Proust and Schubert, Captive

Piazza San Marco, Venezia

Piazza San Marco, Venezia

Proust’s The Fugitive has taken me captive. Though I am nearing its end, because of the nature of its style, Proust requires a slow and not always continuous reading. Towards its conclusion it gathers an extraordinary density to and within itself and, furthermore, an extraordinary disposition to the refulgence of mortal change, the observations liberated therein expositions more and more vivid because of their resolute accuracy.

Marcel Proust : Albertine disparue

Marcel Proust : Albertine disparue

Proust does turn things inside out, even as one thinks one is getting closer to what his writings are about. But inversion depends upon one’s point of view, which itself is often inverted. Before the introduction of Venice in its actuality, he writes a long introspection of the themes, the matter, that comprises us. Although it runs contrary, inversely if you will, to what is asserted as conventional and incontrovertible wisdom, as common knowledge, as common sense, what Proust has reached into and made evident (which is different from plain) has an unexpected validity, something one may never have given a thought to. “… lying is often a trait of character … it is a natural defence, improvised at first, then more and more organised, against that sudden danger which would be capable of destroying all life: love.” Somewhat further on: “Then I ceased to think about this explanation and said to myself how difficult it is to know the truth in this world,” the section concluding with “Truth and life are very difficult to fathom, and I retained of them, without really having got to know them, an impression in which sadness was perhaps actually eclipsed by exhaustion.” Which is much my own sense. And I think of myself when I was in Venice, knowing now that neither I nor Venice is represented by memory. But which shaped much, at least of me, that continued to arise later.

Somewhat capriciously, I have been listening to Schubert’s piano sonatas once again; for they have eluded me. Even hearing András Schiff in concert play the last two three years ago only helped my awareness a little. A few years before this I had met Anton Kuerti at the Banff Centre, when he was again in residence and played free concerts, and when I, rather less importantly, was registrar there. But I purchased from him his recordings of all the Schubert sonatas. Yesterday evening, with the early A minor sonata, perhaps his playing is finally causing some relationship to open up. For it struck me differently. In reading Kuerti’s notes on this sonata he remarks Schubert’s predilection for the keys of A; and how the middle movement presages the final movement of D. 959, which I had heard Schiff play. It is not the only correlation, or continuance, or retrospection, that it has taken long for me to consciously be aware of, in this sonata. But I could not but think that Proust says more than is readily apparent; and, then is apparent in such a different, if perhaps simply the same, way, but removed by time from one another. Perhaps, like the work of Vinteuil, one is sonata, the other septet.

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