Friday, 3 August 2012

Proust: Memories as Places

Proust, The Fugitive:

The name of Brichot recalled to me the close of that same evening when he accompanied me home and when I had seen from the street the light of Albertine’s lamp. I had already thought of it many times, but I had not approached the memory from the same angle. For, if our memories do indeed belong to us, they do so after the fashion of those country properties which have little hidden gates of which we ourselves are often unaware, and which someone in the neighbourhood opens for us, so that from one direction at least which is new to us, we find ourselves back in our own home. [Italics added]

The notion of memories as a series of places, which are permanently and profoundly embedded, which remain independent of my intention, not requiring any act of will to maintain them, and which are subject to time not in the same way that I am. It is these memories which we stumble upon, or which, at certain junctures, will rise into visibility, dripping with nostalgia and evening sun, like a piece of inner space.
Such memories are places inside us to which we gravitate in dreams, or against which we knock when a particular smell or taste brings us there.

They are impregnate with feelings but not simply those projected by our own current ego; rather do they contain fragments of previous, past feelings which have broken off and assumed their own life, their own rate of growth, part of us, yes, but autonomous too. Such memories are evidence that such past selves have refused to die, and have gone on planting, cultivating their own patches of ground inside us, without us knowing– ‘us’ being that little sliver of present consciousness to which we give the convenient name ‘I’. Indeed, such memories continue to live or develop (much as we talk of developing a photo) in the face of our neglect or amnesia, waiting patiently in the recesses of dreams, indifferent to discovery. 

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