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Friday 06 January 2006

Josipovici on Proust

Reading Gabriel Josipovici's The Lessons of Modernism and his The World and the Book, last night, I was reminded, yet again, what a matchless critic and writer he is. The first essay in The World and the Book is Proust: A Voice in Search of Itself. It's a superb paper which reminds us how "philosophical" and disruptive Proust's mammoth masterpiece actually is. And, crucially, how anti-novelistic. Lots of readers, who actually bother to read Proust, seem thrilled by its Edwardian grandeur and its scale and they miss its manifold subversions. Proust understands his own obsessions; he observes them and works through them within the body of the work. He recognises that the world within the pages of his book is not the world - despite the length of the work and some realist descriptions, the thrust of the work is anti-realist (there is nothing "natural" about Realism it is an invented, historically situated style): Proust is not attempting verisimilitude, he realises that truth is not mimesis.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Reader Comments

Saturday 07 January 2006

David Smith says...

I have a great regard for Gabriel's first book in particular, 'The World and the Book'. Years ago, he came to speak for me to my students and gave an inspired, note-free talk on the significance to him, as a contemporary writer, of Chaucer. It was breathtaking and ranged widely, and I remember vividly how natural it felt to find Chaucer and Proust rubbing shoulders. Few people I have met could have brought this off.

Wednesday 11 January 2006

Mr. Waggish says...

I wholly agree. I was shocked by how much of Proust anticipated the thought of Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty. Also see Galen Strawson's piece on Proust and anti-narrativity, which points out some other undermining strategies used by Proust. (It's a fantastic piece anyway.)

Wednesday 11 January 2006

Sam Jones says...

The essays collection "Text & Voice" is wonderful too, with good pieces on Blanchot, Perec, Beckett and and some stunning, almost Auerbachian meditations on the acts of reading and writing.

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I rode to meet you: dreams
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and the moon on my right side
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I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

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