Stiven Brajer o Marselu Prustu

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Muff, 1916.

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Muff, 1916.

I like to dive back into Proust from time to time. In fact, I recently reread „Swann’s Way“. It’s fascinating: What does Swann see in Odette? What does Odette represent? It’s a mystery! In fact, she’s not a pretty woman: she’s not especially charming or particularly intelligent—to tell the truth, she’s even quite homely! But Odette has managed to turn herself into a work of art. With her allure, her choice of clothing, the flowers that adorn her neckline, the way she holds her parasol as she strolls, she becomes an artwork. And later, in the Albertine cycle, the narrator is obsessed with the Venetian couturier Fortuny. Why? Because Fortuny transformed women into works of art.

Dugo me je ova Klimtova slika iritirala. Znam da sam negde ovu damu videla, ali gde i kojom prilikom – to nisam uspela da razumem. Onda, naišla sam na intervju koji je Stiven Brajer dao za New York Review of Books. Redovi citirani ispod slike usmerili su mi asocijativni tok upravo ka njoj. Prustov i Klimtov rad poklapaju se. Dama koketnog pogleda zapravo je Prustova Odeta de Kresi, junakinja romana „U traganju za izgubljenim vremenom“.

Stiven Brajer, iako pravnik, dugo se bavio filozofijom i literaturom iz sledećeg razloga:

In my view, only by studying the humanities can we hope to escape this fundamental limitation and understand how other people live. Because literature, history, or philosophy all provide extraordinary windows on the world. Foreign languages, too, are fundamental.

Upravo citirani redovi najbolje bi opisali moj odnos prema umetnosti, razlog moje fascinacije umetničkim formama, a naročito Pristovim delom, belle epoque epom.

U nastavku sledi nekoliko citata iz pomenutog intervjua koji svim ljubiteljima Prustovog dela i ličnosti mogu biti zanimljivi.

IK: The Recherche is a work of literature that you particularly cherish. Why? What was it in Proust’s novel that especially touched you?

SB: It’s all there in Proust—all mankind! Not only all the different character types, but also every emotion, every imaginable situation. Proust is a universal author: he can touch anyone, for different reasons; each of us can find some piece of himself in Proust, at different ages. For instance, the narrator of the Recherche is obsessed with the Duchesse de Guermantes. To him, Oriane embodies a slice of the history of France and glows like a stained-glass window, wreathed in the aura of her aristocratic lineage. Now, however different the situations may be, we have all of us—in our childhood, our adolescence, or later in life—admired from afar someone who has dazzled us for this reason or that. And when we read Proust, we get a glimpse of ourselves. In fact, I think that the only human emotion he never explored—because he never experienced it himself—was that of becoming a father.

What is most extraordinary about Proust is his ability to capture the subtlest nuances of human emotions, the slightest variations of the mind and the soul. To me, Proust is the Shakespeare of the inner world.

IK: What do you think of Proust’s characters?

SB: I find their complexity fascinating—both the main characters and the secondary ones. I am fascinated, for instance, by Françoise, the housekeeper and cook, first for the narrator’s great aunt at Combray and, after the aunt’s death, for the narrator’s own family in Paris. She embodies at the same time devotion itself and quite an extraordinary cruelty and lack of empathy. You can see it in her treatment of the kitchen maid, the one whom Swann compares to Giotto’s Charity, and whom Françoise orders to peel the asparagus even though the poor girl is allergic to it. Then there’s Dr. Cottard, who stands out for his dullness of wit in the circle of the Verdurins but who proves to be a veritable genius in the field of medicine. Or Bergotte, a great literary mind but a quite unremarkable man in society, a man who is chiefly fond of vicious gossip. It is these contradictory characteristics within a single person that are so interesting.