No Comment, Quotation — March 28, 2008, 12:00 am

Proust on Art as Transcendence

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Par l’art seulement nous pouvons sortir de nous, savoir ce que voit un autre nous pouvons sortis de nous, savoir ce que voit un autre de cet univers qui n’est pas le même que le nôtre, et dont les paysages nous seraient restés aussi inconnus que ceux qu’il peut y avoir dans la lune. Grâce à l’art, au lieu de voir un seul monde, le nôtre, nous le voyons se multiplier, et, autant qu’il y a d’artistes originaux, autant nous avons de mondes à notre disposition, plus différents les uns des autres que ceux qui roulent dans l’infini et, bien des siècles après qu’est éteint le foyer don’t il émanait, qu’il s’appelât Rembrandt ou Ver Meer, nous envoient encore leur rayon spécial.

Ce travail de l’artiste, de chercher à apercevoir sous de la matière, sous de l’expérience, sous des mots quelque chose de différent, c’est exactement le travail inverse de chose de différent, c’est exactement le travail inverse de celui que, à chaque minute, quand nous vivons détourné de nous-même, l’amour-propre, la passion, l’intelligence, et l’habitude aussi accomplissent en nous, quand elles amassent au-dessus de nos impressions vraies, pour nous les cacher entièrement, les nomenclatures, les buts pratiques que nous appelons faussement la vie.

By art alone we are able to step outside of our selves, to know what another sees of this universe which is not the same as our own, the landscapes of which would remain as unknown to us as those of the moon. Through art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists as there are, so many worlds are offered up to us, each differing as widely from the next as those which roll round the infinite and which, be their name Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us their unique rays many centuries after the hearth from which they emanate is extinguished.

The artist’s labor to discover a means of understanding that transcends matter and experience, indeed words, something different from their appearance, is of a nature counterposed to the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit are constantly engaged within us when we spend our lives without self-communion, accumulating as though to hide our true impressions, the terminology for practical ends which we falsely call life.

Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, vol. vii, Le temps retrouvé, ch. iii (1927) in À la recherche du temps perdu, vol. 3, pp. 895-96 (Pléiade ed. 1954)(S.H. transl.)

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