THIS I BELIEVE: MARCEL PROUST INSPIRES ME
My friend Linda made a daring proposal in the spring of 2006. She said “Let’s both read In Search of Lost Time and see what comes of it.” What she and I wanted to do, of course, was to find out for ourselves what the book was all about – and why the famed scene in which the narrator dunks a Madeleine into tea and comes up with a flood of memories has become so much a part of our culture.
I believe that reading Marcel Proust over the past two years has taught me to look within myself, to the everyday events of life to find inspiration for my writing.
Slowly but surely, the steady rhythm of the book seemed to mirror my own life,
as if I were living in some kind of parallel universe with Proust. At first, reading Proust inspired me to remember long forgotten scenes — summers with my grandparents, the ebb and flow of loves and losses — memories appeared like stars twinkling in the night sky.
Then Proust became my guide and companion through ordinary and extraordinary events. As I sat beside my husband’s hospital bed after his unexpected bypass surgery or as I kept a vigil next to my dying father, I continued to read Proust. It seemed as if my own feelings and Proust’s were one and the same as Proust recounted the longed for goodnight kiss from his mother, the love he felt for Albertine or the death of his beloved grandmother.
In the last volume, the older narrator is revealed to be Proust, who realizes that if he is going to be an artist, he must stop procrastinating and use the rich material that life has given him to create something. In real life, Proust retreats from the constant swirl of daily involvements to his bedroom, where he spends the remainder of his years in seclusion, writing his masterpiece. This I believe is an example that I must find a retreat from my busy life to write.
I believe it does not matter whether Proust’s writing is half fiction and half memoir or all fiction drawn heavily from his life. If I see the world through Proust’s eyes, I know it is because his talents as a writer are so great that the fictional world he created inspires me to identify with him.
Years ago I inscribed these words from Proust to my daughter: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” At the time, I had no more idea of their context than I did for the famous Madeleine quote. Now that my friend and I have read In Search of Lost Time I know that the book is much more than the sum of its parts. Thanks to Marcel Proust I also know, more firmly than ever, that the way to realize my creative urgings is to look deep within my soul and that the time to do it is now.