Anne Carson

good evening welcome thank you for coming I’m very happy to be here and I hope that soon enough he will be too so the story so far in 2003 I decided to read Proust took me seven years I read it in French every morning at breakfast for about half an hour and I have to say it was one of the best seven years of my life and as those of you who’ve read Cruz know the interval of reading Cruz is immediately followed by something else that I call the desert of after Proust and it’s the space of life where all you want is for us to go on but there is no more and so for a while you kind of make do with other sorts of reading material biographies and literary studies of Proust and word indexes books by other people who write sort of similarly Proust and it’s all futile there is no more person that’s that eventually you accept this and settle back into the grave tedium of the life though Cruz anyway in that desert I decided to prolong the experience approved for a while by doing some research and I researched the character called albertine and wrote up my research in the form of 59 paragraphs numbered paragraphs as Norman mentioned which I will read to you the Albertine workout I number my paragraphs for two reasons one it makes me feel like pickin Stein – from your point of view the audience to hear the paragraphs flashing by with numbers on them gives the sensation of hope the Albertine workout one Albertine the name is not a common name for a girl in France although Albert is widespread for a boy – Albert teens name occurs 2,360 three times in Proust novel more than any other character three Albertine herself is present or mentioned on 807 pages of Proust novel for on a good 19% of these pages she is asleep five Albertine is believed by some critics including Andre sheet to be a disguised version of proofs chauffeur Alfred Agustin le this is called the transposition theory six Albertine constitutes a romantic psycho sexual and moral obsession for the narrator of the novel mainly throughout vol 5 while Proust seven-volume in the play at Edition work 7 vol 5 is called lapses on the air French and the captive in English it was declared by Roger set up a world expert on Proust in his award-winning 1974 study to be the one volume of the novel that a time pressed reader may safely and entirely skip 8 the problems of albertine are from the narrator’s point of view a lying be lesbianism from Albert Eanes point of view a being imprisoned in the narrator’s house 9 for bad taste in music although several times remarked on it’s not a problem 10 Albertine does not call the narrator by his name anywhere in the novel nor does anyone else the narrator hints that his first name might be the same first name as that of the author of the novel that is Marcel let’s go with that eleven Albertine denies she is a lesbian when Marcel questions her 12 her friends are all

lesbians thirteen denials fascinate him 14 her friends fascinate him too especially by their contrast with his friends were gay but very closeted her friends parade themselves at the beach and kissed in restaurants 15 despite intense and deciduous questioning Marcel cannot discover what exactly it is that women do together this palpitating specificity email pleasure as he calls it 16 Albertine says she does not know 17 once albertine has been imprisoned by Marcel in his house his feelings change it was her freedom that first attracted him the way the wind bellowed in her garments this attraction is now replaced by a feeling of ennui boredom she becomes as he says a heavy slave 18 this is predictable given Marcel’s theory of desire which equates possession of another person with erasure of the other nests of her mind while at the same time positing other nests as what makes another person desirable 19 and in point of fact how can he possess her mind if she is a lesbian 20 his fascination continues 21 albertine is a girl in a flat sports cap pushing her bicycle across the beach when Marcel first sees her he keeps going back to this image 22 Albertine has no family profession or prospects she is soon installed in Marcel’s house there she has a separate bedroom he emphasizes that she is nonetheless an obedient person see above on albertine as any slave twenty-three albertans face is sweet and beautiful from the front but from the side has a hook-nosed aspect that fills Marceau with horror he would take her face in his hands and reposition it 24 the state of albertine that most pleases Marcel is albertine asleep 25 by falling asleep she becomes a plant he says 26 plants do not actually sleep nor do they lie or even Bluff they do however expose their genitalia 27 a sometimes in her sleep Albertine throws off her kimono and lies naked 27 feet sometimes then Marcel possesses her 27c Albertine appears not to wake up 28 marcel appears to think he is the master of such moments 29 perhaps he is at this point parenthetically if we had time several observations could be made about the similarity between albertine and aphelion Hamlet’s of