Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Proust on Reading


Reading States of Mind

"And wasn't my mind also like another crib in the depths of which I remained ensconced, even in order to watch what was happening outside? When I saw an external object, my awareness that I was seeing it would remain between me and it, lining it with a thin spiritual border that prevented me from ever directly touching its substance; it would volatize in some way before I could make contact with it, just as an incandescent body brought near a wet object never touches its moisture because it is always preceded by a zone of evaporation. In the sort of screen dappled with different states of mind which my consciousness would simultaneously unfold while I read, and which ranged from the aspirations hidden deepest within me to the completely exterior vision of the horizon which I had, at the bottom of the garden, before my eyes, what was first in me, innermost, the constantly moving handle that controlled the rest, was my belief in the philosophical richness and the beauty of the book I was reading, and my desire to appropriate them for myself, whatever that book might be."

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, trans. by Lydia Davis. Penguin Books, New York, 2003 (1913), pp 85-6.


mudpuddle said...

i read some months ago that science has discovered that the reaction time of the brain to a given stimulus is about .003 seconds, so even though it's a very brief instant, we really never contact reality with our sensory apparatus; we're always just a bit behind... in truth the brain is its own universe...

James said...

Thanks for your fascinating observation. This seems to confirm Proust's observations in his own sensitive meditations on the past.