Sunday, November 08, 2015

No time is wasted, though all time is lost. Maybe.

Ellena said in a comment a couple of posts ago, that 'nothing is pointless, not even wasting time', which made me think about temps perdu. In French one speaks of losing time, to mean wasting it. This made me think of Proust, and how that element of wordplay in the title is not something I've heard referred to (in my admittedly not very vast reading of the small number of the fifty million and one things ever written about Proust). And that in turn, made me think of Joe, and something he once said, and owing to the wonders of web-based e-mail, by recalling some keywords in the conversation, I was able find it:

'Time Regained is  almost my favourite part of A La Recherche. It explains one aspect of the work which doesn't seem to have been widely noted. That is that it is a book about someone who wants passionately to be a writer and becomes, at different stages, disillusioned with literature and convinced that he is not cut out to produce any. Until, that is, in a moment of epiphany (the uneven paving stones outside the Guermantes house which remind him of similar stones in Venice), he realizes that he carries the past within himself (something much more than memory) and the way in which he will write the work (the one which we have just read and nearly finished) becomes apparent and its realization a compelling need.'

Proust is always going to write, but not doing it, frittering his time in socialising, pursuing hopeless, dysfunctional relationships, or growing cynical and lackadaisical. But by a miracle (though possibly the result of a neurological weirdness most of us wouldn't be able to stimulate) the memories could be triggered in their entirety by sensation, and all the lost/wasted time, all the dialogue and observations of the awful, vapid, cruel people, every microcosmic detail of every seemingly empty moment, every vein on the asparagus, and every shifting mental state as he observed them, could be researched, mined, extracted and transmuted into text. Sometimes mind-bendingly difficult, infuriating, impenetrable text, often exaggerated, but also intensely real, exquisite, vivid, frequently laugh out-load funny.

There was someone on Amazon, whom I've not been able track down again, who wrote brief, funny spoof reviews of well-known books; on A la Recherche she said something along the lines of 'Blimey, he really did remember everything, didn't he? A bit of selective amnesia wouldn't have gone amiss.'  There's also this excellent New York Review of Books article I just found, which considers Proust as an 'accidental Buddhist', but also tells how its writer was 'worried that I might not live long enough to see him through to the end...a wise editor of mine had once written an article on why no one should read Proust before the age of forty'. The paradox is that it is only age and the growing sense that time is short which brings on a sense of timelessness: that it doesn't actually matter whether we complete the grand project which beckons and beguiles us, it's the embarking on it which matters.

So, I got distracted reading through old e-mail conversations with Joe, about Proust and which translation he favoured (Moncrieff), and about meeting Heather, who's also part of time past now, and who could look at a wall 'woolly with light' through a long morning with no sense of wasting time and who would frown at me for needing a translation of Proust at all, and about poems and long gone qarrtsiluni, and food of course. As always when allowing myself to be distracted I feared I was wasting time, but I don't think I was really. Much of it I didn't remember writing, or the events happening; fugitive stuff, life. Electronic media, e-mails and this blog, for example, can be made to recall some of it, but that's only really another way we tell ourselves what we remember; the actual experience still eludes us. Better than nothing, though, and there are things, and people, who represent and offer some continuity.

Ellena also picked up the link I left to the post and video I made just after my sister died, more than five years ago. Reading through that, with its intense protestations and pledging to honour her life by using mine well, I know it was real, sincere, but it begins to seem like somebody else writing already; that imperative has changed, diminished or grown into something else.

For in this world of ours where everything withers, everything perishes, there is a thing that decays, that crumbles into dust even more completely, leaving behind still fewer traces of itself, than beauty: namely, grief.
Proust, Time Regained.

I know not all griefs are so for everyone.

Saturday's, not eternity's, sunrise.


Zhoen said...

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ then you go and do it.
It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
“Oh!” said Pooh.”

Roderick Robinson said...

Now here's an opportunity to write a really long comment, causing Blogger to burst at the seams like Peter Rabbit. But for once I'll stay humble, occupy a seat in the nave and just look on. You've done the old fusspot proud.

A temporary state, of course (That's me not him.)

Ellena said...

I'm still in agony just having clicked 'publish' in reference to Tom's post. And now I come here and see my name mentioned and time discussed and my heart rate is increasing while I'm typing.
I always feel as if I were presenting myself naked when I make a comment.
The baby-me seems to need some covers. I must see to it.

Roderick Robinson said...

I misquoted sainted Beatrix. It should have been "burst his buttons".

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Z - 'listening to things you can't hear'- love it!

Robbie - now lettest thou thy servant... Poor old Peter, delinquent child of a broken home, his father having been put in a pie by Mr McGregor.

Ellena - what are we going to do with you? But I am sorry if I exposed you in such a way as to make you uncomfortable; It's just that when trying to write down my thoughts a bit more regularly I often find myself thinking about and responding to what other people have said, and you are a treasured and thought-provoking commenter here.

Ellena said...

Adorable Lucy,I promise to have a good talk with myself once I know what to say. Whatever I feel has nothing to do with you, to the contrary, I felt proud to see my name in your post.

the polish chick said...

wow, so many thoughts sprang to mind. so, so many that i became overwhelmed and decided to write...nothing much.

a great and thoughtful post!