"It had at once suggested to him a world... of inexpressible delights, of whose existence, before hearing it, he had never dreamed, into which he felt that nothing else could initiate him... when he returned home he felt the need of it: he was like a man into whose life a woman he has seen for a moment passing by has brought the image of a new beauty which deepens his own sensibility, although he does not even know her name or whether he will ever see her again.
Indeed this passion for a phrase of music seemed, for a time, to open up before Swann the possibility of a rejuvenation. He had so long ceased to direct his life towards any ideal goal, confining himself to the pursuit of ephemeral satisfaction, that he had come to believe, without ever admitting it to himself... that he would remain in that condition for the rest of his days.
.... He would be extremely precise about the recipe for a dish, the dates of a painter's birth and death, and the titles of his works. Sometimes, in spite of himself, he would let himself go so far as to express an opinion on a work of art, or on someone's interpretation of life, bu then he would cloak his words in a tone of irony, as though he did not altogether associate himself with what he was saying.
...But that night, at Mme Verdurin's, scarcely had the young pianist begun to play than suddenly, after a high note sustained through two whole bars, Swann sensed its approach, stealing forth from beneath that long-drawn sonority, stretched like a curtain of sound to veil the mystery of its incubation, and recognized, secret, murmuring, detached, the airy and perfumed phrase that he had loved. And it was so peculiarly itself, it had so individual, so irreplaceable a charm, that Swann felt as though he had met, in a friend's drawing-room, a woman whom he had seen and admired in the street and had despaired of ever seeing again. Finally the phrase receded, diligently guiding its successors through the ramifications of its fragrance, leaving on Swann's features the reflection of its smile.
But now, at last, he could ask the name of his fair unknown (and was told that it was the andante of Vinteuil's sonota for piano and violin); he held it safe, could have it again to himself, at home, as often as he wished, could study its language and acquire its secret."
-Remembrance of Things Past, Vol 1: Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust.
Here with the night, I take a breath and close the pages, I remember a song.
"There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea..."
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn-
P.Z. West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
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