hylia starting from the sexual life of plants which Proust and Shakespeare equally enjoy using as a language of female desire albertine like Ophelia embodies for her lover blooming girlhood but also castration casualty threat and pure obstacle albertine like Ophelia is condemned for a voracious sexual appetite whose expression and denied her Oh Helia takes sexual appetite into the river and drowns it and then water plants Albertine distorts hers into the false consciousness we plant in both scenarios the man appears to be in control of the script yet he gets himself tangled up in the wilds of the woman on the other hand who is bluffing who is hard to say thirty Albert Eames laughs has the colour and smell of a geranium 31 Marcel gives albertine the idea that he intends to marry her but he does not she bores him 32 Albert Eames eyes are blue and saucy her hair is like crinkly black violets 33 Albertans behavior in the Marcel’s household is that of a domestic animal which enters any door it finds open or comes to lie beside its master on his bed making the place for itself Marcel

has to train albertine not to come into his room until he rings for her 34 Marcel gradually manages to separate a routine from all her friends whom he regards as evil influences 35 Marcel never says the word lesbian to albertine he says the kind of woman I have checked to 36 albertine denies she knows any such women Marcel assumes she is lying 37 at first albertine has no individuality indeed Marcel cannot distinguish her from her girlfriends or remember their names or decide which to pursue they form a freeze in his mind pushing their bicycles across the beach with the blue waves breaking behind them 38 this pictorial multiplicity of Albertine evolves gradually into a plastic and moral multiplicity Albertine is not the solid object she is unknowable when he brings his face close to hers to kiss she is ten different albertine in succession 39 one night albertine goes dancing with a girlfriend at the casino 40 when questioned about this she lies 41 albertine is not a natural liar 42 Albertine lies so much and so badly that Marcel is drawn into the game he lies 243 Marcel’s jealousy impotence and desire are all exasperated to their highest pitch by the game 44 who is bluffing whom is hard to say see above on Hamlet 45 near the end of volume 5 albertine finally runs away vanishing into the night and leaving the window open Marcel fusses in fumes and writes her a letter in which he claims he had just decided to buy her a yacht and rolls-royce when she disappeared now he will have to cancel those orders the yacht had a price tag of 27 thousand francs about $75,000 and was to be engraved at the prow with her favorite stanza of a poem by Millar May 46 albertans death in a riding accident on page 642 of volume 5 does not emancipate Marcel from jealousy it removes only one of the innumerable Albert Eames he would have to forget a jealous lover cannot rest until he is able to touch all the points in space and time ever occupied by the beloved 47 there is no right or wrong in Proust says Samuel Beckett and I believe it a bluffing however remains a gray area 48 that’s returned to the transposition theory 49 on May 30th 1914 French newspapers reported that Alfred Acosta le a student aviator fell from his machine into the Mediterranean Sea near on TV and was drowned Acosta Nellie you recall was the chauffeur whom Proust in letters to friends admitted that he not only love but adored Proust had bought Alfred the Arab thing which cost 27 thousand francs about seventy five thousand dollars and had had it engraved on the fuselage with us stanza on my arm a priest also paid for Alfred’s fly lessons and registered him at the flying school under the name Marcel Swann the flying school was in Monaco in order to spy on Alfred Lottie was there first and another favorite manservant whose name was Albert fifty compare and contrast Albertans sudden fictional death by runaway horse with Alfred in Austin le sudden real-life death by runaway plane poignant Lee both unfortunate beloved’s managed to speak to his or her lover from the wild blue yonder Agosta Nellie before setting out for his final flight had written a long letter which Bruce was heartbroken to receive the day after

