For the Russian reader, there was a way to celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the creator of the epic “In Search of Lost Time” in a couple of weeks. This collection of novellas that have never been translated before (and some of them only recently published in the original) are an excellent gift both to Proust’s fans and to those for whom his name is still only the title of a dictionary entry. The critic Lydia Maslova presents the book of the week, especially for Izvestia.
Moscow: Text, 2021. – Per. from French and comments by S.L. Fokine. – 189 p.
So, before us is a collection of nine early short stories found in the archives of the publisher Bernard de Falloy, who in the 1950s had already published Proust’s drafts – the books Against Saint-Beuve and Jean Santeuil. At the same time he provided the newspaper Figaro with one of the short stories that was included in the collection The Mysterious Correspondent (Memories of the Captain), but not introduced into scientific circulation, as the editor of the collection notes, the author of the preface, notes and accompanying article “At the origins “Search for Lost Time”, Professor at the University of Strasbourg Luc Fress.
The remaining eight short stories are published for the first time in general and were written simultaneously with Proust’s “youthful booklet” “Joy and Days” (1896). In the current edition, “days” are written with a capital letter, probably in connection with some new tendencies in proust studies that have remained without explanation. But in the comments of the translator Sergei Fokin, it is explained in detail, for what reasons it is better to translate the “lost time” familiar to adult readers as “lost”:
One can argue with these rational “political economic” arguments from about the same positions from which Proust himself argued with the critic Sainte-Beuve in the collection of essays Against Sainte-Beuve: there is a reinforced-concrete positivist logic, but there are vague iridescent associations that make up unique inner world of each person. AND Perhaps someone associates “wasted time” with the lexicon of effective managers who don’t waste a minute in vain, and the old-fashioned lyrical epithet “lost” is associated with a loss, including an irreparable one.
Together with the word “lost”, the compilers of the collection throw off the outdated idea that the life of Marcel Proust was “split in two,” as Luc Fresse puts it: “a youth spent in salons, with a buttonhole in a buttonhole; and maturity killed in passionate labors on a great work. ” In fact, Proust only pretended to be lounging in secular living rooms, and he himself was preparing for “The Search for Lost Time” – practically as soon as he took a pen in his hand. The process of sharpening it is clearly presented in the collection “The Mysterious Correspondent”, which creates the effect of immersion, so to speak, in the writer’s creative laboratory. Since the draft manuscripts of the proposed short stories were full of corrections, the book is replete with notes, opening which you can see young Proust scratching his head when choosing synonyms and wondering what would be better: “often” or “without end”, “wood” or “field” , “Friends” or “comrades”, “attentively” or “intently”, “the whole shirt-front on my shirt is wet with tears” or “soaked in tears”?
The writer’s sensitive heart exudes especially abundant streams of tears in the short story “Consciousness in Love”, the very name of which, according to Luke Fresse, “prepares the primary role that consciousness will play in the evolution of the hero of” The Quest “, as well as his rotation in the light, where no one suspects what kind of inner worries he lives ”. Internal concerns are precisely the main Proust plot, both in his opus magnum and in the tiny sketch “Consciousness in Love” about friendship with a mythical-allegorical little white fluffy animal, which Proust, apparently, did not dare to make the final choice, defines as “half-squirrel-half-cat”. This hybrid animal, although it exists only in the imagination of the author, is much more significant for him than all the human characters passing through the margins of the novel:
Asking why the young author at one time did not include these novellas in “Joy and Days”, and indeed decided to conceal them, Professor Fresse first notes that “for their time, the novellas were too verbose, too scandalous”, more reminiscent of recordings from personal diary than stories about fictional characters. But after a couple of lines, the literary critic comes to the conclusion that even in these intimate notes “one cannot find a back door to the writer’s inner world; they give us insight into a special kind of human experience. ” This special experience is primarily associated with suffering from an overabundance of sensitivity, when any “trigger” in the outside world (sound, smell, landscape) is able to instantly transfer the lyric hero-storyteller in time, both in the happiest and most nightmarish periods of his life. … And few people can compare with Proust in the fascination of such movements along the waves of their memory.
Such a compact and handy booklet as “The Mysterious Correspondent”, which can fit in a jacket pocket or a handbag, will delight both those who have read Search for Lost Time for a long time and have already forgotten a lot, and those who dream of reading them, but are afraid not to get there. even to the middle, and for those who have not read and are not going to, but want to get a rough idea. In the accompanying texts of the Strasbourg professor, one can find succinct and laconic formulations that shed light on what exactly is happening on the pages of the multivolume epic. Here Fresse involves another expert in his analysis – the classic of French sociology Gabriel Tarde, with whom Proust was familiar and from whom, according to the researchers, he borrowed the “theory of imitation”.
From this point of view, the entire content of “Search” is reduced to the struggle between the old and the new models of social behavior: “There is a permanent duel in society between the victorious, dominant and gradually outdated model and an innovative, polemical, initially minority, but designed to triumph.” Thereby Luc Fresse, who has already defended Proust from suspicions that in his youth he was a frivolous salon moth, finally rehabilitates him as not just some sentimental introvert, but a serious social philosopher whom the novelist could not “squeeze out”“No matter how majestic the scene where in the episode with the Madeleine cake the work of involuntary memory is shown, it was developed in close proximity to what contemporaries wrote on similar issues.”