Facing my Maker #amwriting #characters

I have not always be fair to him, and yet I depend on him more than I admit to myself… So, today, Julian holds the pen.

Es sind ja die kleinen Dinge, die beglückenFor us, creatures of a lower order, not free, not slaves, but prisoners all the same, facing our maker is the ultimate test.  This is your space, yours, that is the author’s, not mine. I don’t belong here, and I am not sure I belong in your writing either: I feel like a passenger, stranded in the wrong teleport, perhaps in a time wrap.

You have borrowed from my (real) life, as fiction always steals from someone’s realities, or dreams. You, writers, have always done this. D’Artagnan was really a captain of the royal Mousquetaires, the élite body guard of the King of France, before Alexandre Dumas (père) span his web of intrigues. And somewhere in 1913, the young Marcel considered his status in life, before Proust drowned him in Lost Time.

You have painted me as a selfish, idiotic hedonist, who depends on his women, but do not respect them. This hurt me deeply, for it is not the person I am. I may lack courage, and do rely on the people I care for for support and patience. Selfish, egotistic, I am not: only your pen made me that. But your readers, who cannot know me, only know that Julian from your words, those slippery sentences that are as many distortions of my life.

Sadly, you will not redeem yourself, authors rarely do.  Proust made a hopeless brat of Marcel, and sacrificed much of what that young man had to offer, in order to achieve fame and literary respect for himself. Little did it matter to him that, in so doing, he was destroying the idea itself of the introspective novel.  I give you this: you are no Proust, but all the same you don’t strive to be published!

Enough said about myself. What about your writing? Of the young Proust of Jean Santeuil, Pierre Bergounioux (In D’après Proust, NRF March 2013) writes: “Besides being too young, Proust stays on the surface, describes, as before him, thoughts, gestures, feelings known, uncontroversial, when everything has changed, everywhere.” I won’t accuse you of the same weakness, you try to be current, recognising the mess the world is in, all those missiles, the fear, the surveillance, the arbitrary disguised as the norm, the lies. I don’t disagree with you on any of this reality. However you must ask yourself: aren’t you at risk of losing your readers in the labyrinth of time, all this meandering of your characters, back and forth, not only across their memories, but also retracing steps they may never have followed?

I give you credit for not totally confounding Julian, the “real” human being, and your character. Beyond the story – or is it the stories? – is the person whose memories provide the live substance of what, otherwise, would be a confusing ghost tale. But you know the difference. So, I may dislike the Julian of the novel, but you never claim he is the only one.

#WritersWednesday: His Hero is Marcel

Time Line of the Universe

Time Line of the Universe Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team Source: Original version: File:CMB Timeline75.jpg

It goes for colours, type-faces, places, objects, smiles, books… The human spirit is attracted, inspired, by “things”, in a fashion that appears random to the observer (“tastes and colours…” goes the French saying). But it isn’t. There are reasons for everything, and randomness is often a metaphor for “we can’t explain this”.

Julian is attracted by – universes. Worlds, galaxies, star systems… Or should I write “multiverses”: the existence of multiple universes that rarely intersect, merely coexist, and, mostly, in ignorance of each other? He knows, has read about, that most physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, are generally skeptical about the concept. Generally, but sometimes not. And Julian is attracted by those writers who are less than skeptical, the party of the “cosmic inflation”, and its far away consequences. Julian believes in the Two Moons of Huraki Murakami: he too has seen them…

Sarah, who’s a far better mathematician than her husband, is willing to discuss strings theory and other quantum wonders, and let him indulge in his quest. He too is after the “Ultimate Nature of Reality” [*]. I do understand, and she does, that Julian seeks his inspiration from serious subjects: history, science, philosophy, the “thinking” authors of weird and wonderful stories.

