Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

It's got cars - and much more

TECHNO-ART A famous French author writes, “… the vehicle starting off, covered in one bound, twenty paces of an excellent horse. Distances are only the relation of space to time and vary with it. We express the difficulty we have in getting to a place in a system of miles or kilometres which becomes false as soon as that difficulty decreases.”

That’s Proust getting to the technical heart of the difference between cars and horse-drawn carriages. Seventeen pages into Chapter Three of “Cities of the Plain” the fourth book constituting “A la recherche…”

And there’s more. “Coming to the foot of the cliff road, the car climbed effortlessly, with a continuous sound like that of a knife being ground…”

I’ve never urged anyone to read Proust because the objective difficulties – sentences lasting a page and a half, for instance – are formidable. But the subjective benefits arrive page after page. All I ask is that received wisdom is put to one side. Yes, Proust concerns himself with snobby aristocrats but one of his greatest creations is the cook/servant Francoise. Outside the salons he ponders the nature of place names, politics, houses of assignation, railways stations and alcoholic euphoria. He’s interested in everything. Even cars!

My thanks to Plutarch for tracking down the above quotes and for alerting me to the plot summaries that bring to a close the three volumes of the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation by Penguin. I’d completely forgotten that very useful feature.

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