. You never need to look for the signature, you can tell his work at once." But none of them would go so far as to say "He's a great writer, he has great talent." They did not
    even credit him with talent at all. They did not do so, because they did not know. We are very slow to recognise in the peculiar physiognomy of a new writer the model which is labelled "great talent" in our museum of general ideas. Simply because that physiognomy is new and strange, we can find in it no resemblance to what we are accustomed to call talent. We say rather originality, charm, delicacy, strength; and then one day we realise that it is precisely all this that adds up to talent.
  24. And from that instant I did not have to take another step; the ground moved forward under my feet in that garden where for so long my actions had ceased to require any control, or even attention, from my will. Habit had come to take me in her arms and carry me all the way up to my bed like a little child.
  25. Thus it is that most of our attempts to translate our innermost feelings do no more than relieve us of them by drawing them out in a blurred form which does not help us to identify them.
  26. For at that time everything that was not myself, the earth and the creatures upon it, seemed to me more precious, more important, endowed with a more real existence than they appear to full-grown men.
  27. ...for one does not think of oneself, but only of escaping from oneself.
  28. ...with the heroic misgivings of a traveller setting out on a voyage of exploration.
  29. Sometimes, at the water's edge and surrounded by trees, we would come upon what is called a "country house," lonely and secluded, seeing nothing of the world but the river which bathed its feet.
  30. ...to taste the bitter sweetness of knowing that her name, and still more the name of him whose heart she had once held but has been unable to keep, were unknown there, stood framed in a window from which she had no outlook beyond the boat that was moored beside her door.
  31. I did not know the reason for the pleasure I had felt on seeing them upon the horizon, and the business of trying to discover the reason seemed to me irksome
  32. ...these my exaltation of mind has borne along with it and kept alive through the succession of the years, while all around them the paths have vanished and those who trod them, and even the memory of those who trod them, are dead.
  33. But it is pre-eminently as the deepest layer of my mental soil, as the firm ground on which I still stand, that I regard the Méséglise and Guermantes ways. It is because I believed in things and in people while I walked along those paths that the things and the people they made known to me are the only ones that I still take
    seriously and that still bring me joy. Whether it is because the faith which creates has ceased to exist in me, or because reality takes shape in the memory alone, the flowers that people show me nowadays for the first time never seem to me to be true flowers.
  34. And indeed her presence gave the house what none of the other houses that he visited seemed to possess: a sort of nervous system, a sensory network which ramified into each of its rooms and sent a constant stimulus to his heart.
  35. Did I not then know that what I felt for her depended neither upon her actions nor upon my will?
  36. What a melancholy pleasure to learn that Swann, that very afternoon, his supernatural form silhouetted against the crowd, had gone to buy an umbrella.
  37. My imagination had isolated and hallowed in social Paris a certain family, just as it had set apart in structural Paris a certain house, whose entrance it had sculpted and its windows bejewelled.
  38. But when a belief vanishes, there survives it--more and more vigorously so as to cloak the absence of the power, now lost to us, of imparting reality to new things--a fetishistic attachment to the old things which it did once animate, as if it was in them and not in ourselves that the divine spark resided, and as if our present
    incredulity had a contingent cause--the death of the gods.
  39. The reality that I had known no longer existed.
  40. The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment;& houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.