Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Proust on the boredom of writing

WL sent me this sentence by Proust:
For some time past the words of Bergotte, when he pronounced himself positive that, in spite of all I might say, I had been created to enjoy pre-eminently the pleasures of the mind, had restored to me, with regard to what I might succeed in achieving later on, a hope that was disappointed afresh every day by the boredom I felt on settling down before a writing-table to start work on a critical essay or a novel. "After all," I said to myself, "perhaps the pleasure one feels in writing it is not the infallible test of the literary value of a page; perhaps it is only a secondary state which is often superadded, but the want of which can have no prejudicial effect on it. Perhaps some of the greatest masterpieces were written while yawning." --Proust, "Within a Budding Grove" (trans. Scott Moncrieff, Kilmartin, and Enright), p. 530
It is a provocative speculation, a wonderful excuse. I think the pleasure of writing is not a test of a masterpiece, but a masterpiece is not written without the pleasure of writing.

2 comments:

Eshuneutics said...

It's a very long-winded speculation by Proust.
I am with you!

WL said...

Proust's narrator is (gently) making fun of his younger self. The real Proust's pleasure in writing shines on every page, though I think he'd forgive his readers if we occasionally yawn. :-)