A charming passage on the effect of soporifics on the ability to quote Greek… one almost falls asleep trying to keep track of who is quoting who.
I have always said — and have proved by experiment — that the most powerful soporific is sleep itself. After having slept profoundly for two hours, having fought against so many giants, and formed so many lifelong friendships, it is far more difficult to awake than after taking several grammes of veronal. And so reasoning from one thing to the other, I was surprised to hear from the Norwegian philosopher, who had it from M. Boutroux, “my eminent colleague — pardon me, my brother,” what M. Bergson thought of the peculiar effects upon the memory of soporific drugs. “Naturally,” M. Bergson had said to M. Boutroux, if one was to believe the Norwegian philosopher, “soporifics, taken from time to time in moderate doses, have no effect upon the solid memory of our everyday life which is so firmly established within us. But there are other forms of memory, loftier, but also more unstable. One of my colleagues lectures upon ancient history. He tells me that if, overnight, he has taken a tablet to make him sleep, he has great difficulty, during his lecture, in recalling the Greek quotations that he requires. The doctor who recommended these tablets assured him that they had no effect upon the memory. ‘that is perhaps because you do not have to quote Greek,’ the historian answered, not without a note of pride.”
I cannot say whether this conversation between M. Bergson and M. Boutroux is accurately reported. The Norwegian philosopher, albeit so profound and so lucid, so passionately attentive, may have misunderstood.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain in the translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.
And so for day 1971