City Reading – The Delhi Proustians XVII, Indian Coffee House
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 17th 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 pm and The Delhi Walla is alone. Two people on the next table are talking of selling five farmhouses. Closing my eyes, I flip through Swann’s Way – the first of the six volumes of the novel – and place my finger on the first page I stop at. Opening my eyes, I find myself on a line that says:
“You do look sad!”
I turn to some other page.
Swann, our man, is in love with a woman called Odette de Crécy, a slut. He is so much in love with her that it makes him sad if any mutual friend would talk of sighting his Odette in company with some other man.
So often had it happened to him, when chatting with chance acquaintances to whom he was barely listening, to hear certain detached sentences (as, for instance, “I saw Mme de Crécy yesterday with a man I didn’t know”), sentences which dropped into his heart and turned at once into a solid state, grew as hard as stalagmites, and seared him and tore him as they lay there, irremovable…
I know the feeling.
But how light the heart feels if Swann is told that his woman did not engage with anyone.
… the words “She didn’t know a soul, she never spoke to a soul” were, by way of contrast, like a soothing balm,. How freely they coursed through him, how fluid they were, how vaporous, how easy to breathe!
Shall I cheat? No Proustian is around. No one will know if I read the latest New York Review of Books instead of Proust
I turn to a NYR article called My Europe by a writer called Louis Begley… and find a reference to Marcel(!)
In the academic year 1954-55, my first year at Harvard College, through special permission or an error of the registrar’s office, I took a course with the forbidding title of “Proust, Joyce and Mann,” taught by the great Harry Lavin. I read A la recherché du temps perdu night and day. It could not be done otherwise: I was reading in French and had to finish within three months.
Yes, I must be as dedicated as Begley. I too must do Proust in three… no, thirteen months. I must finish Swann’s Way. Then I must finish Within a Budding Grove. Then I must finish The Guermantes Way. Then I must finish Sodom and Gomorrah (I’m having dirty thoughts). Then I must finish The Captive. Then I must finish The Fugitive. Then I must finish Time Regained. Then I must start again with Swann’s Way…
… 8 pm. See you, Marcel.
The 18th meeting of The Delhi Proustians takes place on 23 April, 2012.
Where Indian Coffee House, Mohan Singh Place, near Hanuman Mandir, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place Time 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Rajiv Chowk
No Proustian today…
… Other than me
I do look sad
Proust + Joyce + Mann
Proust is a hit