George Painter rewards the faithful reader of his biography of Marcel Proust. He elevates words of consolation from their specific and local context and turns them, by citing them at the end of a chapter called “The Prize”, into an emblem of the novelist’s oeuvre.
‘Keep what I said to you for the day when you will be able to use it,’ he wrote to Porel, ‘at present my words are meaningless for you, and may perhaps contradict bitter thoughts; but you will find them true, consoling and strengthening when you have made the journey from parting to memory, of which no one, alas, can spare you the cruel meanders.’ […] His words to Porel were not yet wholly true of himself.
The passage works because of the freight of grief that has accumulated. It means almost nothing decontextualized.
And so for day 249