Finestre, serre, telescopi, acquari: lo sguardo dall'esterno nella descrizione proustiana

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Windows, greenhouses, telescopes, fishbowls: the external perspective in proustian descriptions. Even if few have read it entirely, Proust’s novel is undoubtedly famous: to this day in France the number of publications on Proust each year exceeds the number of those on Napoleon or De Gaulle, and the Recherche has been classified – not surprisingly – as a “lieu de mémoire”, place of the memory, in that huge work by Pierre Nora that collects all those ‘monuments’, be they architectural or just cultural, that constitute France’s memory and identity. The importance of the temporal structure in Proust’s work is also well known: any good textbook will quote the passage of ‘the madeleine’ describing the mechanism of involuntary memory which is often used to represent the meaning of the whole work by means of an extremely reductive synecdoche. No attempt will be made here to amend the wrongs that mythicization has done to Proust’s masterpiece. The aim of the present contribution will be rather to describe a small portion of that universe which seems significant and deserving of attention. Attention will be placed on a particular perspective, introduced in the French literary tradition by Baudelaire and taken up by Proust in a very idiosyncratic way, even if with aims not very different from those of his famous predecessor, whom Proust defined as “a true image of Michelangelo of our times”: the description of spaces observed from the outside. Indeed we are not aware of any systematic study dedicated to external perspective: by observing closed windows, stained glass windows, hidden and often imagined worlds, the reader is often sucked into a mysterious “eye of the cyclone” in which space and time in the end coincide. The passages related to such approach to Proust’s work are numerous, and would provide material for an extensive study. Only the most significant will be mentioned here, but the way is open to researches that are likely to be very insightful. Reversing our initial statement, space can be realized only in time, and not only in the Recherche, but in the human capacity to think of it. It is only in time that space can be reconstructed: in this way it will be possible to rediscover the intuitions of Baudelaire, who was the first to understand the appeal of a closed window and to consider poetry as a ‘phantasmagoria of memory’. The center of that “childish” perception that for Baudelaire is the imagination, a magic ability that allows the artist to perceive the harmony of the universe, is moved by Proust from the objectivity of the Absolute to the subjectivity of the spirit. Style is vision: observing and understanding the world in a certain way and being able to turn that perspective into an objective experience, so that also others may enter it and see for themselves. However, also for Proust art remains the only experience capable of generating metamorphosis and, consequently, truth. Reality understood as a geometrical and analytical space does not exist for Proust. Referring to verist-naturalist writing in an article in 1913, Proust defines it as “cette parodie de la vérité où le ‘néo-italianisme’ trouve le moyen de supprimer toute réalité véritable et profonde”. Looking at a closed window instead it is possible to gaze into time; to gaze at oneself into time.
Titolo tradotto del contributo[Autom. eng. transl.] Windows, greenhouses, telescopes, aquariums: the look from the outside in the Proustian description
Lingua originaleItalian
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteProust e lo spazio
Numero di pagine16
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2009


  • Proust
  • aquarium
  • description
  • space

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