Let’s talk about ‘How Virginia Woolf read Proust’
How Virginia Woolf read Proust
Monday 15 February 2010 by Alice Lowe
I know more people who, like myself, keep threatening to read Remembrance of Things Past “some day” than those who have actually done so.
This year I have the time and the resolve; I have acquired the first volume and have dipped in for a few warm-up sessions. Initial reactions: I find the languid pace entrancing at times, frustrating at others. I love his keen observations, his humor, but I can’t stay focused for very long at a time, so it will be slow going.
And of course I keep thinking about Woolf, about comparisons between the two, and particularly about her own response to this work at the time of its publication and acclaim. She started reading it in 1922 and was still working her way through in 1934, when she is said to have finished.
Proust appears frequently in her diaries and letters over the years, as a topic of conversation among friends as well as her own reactions to her reading. Given the frequency and relevance of her remarks, I’m amazed that Leonard Woolf includes no mentions of Proust in A Writer’s Diary, since clearly her reading influenced both her thinking and her writing.
She starts the second volume in January of 1923 and wonders if her writing will be influenced by his, as “one can hardly fail to profit” (Diary 2: February 10, 1923). She later writes: “No doubt Proust could say what I mean… . He makes it seem easy to write well; which only means that one is slipping along on borrowed skates” (Diary 2: Nov. 18, 1924). In 1932 she remarks that reading Proust, she feels free and can escape, compared to Lawrence, who makes her feel confined.
And so with a cup of tea and a madeleine, I open to page 66…
文中提到吳爾夫從 1922 年一直到 1934 年間，經過了漫長的十幾年讀完《追憶似水年華》，閱讀過程的箇中滋味，究竟為何?
如果再回到我們曾經讀過的《擁抱似水年華》(How Proust Can Change Your Life)，Alain de Botton 提到 "Reading Proust nearly silenced Virginia Woolf" 的這一個小故事，其實已經透露出這其中的酸甜苦辣，終究普魯斯特是如何改變吳爾夫的人生：
Virginia Woolf first mentioned Proust in a letter she wrote to Roger Fry in the autumn of 1919. He was in
It was 1922 before she next mentioned Proust. She had turned forty and, despite the entreaty to Fry, still hadn't read anything of Proust's work, though in a letter to E. M. Forster, she revealed that others in the vicinity "were being more diligent. "Everyone is reading Proust. I sit silent and hear their reports. It seems to be a tremendous experience," she explained, though appeared to be procrastinating out of a fear of being overwhelmed by something in the novel, an object she referred to more as if it were a swamp than hundreds of bits of paper stuck together -with thread and glue: "I'm shivering on the brink, and waiting to be submerged with a horrid sort of notion that I shall go down and down and down and perhaps never come up again."
She took the plunge nevertheless, and the problems started. As she told Roger Fry: "Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation that he procures—there's something sexual in it—that I feel I can write like that, and seize my pen and then I can't write like that."
In what sounded like a celebration of In Search of Lost Time, but was in fact a far darker verdict on her future as a writer, she told Fry: "My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? . . . How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp."
In spite of the gasping, Woolf realized that Mrs. Dalloway still remained to be written, after which she allowed herself a brief burst of elation at the thought that she might have produced some-thing decent. "I wonder if this time I have achieved something?" she asked herself in her diary, but the pleasure was short-lived: "Well, nothing anyhow compared with Proust, in whom I am embedded now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me and make me out of temper with every sentence of my own."
However, any bad mood she was in was liable to take a dramatic plunge for the worse after the briefest contact with the Frenchman. The diary entry continued: "Take up Proust after dinner and put him down. This is the worst time of all. It makes me suicidal. Nothing seems left to do. All seems insipid and worthless."
Nevertheless, she didn't yet commit suicide, though did take the wise step of ceasing to read Proust, and was therefore able to write a few more books whose sentences were neither insipid nor worthless. Then, in 1934, when she was working on The Years, there was a sign that she had at last freed herself from Proust's shadow. She told Ethel Smyth that she had picked up In Search of Lost Time again, "which is of course so magnificent that I can't write myself within its arc. For years I've put off finishing it; but now, thinking I may die one of these years, I've returned, and let my own scribble do what it likes. Lord what a hopeless bad book mine will be!"
The tone suggests that Woolf had at last made her peace with Proust. He could have his terrain, she had hers to scribble in. The path from depression and self-loathing to cheerful defiance suggested a gradual recognition that one person's achievements did not have to invalidate another's, that there would always be something left to do even if it momentarily appeared otherwise. Proust might have expressed many things well, but independent thought and the history of the novel had not come to a halt with him. His book did not have to be followed by silence; there was still space for the scribbling of others, for Mrs. Dalloway, The Common Reader, A Room of One's Own, and in particular, there was space for what these books symbolized in this context—perceptions of one's own.
而最近，我在吳爾夫的一篇名為〈論心理學小說家〉(The Psychologists) 的文章中讀到了一些較為完整的評論內容，這篇文章把亨利‧詹姆士的《梅茜所知道的》(What Maisie Knew)、普魯斯特的《追憶似水年華》以及杜思妥也夫斯基的《著魔者》(The Possessed) 做了一番評論，以下是最後一段的摘要內容：
Proust, the product of the civilization which he describes, is so porous, so pliable, so perfectly receptive that we realize him only as an envelope, thin but elastic, which stretches wider and wider and serves not to enforce a view but to enclose a world. His whole universe is steeped in the light of intelligence. The commonest object, such as the telephone, loses its simplicity, its solidity, and becomes a part of life and transparent. The commonest actions, such as going up in an elevator or eating cake, instead of being discharged automatically, rake up in their progress a whole series of thoughts, sensations, ideas, memories which were apparently sleeping on the walls of the mind.
Much of the difficulty of reading Proust comes from this content obliquity. In Proust, the accumulation of objects which surround any central point is so vast and they are often so remote, so difficult of approach and of apprehension that this drawing-together process is gradual, tortuous, and the final relation difficult in the extreme. There is so much more to think about them than one had supposed. One's relations are not only with another person but with the weather, food, clothes, smells, with art and religion and science and history and a thousand other influence.
The mind of Proust lies open with the sympathy of a poet and the detachment of a scientist to everything that it has the power to feel. Direction or emphasis, to be told that that is right, to be nudged and bidden to attend to that, would fall like a shadow on this profound luminosity and cut off some section of it from our view. The common stuff of the book is made of this deep reservoir of perception. It is from these depths that his characters rise, like waves forming, then break and sink again into the moving sea of thought and comment and analysis which gave them birth.
下一則： 重讀〈普魯斯特的形象〉— Excerpt: The Image of Proust
- 1樓. blue phoenixe我看李登輝的功與過2013/11/05 06:39
作家之間總會有一些傳承、偏好、甚至模倣...如果這些真的都是有脈絡可循的話，我真的很希望可以看到從普魯斯特延伸出去的藤蔓或枝葉究竟有多長?有多茂盛?le14nov 於 2013/11/05 20:24回覆