Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Marcel Proust's long sentences

Elle avait appris dans sa jeunesse à caresser les phrases au long col sinueux et démesuré, de Chopin, si libres, si flexibles, si tactiles, qui commencent par chercher et essayer leur place en dehors et bien loin de la direction de leur départ, bien loin du point où on avait pu espérer qu'atteindrait leur attouchement, et qui ne se jouent dans cet écart de fantaisie que pour revenir plus délibérément - d'un retour plus prémédité, avec plus de précision, comme sur un cristal qui résonnerait jusqu'à faire crier - vous frapper au coeur.

Un amour de Swann, Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922)

In her youth, she had learned to caress long sentences of Chopin, sinuous, excessive, so free, flexible and tactile, sentences which start by trying to find their place outside and far from the direction of departure, far from the spot where one hoped to feel their touch, and they played within this gap of fantasy only to come back more deliberately - a premeditated return, with more precision, like crystal that reverberates to the point of making you scream - to hit you in the heart.

I tried to translate this passage of Marcel Proust to convey his typical writing style, but it doesn't of course have the same flow as in French. At first, his long-winded sentences seem affected, incomprehensible and annoying, but when I read them again, and get used to his meditative tone, I find a lyrical quality to them, as if they're undulating, but with precise details and deeper meaning. I've always loved the flow of long sentences, but I never thought a writer could indulge in them to such extent that they work so well.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Perception of Pain by Anaïs Nin

"The primitive begins each day anew and does not relate today to yesterday, or envisage tomorrow. With lack of relatedness comes absence of pain. Pain comes from awareness ... It is our efforts to escape or protect ourselves from pain and shock which create a realm of anxiety unknown to the primitive. We live to defeat nature and they learn to live with it ... But the primitive had a natural paradise. We do not. We have to create an artificial one."

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume Three 1939-1944
Anaïs Nin

I like the way Anaïs Nin analyzes emotions and tries to make sense of them. What she says is so true about pain. But I don't like the use of the word artificial here. I believe that the natural paradise she talks about is within us because we all have the primitive in us. It's a matter of letting the primitive come to the surface, feeling with all our senses, living in heightened moments of awareness. But it's also a matter of balance. If we live as primitives only, will we be able to feed ourselves? But then, when we're too busy defeating nature, and acquiring material goods, are we in touch with our higher needs? Finding a balance between the two is perhaps the key to happiness.