Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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to confine himself in Noah's Ark

It is now in the flow of my existence 7:34 PM Saturday night. I am down in the lower level of our home reading the writings of John Ruskin. Proust was heavily influenced by John Ruskin which I had forgotten about till today. So I came down here to dig out these two books, "The Lamp Of Beauty: Writings On Art By John Ruskin" Selected and Edited by Joan Evans and "Modern Painters" by John Ruskin (A new edition of the nineteenth-century classic, abridged and edited by David Barrie.

Before coming down here to search for books by John Ruskin I was reading "Proust: Portrait of a Genius" biography by Andre Maurois.

I want to quote from a book I have been reading the last couple of months titled, "Proust At The Majestic: The Last Days Of The Author Whose Book Changed Paris" by Richard Davenport-Hines.

"Following his mother's funeral, stunned and mangled by grief, he lay in bed for several days weeping and starving himself. He remained obsessed with her memory, anguished by her absence and only coped with the intensity of his emotions by erecting barriers against the world. For six weeks he secluded himself under supervision in a sanatorium, and when eventually he returned to Paris apartment life, continued to isolate himself under the pretext of poor health and strained nerves. This reaction was in absolute conformity with his father's precepts. Dr. Proust's greatest service to French health had been to propose a cordon sanitaire to exclude cholera from Europe, and to negotiate its enforcement at a series of international conferences in the 1890's with British and Ottoman officials. It was in the same decade, too, that he urged parents and physicians to erect an emotional cordon to protect highly strung children from their excessive emotionalism. As 'nothing is more contagious than an emotional state', such children should be 'removed' from surroundings or situations that agitate them as well as being isolated from 'the life of those around them'. The doctor's belief that overwrought men, women and children could immunize themselves against the susceptibility of their feelings by secluding themselves had an overwhelming influence on his son's life choices and the plot of Temps perdu. 'In withdrawing from his habitual circles,' Dr. Proust observed, 'the patient. . . breaks away from that atmosphere of solicitude and commiseration, and sometimes also of ironical indifference, by which his depression and irritability have been fostered.'

Seclusion had long tempted Proust as a state in which he might fulfill his vocation. 'When I was a child,' he had written in 1896, 'the fate of no holy figure seemed to me more miserable than that of Noah, who was confined to his Ark by the Flood for forty days. But later, I was often ill, and condemned to remain for long periods in an Ark of my own. It was then that I understood that a wonderful view of the world Noah could command from his Ark, despite being shut in, and though darkness enveloped the earth.' From early manhood he had affected world-weariness: 'better dream your life than live it, even though to live it is still only a dream'; only the redemptive powers of art and intellect could console him. He had railed against 'this life in which every pleasure is paid for without having been enjoyed' and where everything ends in 'miserable repugnance'. More than ever, after his mother's death in 1905, this outlook (superficially so blase and ungrateful) became entrenched.

Proust sought (during the seventeen years of life that remained to him) to confine himself in a Noah's Ark of his own devising. He adapted his father's cordon sanitaire to encircle his invalid's darkened bedroom. His life in the Ark helped to preserve the immediacy of his vision of people, objects and sensations. His privileges as a neurasthenic removed him from the agitation and pressure of Paris, enabled him to preserve and revivify the immediacy and vitality of his childhood sense of wonder, and intensified his adult awareness. His self-sequestration saved him from being besmirched, compromised or depersonalized by the minor vices, reductive judgements, anodyne tendencies and anonymous routines of a twentieth-century city." pg. 82,83 Richard Davenport-Hines

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