City Reading – The Delhi Proustians – IX, Indian Coffee House
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the ninth meeting of The Delhi Proustians, a club for Delhiwallas that discusses French novelist Marcel Proust. Every Monday evening for an hour we read his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time.
It is 7.03 pm and The Delhi Walla is with Jonas Moses, an irregular member of the club. Opening page 152, I say, “I admire Marcel’s ability to dissect feelings. The minute divisions that together constitute a remembered moment are separated, considered, described individually and then they are re-united into a single stream for a deeper appreciation.”
I start reading.
When I was tired of reading, after a whole morning in the house, I would throw my plaid across my shoulders and set out; my body, which in a long spell of enforced immobility had stored up an accumulation of vital energy, now felt the need, like a spinning-top wound and let go, to spend it in every direction.
“He is telling me my own experience,” I say. “When I shut myself in my library for an entire day and emerge out only after writing or reading something substantial, I walk along the bazaar streets as if a great invisible force is thrusting me forward. The world seems new.”
Mr Moses is not looking inspired.
Suddenly, a man who is carrying an Ernest Hemingway, enters the room. Approaching our table, he says, “Hello, I’m Sourabh Gupta. I’m a writer and I have come to be a part of The Delhi Proustians. I have been meaning to come for a long time but I was busy with my family. My son was born two months ago.”
Mr Gupta, who lives in Noida, blogs here. He continues from where I had left off.
The walls of houses, the Tansonville hedge, the trees of Roussainville wood, the bushes adjoining Montjouvain, all must bear the blows of my walking-stick or umbrella, must hear my shouts of happiness, these being no more than expressions of the confused ideas which exhilarated me, and which had not achieved the repose of enlightenment, preferring the pleasures of a lazy drift towards an immediate outlet rather than submit to a slow and difficult course of elucidation.
I order coffee for Mr Gupta.
To give you a sense of what Proust can do to a reader, here is a list of topics Mr Gupta touched upon in the next half-hour.
1.Teju Cole’s Open City, a book on New York walks
2. Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
3. M.C. Escher’s paintings
4. Bach’s fugue
5. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem
6. The theory of Strange Loops
7. Ingmar Bergman’s film Wild Strawberries
8. Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby
9. Writers who prefer not to write, from Enrique Vila-Matas’s Bartleby & Co
10. Plato’s The Republic
11. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein
12. Novelist W.G. Sebald
13. V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival
14. Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Big Two-Hearted River
And Mr Gupta is reading Proust for the first time.
The tenth meeting of The Delhi Proustians takes place on 20 February, 2012.
Where Indian Coffee House (it has three seating spaces; enter the enclosed area that looks to Baba Khadak Singh Marg), Mohan Singh Place, near Hanuman Mandir, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place Time 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Rajiv Chowk
Living with Proust
Decoding Marcel, with Sourabh Gupta and Jonas Moses
Such a long journey