the plane crash transposed to the novel his exit scene becomes one of the weirdest in fiction 51 several weeks after accepting the news that Albertine has been thrown from her horse and killed marcel gets a telegram you think me dead but I’m alive along to see you affectionately Albertine Marcel agonizes for days about this news and debates with self whether he could possibly resume relations with her only to realize that the signature on a telegram has been misread by the telegraph operator it is not from albertine at all but from another long-lost girlfriend whose names you’ll Barrett shares in central letters with Albert Eames name fifty to one only loves that which one does not entirely possess since Marcel fifty-three there are four ways Albertine is able to be not entirely possessed in Volume five by sleeping by lying by being a lesbian or by being dead 54 only the first three of these can she Bluff 55 Bruce was still correcting a typescript of lactose on the air on his deathbed November 1922 it was fine tuning the character of albertine and working into her speech certain phrases from Alfred Agosta Nellie’s final letter 56 it is always tricky the question whether to read an author’s work in light of his life or not 57 granted the transposition theory is a graceless intrusion at saddening hermeneutic mechanism in a case of Proust it is also irresistible here is one final spark to be struck from rubbing alfred against albertine as it were let’s consider this stanza of poetry that proves that inscribed on the shoes of Lodge of Alfred’s playing the same verse that Marcel promises to engrave on the prow of Albertans yacht from her favorite poem he says it is four verses of malhomme about his fawn that finds itself frozen into the ice of a lake in winter swans are of course migratory birds this one for some reason failed to fly off with its fellow swans when the time came but a weird and lonely shadow to cast on these two love affairs the fictional and the real what a desperate analogy to offer of the lovers final wintery paranoia of possession as Hamlet says to Ophelia accurately but ruthlessly you should not believe me fifty-eight here’s the stanza of mallarme in English a swan of olden times remembers that it is he the one magnificent but without hope of setting himself free for he failed to sing over region for the day when barren winter burned all around him with ennui fifty-nine everything indeed is at least double lapras on year 83 62 not really because here’s what happens Reid proves to come to the end can’t stand it you just don’t measure it come to the end can’t stand it so guess what you’re right time appended to the 59 paragraphs 59 appendices of which actually read to you a selection of the most useful but first I have to get a bit of water paper it’s really dry running out of me okay appendix four on Samuel Beckett have it suffering boredom memory tea drinking tea biscuits and the

inscrutable banality of existence our topics Beckett and Troost have in common they anatomize it differently what is located in the head the mouth or the mind for Proust moves lower down the body in Beckett for example in the scene of dipping the Madeleine in tea which transports Marcel to metaphysical reverie Marcel’s first follow of T is followed by a second and a third for he wants to go on researching this unexpected bliss and he is disappointed to find the sensation diminishes with repetition he says I drink a second mouthful in which I find nothing more than in the first 1/3 that gives me a little less than a second compare the tea drinking protagonist Murphy from page 49 of Samuel Beckett’s novel of that name the sensation of the seat of a chair coming together with his dropping posteriors was at last so delicious that he rose again at once and repeated the sip lingeringly and with intense concentration Murphy did not so often meet with these tendencies that he could afford to treat them casually the second set however was a great disappointment Beckett is generally speaking more interested in the posterior of the body than Proust see for example Beckett’s character PIM stabbed in the bomb with a can opener or crap lamenting his bowels while he goes on eating bananas or the wealth of anal discourse in Murphy or the extents of excremental izing of the world in the diction of Vladimir and Estragon not to mention that its own renaming of the publisher chatto and windus rejected his a collection of poems in 1934 as shut up on and window appendix 15a on adjectives adjectives are the handles of being now his name the world adjectives let you get hold of the name and keep it from flying all over your mind like a pre-socratic explanation of the cosmos air for example in troost can be adjectives Lee gummi flaked squeezed frayed pressed or percolated in the one powdery crumbling in bombed distilled scattered liquid or volatilized in boot to woven or brittle in book three congealed in book four melted glazed actual elastic fermenting contracted distended in book five solidified in book six and there seems to be no air at all at book seven I can see very little value with this kind of information but making such lists is some of the best fun you’ll have once you enter the desert of after proofs appendix 15 e on adjectives but let us not overlook the suggestion made in 1971 by that late born pre-socratic philosopher roland bart namely to craft a language with no adjectives at all thereby to outwit the fascism of language and to maintain the Utopia of suppressed meaning as he deliriously puts it when I used to play prisoners base in the Luxembourg as a child sent apart what I liked best was to free all the prisoners putting both teams back into circulation and starting the game over at zero clearly these are waters too deep for