I had been aware of Proust’s work as a Great European Classic, and thought I might start reading it some time (in English, I have forgotten my O grade French).
Let me tell you how it starts. Young Marcel wants his mother to come to his room to kiss him goodnight, after he is in bed. This kiss is like combined Eucharist and absolution for him, it calms his fears and gives him the peace he needs in order to go to sleep. Sometimes, when there are visitors, he has to kiss his mother downstairs, and then get ready for bed, holding the memory of that experience until he is in bed: it is rarely enough for him. So he plans how, when the adults are at the dinner table, he will study his mother’s cheek for the precise location which he will kiss, so that when the moment for it comes, he may be entirely in that moment, and savour the experience to the full, then carry and treasure the memory upstairs.
I told my rationalist friend Terry about this, and he could not bear the heightened sensibility; but he saw clearly that I had got high on it, hearing and sight heightened, noticing things, enraptured with the grain on a segment of the wooden bench in front of me. I am aware that such states may be overwhelming, but I am exploring how I might bring such a state into normal life, heightening my empathy, sidelining the inner critic, being more creative, accepting my safety and guarding it only as much as is necessary. Operating out of Love rather than fear.
The novel moves on, into a salon in Paris in the 1870s. This salon has intellectual and artistic pretensions, and the hosts are fair pleased to have a thick Comte, a “de”, turn up. How does each person feel? What do they say, and why do they say that? How do they wish to appear, why, what success do they have? What is it like to be in Love? I do not recommend it, I do not know your taste or what you need at the moment, but I find it wonderful.