Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Seinfeldian wisdom of Marcel Proust

"Dire que j'ai gâché des années de ma vie, que j'ai voulu mourir, que j'ai eu mon plus grand amour, pour une femme qui ne me plaisait pas, qui n'était pas mon genre!"--Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu, the last sentence of "Un amour de Swann."

(Which means, roughly, "I wasted so many years, wanted to die, had my greatest love, for a woman I didn't even like, who wasn't even my type!")

Most people think Proust and think of an effeminate French man from another time, eating a madeleine and thinking about his childhood, then writing on and on about it in order to create a gratuitously unfinishable novel. And there's a bit of truth to all that. But scattered among lengthy descriptions of a social hierarchy that was nearly obsolete by the time the book first came out are some moments of pure, almost Seinfeldian, wisdom about basic human interactions.

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