City Reading – The Delhi Proustians XXXII, Delite Cinema
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 32nd 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, a multi-volume novel sometimes also known as Remembrance of Things Past.
Each week we meet in a new venue to dive into the atmosphere of Marcel’s novel.
It is 7 pm and The Delhi Walla is sitting outside the Delite Cinema in Daryaganj. I was hoping to read the novel in the balcony lounge but I was refused entry. Get a ticket, the guard insisted. So, I’m sitting outside, and imagining the crowd of people watching the movie inside.
I turn to page 51 of The Guermantes Way, the third volume. Marcel is at a theatre in Paris. People are watching Phedre, a play by the great actress Berma, (it is so dark outside the cinema and I can smell pee stink), but Marcel is watching the high society audience, who…
… composed an ephemeral panorama which deaths, scandals, illnesses, quarrels would soon alter, but which this evening was held motionless by attentiveness, heat, dizziness, dust, elegance and boredom, in the sort of eternal tragic instant of unconscious expectancy and calm torpor which, in retrospect, seems always to have preceded the explosion of a bomb or the first flicker of a faire.
I close the book, press it to my chest and close my eyes. A few minutes pass. The people inside the Delite, who are watching the film… how many of them would still be alive next year? Each one of them is a world. A novel. I open the book again. I am still in the early part of Guermantes but I have already marked many lines that I found intense and moving.
Listen to this: A pleasure at once coarse because it was based upon a material comfort and delicate because behind it were the soft outlines of a pure vision.
Read this one, at least twice; very delicately composed: To be able to escape from the perception of the real.
Hear, my favorite: The dust that floats in a sunbeam.
(A dog is staring at me. He is wagging his tail. Poopoo, you like Proust?)
And this line is exquisite in its simple phrasing and complexity of thought: The dimensions of our dream world.
And this, so romantic: The memory of him I possessed but imperfectly; at moments it escaped me.
Yes, Proust, you may be right here: The truth has no need to be uttered to made apparent.
This is, of course, Proustian:
Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.
Marcel, you are so beautiful and fragile; you make me so sad.
The 33rd meeting of The Delhi Proustians takes place a week later (because of Diwali) on 26 November 2012. The venue will be fixed in the following days.