Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"War," he said, "does not escape the laws of our old Hegel. It is a state of perpetual becoming."

The city seemed a formless and black mass which all of a sudden passed from the depth of night into a blaze of light, and in the sky, where one after another, the aviators rose amidst the shrieking wail of the sirens while, with a slower movement, more insidious and therefore more alarming, for it made one think they were seeking ah object still invisible but perhaps close to us, the searchlights swept unceasingly, scenting the enemy, encircling him with their beams until the instant when the pointed planes flashed like arrows in his wake. And in squadron after squadron the aviators darted from the city into the sky like Walkyries. Yet close to the ground, at the base of the houses, some spots were in high light and I told Saint-Loup, if he had been at home the evening before, he would have been able, while he contemplated the apocalypse in the sky, to see on the earth, as in the burial of the Comte d'Orgaz by Greco, where those contrasting planes are parallel, a regular vaudeville played by personages in night-gowns, whose Well-known names ought to have been sent to some successor of that Ferrari whose fashionable notes it had so often amused him and myself to parody. And we should have done so again that day as though there had been no war, although about a very "war-subject", the dread of zeppelins realised, the Duchesse de Guermantes superb in her night-dress, the Duc de Guermantes indescribable in his pink pyjamas and bath-gown, etc., etc.
I am about 105 pages into the final volume of Proust's In Search of My Lost Time Piece, and by gum, it's riveting stuff. The War as seen from Paris, by a non-combatant observer, the political and social changes brought by war and the shifting power between the middle classes and the nobility. Truly great stuff, electric, even if it is mostly Marcel reporting conversations he's had with Parisians about the war. I find it impossible to imagine Paris in a blackout, the streets empty. In 1916, Proust was 45 years old. It's unclear how old Marcel was that year.

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