So it goes for time: our Julian is obsessed by it. His hero is, of course, Marcel Proust, and he’s often written about Marcel, and written him into his stories, as himself or as his little prisoner. I am fascinated by this, as it links to his other obsessions, his writing style, and, finally, his love for both Sarah and Melissa, the two women in his life, the inspiration for his writing. There are reasons to believe that, for Julian, his friend Melissa is a reincarnation of the docile Prisoner, dear to Marcel, his Albertine…

But Sarah has another theory: Julian wishes to be Albertine, someone’s property, or, to be precise, his wife’s. So that Melissa maybe Julian, in the end, just in another “universe”. This intrigues me too, as often Melissa has told me she wished to be Julian, to live in his skin. Poor soul. What I keep to myself, for now, is that Melissa has also claimed to be Sarah, to “merge” with her.

Sarah, Albertine, Odette, Julian, Melissa, Swann? Julian is “à la recherche”, in this universe, or, as necessary, in another. Which writer is not?

[*] “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality”, by Max Tegmark, was reviewed by Brian Rotman in The Guardian of February 1, 2014.

#WritersBlog ~ Feeling guilty, me?

“Les tenants de l’apparence restent fidèles à l’imitation. Ceux qui recherchent une réalité cachée derrière l’apparence définissent une doctrine de l’invention, de la création.”

Jean-Yves Tadié, Marcel Proust, L’artiste selon Ruskin

(The advocates of appearance stay loyal to imitation. Those who look for some reality behind appearances define a doctrine of invention, of creation.)

Jeunes filles, Marie LaurencinI have heard some dreadful accusations lately, and I wish to affirm that some people, yes people, are rather cheeky. They say, us, narrators, are voyeurs, that we spy on, and even abuse the characters in a novel: how’s that for defamation? What have we done, and specifically, what I have done, to deserve such treatment?

I do not, ever, prey on those characters, however vulnerable, or emotionally unstable, or, as my friend Jo-Anne (herself a delicious narratrice) says, exotic. Rather I try to convey their tragedy, sometimes the ironic side of their lives, as a good narrator should. Sometimes, I admit to a degree of curiosity. Let us read again this observation of Jean-Yves Tadié, the biographer of Marcel Proust, à propos La Prisonnière, perhaps the most poignant chapter of La Recherche:

“Le narrateur prend enfin congé d’Odette: ‘J’aurais voulu la serrer dans mes bras: j’aurais voulu lui dire que je l’aimais… Les larmes m’étranglaient. Je parcourus ce long vestibule, ce jardin délicieux dont le gravier des allées ne devait, hélas! plus jamais grincer sous mes pas.’

Que signifient cette jeune fille à jamais punie par le destin, la maladie incurable, cette distance entre elle et le narrateur, ce sentiment du temps qui a presque tout détruit? Marcel projette-t-il un amour impossible?”

(The narrator finally says farewell to Odette: ‘I would have held her in my arms: I would have told her I loved her… Tears were choking me. I walked down the long corridor, through the delicious garden and paths whose pebbles I would never again tread on.’ What is the meaning of this young woman for ever punished by fate, of the incurable illness, of the distance between her and the narrator, of that feeling of time destroying almost everything? Does Marcel evoke an impossible love?)

Distance indeed. Monsieur Tadié reveals the true position of the narrator in La Recherche: he is Marcel, the young man whose love for Odette is impossible (for reasons I would not comment on in this post). And yet this narrator, a full participant in the story, keeps his distance. You may argue that they are reasons for Marcel, and hence, the narrateur, not to get closer to Odette.

So do I. I admit a feeble sentiment for Melissa (and indeed for Odette too): I think she’s sinned against more than a sinner, and possibly innocent, but I don’t say anything: this is not what her author intends – as far as I can tell… In one word I try and keep away from the plot, from the lives of the characters, I just… well… narrate.

The role of narrator is at time painful: think about it, events unravel, according to the author’s fancy, characters love, suffer, fall ill, maybe even die. And what are we to do? Unless the author decides to get one of his creatures – will they forgive me for saying “creatures”? I somehow doubt it – to tell the tale herself, we have to present the facts to the reader, in the most interesting and honest way. Yes, I know, the case of a narrator also participant, from Marcel to the creations of Monsieur Murakami, is even more complicated. So is life.

