This book has been accompanying me for the last few years. It is a series of books actually, the famous Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. I try to read a few pages every weekend when I have more time on my hands. I savour every word of the original French. It is my secret appointment–or should I call it a date?–with Proust. Because, very soon, I realized that I was falling in love with him. Every weekend, it is as if he is offering me a present; an exquisite piece of chocolate or maybe a fluffy, buttery madeleine. He takes me with him to the homes of his aristocratic acquaintances. Introduces me to some persons of more obscure backgrounds, like Odette or Rachel.
During the lockdown, I was one of the few people who had to go to work every day. This was a particularly stressful time for me. So, I offered myself a greater dose of Proust to keep me going.
Proust had to stay home a lot because of his poor health.
He didn’t enjoy new environments, and when he had to visit his friend St Loup and stay at a hotel, he felt miserable.
I wanted to stay at home but had to go out instead and face the unpleasant facts of everyday life. I envied those people who felt bored and isolated. They would post messages on social media, reporting all the household chores they had to do. Telling the world how lonely and useless they felt. In this strange new reality of the healthy ill, I had to use my imagination in order to keep my mental health intact. Therefore, I would immerse myself in Proust and follow the intrigues and affairs of his social circle in order to forget the dark reality of the world around me.
Having generally considered myself a realist, I found that at this time I didn’t want to hear the news.
Nor study the maps tracking the march of the virus. I sincerely wanted to evade reality and felt that I had the right to do so. Proust would invite me into his world of art and would explain some paintings of the Renaissance to me in great detail. He would take me with him to the theatre, to a performance of a great actress of his time, Berma. Or together we would visit the studio of the painter, Elstir, a hero of his book based on either Monet or Manet or Renoir.
Living in a world so different than my own, Proust would provide me with all the change of scenery I needed. At the same time, his world was not always frivolous as he himself would not deny introspection. In these gloomy times, I would not want my beloved to be silly and carefree all the time.
Thus the dreary winter went by. However, my love story with Proust still continues.