Saturday, July 30, 2011

Marcel Proust ignored by psychogeographers

I do not intend to read Marcel Proust, I have too many unread books as it is.

  • Of course I could fake it like Derrida: ... Have you read all the books in here? ... No, only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully.

I'm surprised that I never read about this fragment of Proust in any of the psychogeographic books I have. I recognize the feeling. Everywhere I am, I try to see the "towers" of Rotterdam and to orient myself by them. Today the towers are not religious anymore, they are the towers of the financial markets. And they do not give "an obscure sense of pleasure" but a sense of dread and disgust.
The towers of Rotterdam
But one would expect to read more about the pleasures of observing the movement of landmarks on the horizon. It combines "spatiality" and "superior awareness of highbrow culture". And that's what every psychogeographer wants, or not?

Proust fragment
Intellectual showmanship aside, the Proust text is interesting and inspiring. It invites us to think hard about the feelings our surroundings arouse in us: 
At a bend in the road I experienced, suddenly, that special pleasure, which bore no resemblance to any other, when I caught sight of the twin steeples of Martinville, on which the setting sun was playing, while the movement of the carriage and the windings of the road seemed to keep them continually changing their position; and then of a third steeple, that of Vieuxvicq, which, although separated from them by a hill and a valley, and rising from rather higher ground in the distance, appeared none the less to be standing by their side.
In ascertaining and noting the shape of their spires, the changes of aspect, the sunny warmth of their surfaces, I felt that I was not penetrating to the full depth of my impression, that something more lay behind that mobility, that luminosity, something which they seemed at once to contain and to conceal.
The steeples appeared so distant, and we ourselves seemed to come so little nearer them, that I was astonished when, a few minutes later, we drew up outside the church of Martinville. I did not know the reason for the pleasure which I had found in seeing them upon the horizon, and the business of trying to find out what that reason was seemed to me irksome; I wished only to keep in reserve in my brain those converging lines, moving in the sunshine, and, for the time being, to think of them no more. And it is probable that, had I done so, those two steeples would have vanished for ever, in a great medley of trees and roofs and scents and sounds which I had noticed and set apart on account of the obscure sense of pleasure which they gave me, but without ever exploring them more fully.

The original French comic book
Source of the English translation - and another
Weblog about reading Marcel Proust - in Dutch
The wonderful lectures on Marcel Proust - in Dutch
One of the church towers (?) - implies they don't really exist

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