Image: courtesy Maries Laurencin at http://films7.com/art/arts/marie-laurencin-jeunes-filles-proust-beaute-desir

The Beautiful Blogger Award

A big thank you to @olbigjim for this unexpected award! I understand this is normally awarded to bloggers of somewhat more experience than this one but I won’t complain: I am indeed very grateful, thank you Jim!

To follow the tradition I wish first of all to invite my readers and followers to visit your wonderful blogs, The Left Wright Brain and OlBigJim. I have learnt a lot reading and following you, and met many interesting bloggers and writers – all thanks to you.

What seven things are worth mentioning about this blogger? Incidentally I admire the sobriety in your own listing Jim, and incomparable modesty, for a man of talent and so varied experience. So, here we go boldly:

  1. The place I really wish to live in, is the Alps of the Südtirol, in Northern Italy.
  2. I am addicted to photography, and spend many hours fiddling and editing my pictures, as well as looking for others’.
  3. Blogging for me is, above all, meeting people from all over the world, and exchanging ideas and experience.
  4. Best time of the day: early morning (and freshly ground coffee!)
  5. Best times of the year: Spring and early Summer
  6. The book I wish I could write? Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu…
  7. The face that launched a thousand ships (for this little boy, long ago)? Jeanne Moreau

Nominations? As Jim said, this is difficult, and always a little arbitrary…

  1. People, Places and Bling! – Theadora’s treasure trove of knowledge and beautiful pictures of Paris
  2. Bornstoryteller – tale spinning by Stuart Nager
  3. Euzicasa – George’s blog dedicated to beauty
  4. Musings of a Serial Procrastinator – “there are still some nice people left in this world”
  5. Nine Cent Girl – Fashion, Family, Food… Life!
  6. The Dom Next Door – exactly what it says!
  7. August McLaughlin’s Blog

And to conclude, a summary of the rules:

  • Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post,
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog,
  • Tell 7 things about yourself,
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.

#toptenbooks

In response to:

http://kdrush.com/Main/content.php/179-The-TopTenBooks-Challenge

#10 The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes) by Jonathan Littell:

I have listed this harrowing account of evil as I was surprised by the description of Europe’s worst nightmare by a young American author, who, besides, wrote in French. This is a giant of a book, and the horror is not  imagined, it was so.

#9 The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy:

A quintessential account of a horrific murder by a master of controversy. Somehow this book talked to me, and, yes, I felt for the Black Dahlia.

#8 The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke

Part from “inventing” the Space Elevator Arthur Clarke – who also predicted accurately the geostationary communication satellites – showed in this novel how to marry technology and spiritualism, a feat of fiction but also a lesson for living. I read it as an adolescent, and am still reading it.

#7 The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Well, it’s a classic. When I first read it – a few years back! – my English was still hesitant, and I struggled. A few years later (still well before the films) I fully appreciated what a masterpiece of language and adventures this was.

#6 The Magus by John Fowles

The mystery of youth, John Fowles’s first novel and to my mind his best. I travelled to that greek island in a dream, one of the inspirations for “The Page” (not a plug!)

#5 The Stand by Stephen King

Read it four times, and this is not the last time. One of the great novels of the second half of the last century, I am still in wonder. I cried for Fanny. I would have nuked the evil too.

#4 The Plague (La Peste) by Albert Camus

A unique allegory of what it was like in Europe under the fascist boot. Written in 1947, it is the account of ordinary courage and its opposite by a man of high values and principles. I think it’s as valid a read today as it was then.

#3 Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon’s greatest book, set at the end of WWII in London and Northern Germany. This book typifies for me the absurdity of the last (hopefully) European civil war, a shower of rockets, the ruins of cities, yet humour and love. I fell for that mischievous Dutch girl, yes I did…

#2 A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust

My bible of introspection. The language is unique, the mix of longing, eroticism and splendour is irresistible.

#1 La Chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal

The greatest love story of all times! To my mind one the summits of Western literature. Period.

Cover of "The Black Dahlia"

Cover of The Black Dahlia