a mere appendix to attempt although I recommend to your private inquiry Roland Bart’s lifelong easiness with competition his mistrust of binary situations and his dreamy commitment to a third language in which we would all be exempt from meaning panting seven teen on the second paradox of Z know the people Marcel loves are people in motion like Albertine always feeding off somewhere on a bike on a train in a car on a horse or flown out the window like Marcel’s mother perpetually on her way up the stairs to kiss him goodnight like his grandmother who strides up and down the garden every evening for her constitutional even when it’s pouring rain or like his friend roverís and blue whom we first glimpse scampering along the top of the banquette in a restaurant

to fetch a coat from ourselves sits huddled and shivering at a table Marcel is the still center of all this kinetic activity he is like the flying arrow and zeno of second paradox which is shot from the bow but never arrives at its target because it does not move why does xenos arrow not move because this is Aristotle’s explanation the motion of the arrow would be a series of instants and that each instant the arrow fills the entire space of that instant and this Xena would say is a description of stillness so if you add all the instance of skill together you still get still no one would deny that Proust novel streams with time and with arrows shooting in all directions but you could also think of the whole thing in your mind is one big stopped instant since it takes Marcel in the entire 3,000 pages of the story to get around to the point of beginning to write it on the last page he shoots his arrow but he does see no one better he shoots it backwards since you have just finished reading the novel he is proposing to write it gives me a bit of a headache to think about Zeno and his paradoxes for very long although I enjoy his deadpan livery here’s a shot of Zeno antidote from that devoted Proust scholar filmmaker Chris Marker this is from this film salsa way that is how history advances plugging its memory as one plugs one’s ears but a moment stopped would burn like a flame of film blocked before the furnace of the projector appendix 19 on saint cecilia albertine is a person in motion see appendix 17 and her ability to flee or evade marcel forms the significant part of her desirability even when you watch as her sitting still playing the piano he imagines her legs and feet on the pedals as the legs and feet of a girl on a bicycle pumping up and down he then compares her to Saint Cecilia patron of music seated at the organ this analogy can be traced to an article Cruz wrote for Figaro in 1907 about his travels in Normandy with his chauffeur Alfred Agustin le whom he likewise compares to saint cecilia saint of the organ appendix 20 off speed the speed limit in 1907 in France was 15 km/h when he drove cruised around Normandy Alfred Augusta Nellie must at times have exceeded this limit for according to the 1907 article in Figaro to drive with Alfred was like being shot from a cannon Alfred’s driving costume consisted of a rubber mantle and rubber hood which proof says make him look like a nun of speed appendix 21 on nuns a small important cape called a Madeleine was invented by a deposed king of Poland whose pastry chefs name was Madeleine subsequently Madeline’s were made by order of nuns using the original recipe until the French Revolution of moloch convents nowadays you can get the recipe from Julia Child or off the web it is an odd and probably accidental fact that the other famous Madeleine of our cultural heritage the heroine of Hitchcock’s vertigo Falls to her death from a church tower at the end of the film because she is startled by a nun we might in general wonder how familiar each was with Proust novel certainly the movie plunges us into problems of memory and time while featuring a heroine who dies twice and whose desirability is secured by constant lying or we could say one gigantic bluff at the same time it would be nice to think that proved somehow saw her to go the final moments of his novel are so gripped by this sensation here is Marcel on the last page contemplating the task of writing before him a feeling of vertigo seized me as I saw below me

and yet within me as if I were miles high so many years of time appendix 29 on kimonos knowledge of other people is unendurable Japanese kimonos were in style in Paris in the 20s they had been redesigned for the European market with less sleeve and more pocket Albertine keeps all her letters in the pocket of the kimono that she so carelessly tosses over a chair in Marcel’s room just before falling asleep the truth about albertine is that clothes Marcel does not investigate knowledge of other people is unendurable appendix 32 on slavery ourselves use of the phrase heavy slave bothers me a certain master slave tonality in Marcel’s relationships with other people overall bothers me what makes us lave heavy does she have a heavy skin heavy step heavy jokes having