Fabulous Fabulist

Edmund White on Proust

Proust may be more available to readers today than in the past because as his life recedes in time and the history of his period goes out of focus, he is read more as a fabulist than a chronicler, as a maker of myths rather than the valedictorian of the Belle Epoque. Under his new dispensation, Proust emerges as the supreme symphonist of the spirit. We no longer measure his accounts against a reality we know. Instead, we read his fables of caste and lust, of family virtue and social vice, of the depredations of jealousy and the consolations of art not as reports but as fairy tales. He is our Scheherazade.

From a different time setting, there is Zero Patience a musical about AIDS by John Greyson which has a song that also apostrophes the figure of “Scheherazade (Tell a Story)”

And for some reason (a passing reference to Proust in a citation from Barthes Le Plaisir du texte), I am carried to a passage by Rosalind Coward and John Ellis in Language and Materialism, a passage that recalls for me those wonderful waterfalling sentences that cascade upon the page and into memory:

The continual process of writing is not a mere addition, a piling-up of citations onto other citations to form an ever more compact tissue of realist language; it is a constant process of displacement and revision. Each new citation alters those that have gone before; imperceptibly, the form of the realist illusion is changed, new sociolects emerge and others have their particular energies scattered and redirected. It is this aspect of intertextuality that is exploited in avant-garde texts: they throw together scraps of phrases, etc. but without a unifying, totalising position. They play with and in ideology.

It is the vision of emergence and scattering that recalls the sweep of a grand novel and its play with the recurring phrase…

And so for day 615

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