27 December 2006

Proust on the novelist's art

"...none of the feelings
which the joys or misfortunes
of a 'real' person
awaken in us
can be awakened except through
a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes;
and the ingenuity of the first novelist
lay in his understanding that,
as the picture was the one essential element
in the complicated structure of our emotions,
so that simplification of it
which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple,
of 'real' people
would be a decided improvement.

A 'real' person,
profoundly as we may sympathise with him,
is in a great measure perceptible only
through our senses,
that is to say, he remains opaque,
offers 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.

The novelist's happy discovery
was to think of substituting
for those opaque sections,
impenetrable by the human spirit,
their equivalent in
immaterial sections,
things, that is,
which the spirit can assimilate to itself."

One of Pynchon's girlfriends praised this quality in his company-- everything they did together seemed transformed into a movie.

And Joyce's method, after extracting an epiphany from its arbitrary context, was to re-clothe it in a "decor ideal".