childhood does she come from a heavy nation or a hair to a heavy philosophy of life does she speak with a heavy accent does she have a heavy reason for doing everything you tell her does a heavy slave apply light master let’s say you want to get rid of the slave do you use a heavier weapon than you need for the master or will any light to medium implement do say a runaway horse or an early winter how about bluffing the slave into thinking she’s winning the game you play everyday with the kimono and the trick questions do you have the stamina for that and will you miss it when it ends and how do all these things bear upon the difference between metaphor and metonymy sorry this appendix cut away on me appendix 33 a on the difference between metaphor and metonymy since this question has arisen here’s the difference in a group of children asked to respond to the word Hut some said a small Kevin some said it burned down appendix 33 v no I’m not the difference between metaphor metonymy now that I give that second thought the difference between a small cabin and it burned down doesn’t illuminate a thing about metaphor metonymy turbulent it does however speak to the fragility of the adventure of thinking the day I decided to figure out metaphor and metonymy once and for all I went to the library owner natural books read different parts of all of them wrote some wild notes on scraps of paper and went home hoping to sort out my notes the following day the following day among my notes which by then had somehow become disorganized and unintelligible I found this haunting an exemplary small cabin that may or may not have burned down and although I could remember its context and neglected to record its provenance and didn’t really grasp its relevance for metaphor metonymy the small cabin called out to me not to forsaken it remains a very good example we just don’t know of what appendix 34 on getting rid of your slave it occurs to me that a novelist has the option to disenfranchise disempower or delete his slave grammatically by taking away the part of speech in which she acts as a subject connected to a predicate so Marcel’s ultimate reference to albertine on the last page of the novel is the sentence without a main verb profound albertine whom I saw sleeping and who was dead pendeks forty on sleep theory it has been a philosophic cliche enterocolitis that human beings in general are sleep walkers that is he says most people spend their lives asleep and only the special man that is a certain kind of philosopher that is Heraclitus is

properly awake and alert but this is not a distinction proof spawns to draw he woke swept aside by something that had passed on the wrong shore and his heart broke he lay puzzled by this then got up to write a letter dear Heraclitus he wrote theory is good but it doesn’t prevent things from the existing appendix 53 on the bluff bluff the noun means in English originally the blinker for a horse as for example in its earliest recorded usage by a certain Darwin in a paper entitled squinting published in 1777 bluff the verb of etymology quite unknown was used from as early as 1674 to mean to blindfold or would wake an animal or to impose upon an opponent as to the value of one’s hand at cards in poker bluff the noun and Bluff the verb may be translated into French as Lu bluff and bluff a respectively anglicisms Proust avoids the verb Bluff a but uses lib love three times of interactions between Albertine and Marcel he points out the difference between bluffing and poker and bluffing in love namely that a card game is played in the present tense and all that matters is victory but love reaches in to past and future and fantasy it’s suffering consists in positing to those realms all that the bluff conceals appendix 59 on a bad foot graph in a celebrated biography of Proust today’s is a small poorly reproduced 1907 photo of Proust and Alfred Agosta Nelly seated in their motor vehicle dressed for a journey Proust swathe in a great coat one leg crossed over the other looks puffy and already bored with her ever they’re going acosta Nelly is gripping the steering wheel suited up in his nun of speed costume with eyes fixed fiercely on the horizon it would be one of those photographs that arouses nearly a docile interest in his then forgotten as barb says a photograph with no fissure or no pump tongue to draw you in and disturb you except for the posture of Alfred aghast in Ellie’s head for he has thrust his head back at an angle suggesting the velocity of their forward motion but of course they are sitting stock still in the car you cannot help but wonder if it gave him a pain in the neck to hold his head that way for the numerous minutes of the exposure or what the two of them talked about under their breath that day as the photographer fiddled with his lenses and the cicadas sang in the Hawthorne hedge and a summer afternoon at the farthest edge of human love extended itself before them into apparently eternity maybe they discussed a small cabin maybe it burned down