"... IN THE UNENDING AFTERNOON OF HER EYES..."
We drift from
Parisian museum to
as if calling upon
some grand home
and the paintings deign
to see us
we the tourist class.
We are caught
in a deluge.
The unrelenting rain
tears time off
the present moment
revealing the past underneath
an older century
How fragile are
les temps perdu.
I whistle a motif
from César Franck.
"What's that ?" you say
"...the National Anthem of our love!"
I gaze up at Proust's
102 boulevard Haussmann
now become a bank.
Imagine him there
glancing down at us
glancing up at him
the slight movement of blue satin drapes.
Or have I imagined him
as he imagines us
from another time
the rain obscuring us
each from the other.
"Love..." Marcel reminds me
“...is space and time.."
his voice almost lost
in the rain's din
"...measured by the heart.”
A French mum scolds her sulky child.
The rain reigns
By 1906, Proust’s parents had died, his brother had married, and he felt the family residence was too big. He moved to 102 Boulevard Haussmann(in the Ian Fleming novel Thunderball, it is described as "the solidest street in Paris" and the site of the headquarters of SPECTRE.) a building owned by his Uncle Louis, where he wrote the bulk of his work, mostly in bed.
Today the building belongs to the CIC bank, which has restored the bedroom, famously lined in cork for soundproofing, but the room’s contents are in the Musée Carnavalet, leaving the solitary chamber soulless..the silence listening to us not making a sound.
SPECTRE in some fictional alternative world still has its headquarters on Boulevard Haussmannn...a fact of which I was totally unaware being pulverised by rain and time....the moment coming apart at the seams.
A reconstruction, with original furniture, of the room where Marcel Proust wrote In search of lost time can be seen in Musée Carnavalet.
Off in a cramped corner were the reassembled pieces of furniture from Proust’s bedroom, including a five-paneled Chinese screen, a velvet armchair that belonged to his father and a writing desk, used mostly for piling books. He kept his notebooks and writing materials on an old rosewood end table beside the bed. Two other tables are adrift in this cramped tableau, one of which was used for his morning coffee tray, usually served with milk and croissants.
The original Boulevard Haussmann apartment was spacious but crammed with furniture, with double windows always covered by padded blue satin drapes. The bedspread was blue satin as well and there was a chandelier, which was never lit when Proust was working. The only light was from a long-stemmed, green-shaded lamp on the bedside table.
We were headed for the Musée Jacquemart-André, at 158 Boulevard Haussmann, the former home of banker and art collector Edouard André and his artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, recaptures the interior decor and lifestyle of respectable society. Proust was never a guest there, but he rotated in the same social circles, We were mere tourists...awed by the past.
As Beckett puts it in his essay on Proust...
"Life is habit. Or rather life is a succession of habits, since the individual is a succession of individuals; the world being a projection of the individual’s consciousness (an objectivation of the individual’s will, Schopenhauer would say), the pact must be continually renewed, the letter of safe-conduct brought up to date. The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day. Habit then is the generic term for the countless treaties concluded between the countless subjects that constitute the individual and their countless correlative objects."
This poem is one of the countless treaties various individuals of me made with the moment in time that was mine being shared with Proust.
The enigma of the “little phrase” that “swept over and enveloped” Swann “like a perfume or a caress..." still lingers on as maybe Frack or as Proust admitted in a letter to Camille Saint-Saëns. I rather prefer Franck's Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano for its perfect cyclic beauty and its gentle reflectiveness.
But it was Franck's gorgeous Symphony in D minor( and the transformations of its four-bar theme )that I was lost in that day and became for me the "...national anthem of our love."
“It is only through art that we can escape from ourselves and know how another person sees a universe which is not the same as our own and whose landscapes would otherwise have remained as unknown as any there may be on the moon.”
The title comes from a lovely phrase that has always haunted me...
"...calmly imprisoned in the unending afternoon of her eyes..."
THE GUERMANTES WAY - MARCEL PROUST.