215. (Marcel Proust)

In the fifth volume of Recherche, The Captive, Baron de Charlus refers to a visit he has recently paid to the famed writer, Bergotte, who has been for some time dead. Even after reading the explanatory note, I wanted to believe that the Baron was supposed to be shown in a lie, but even the aging Charlus would not commit such a blunder. Neither, though, … Continue reading 215. (Marcel Proust)

213. (Marcel Proust)

Aristotle, whose “hexis” is not passive habit, but whose thought of human happiness and nature turns on habituation, tells us that tragedy differs from history in that the latter is concerned with the actual and the former with the probable. By probable, he is taken to mean and likely did mean, something that could have taken place, given what we know through probabilistic reasoning. But … Continue reading 213. (Marcel Proust)

209. (Marcel Proust)

From the “Proust and Other Matters” blog, a debate from an old Yahoo Proust listserv, over the name of “Cambremer,” which features as a joke first in Swann’s Way, but then centrally in Sodom and Gomorrah, when the lift boy fails to correct his pronunciation, “Camembert”: Dear Sharon, Today, I just wanted to correct your interpretation of the jokes about the name Cambremer. The joke about the name … Continue reading 209. (Marcel Proust)

196. (Marcel Proust)

In trying to describe the relationship between instinct and intention, convention and originality, which characterizes literary creation, few notions are as helpful as Pierre Bourdieu’s description of “habitus.” It does not do any special work but it clears a space between two extremes as no other term does; it prevents us from moving too strongly to the notion that an individual artist is essentially an … Continue reading 196. (Marcel Proust)

150. (Cao Xueqin)

This morning, I deleted, for the first time, one of the posts on this blog, the most recent, on Marguerite Yourcenar. Then, meandering through Easter Sunday with a book, I finally finished, somewhat exhausted, the second volume in Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone.  It’s an extraordinary novel, in five volumes, not only like Proust because it spans thousands of pages, but because of the … Continue reading 150. (Cao Xueqin)

58. (Leo Tolstoy)

Rather than say anything about Tolstoy, I want to try to explain what I think would be the sort of criticism on Tolstoy I’d like to read. I’ve always been averse to criticism about characters; too often, it feels like gossip. But Tolstoy is set apart from everyone else by his characters. They seem like real people. But saying that, the criticism rings hollow, both … Continue reading 58. (Leo Tolstoy)