May 8, 2011

Proust: Sodom and Gomorrah

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:20 by Miracle

“… might consciousness have the unreality of a dream?”

There was much apprehension on my part pertaining the pursuit of this volume. The title is rather self-evident. Sodom and Gomorrah probes into the realms of homosexuality – a subject which is nowadays prevalent but one which, frankly speaking, still leaves me uneasy. But such is Proust’s courage as an author. He does not leave a stone regarding human characteristic unturned.

I was tiptoeing throughout the entire book for fear that I might stumble upon obscenities that would make me shun Proust forever. Nevertheless, I reached the last page relieved and pleased that despite his honesty and boldness, his language was nowhere near vulgar as opposed to Truman Capote’s shocking jargon – for me at least – in Answered Prayers, which never got me further than the fourth page. (If one suspects that the comparison is unlawful, please be reminded that Capote maintained the idea that Answered Prayers would be a contemporary equivalent to In Search of Lost Time.)

Sodom and Gomorrah commences with our narrator accidentally witnessing a sexual encounter between the Baron de Charlus and another man. Proust is a homosexual, but since In Search of Lost Time is not entirely autobiographical but a conglomeration of real memories and what-could-have-beens in Proust’s life, our narrator remains masculine and is observer to the people whom he describes as “inverts”. As an observer, he neither attempts to defend homosexuality nor expresses what he deems to be right or wrong but presents truths without the usual prejudices.

However, “Sodom” is but only a part of the book. The volume touches different aspects of sexuality as Marcel’s romance with Albertine (whom he suspects to have affairs with her own sex) both inspires him and tears him apart. I believe this is the most heart-piercing volume so far.

“It was natural, and yet it was not without importance; they reminded me that it was my fate to pursue phantoms, creatures whose reality existed to a great extent in my imagination; for there are people – and this had been my case since youth – for whom all the things that have a fixed value, assessable by others, fortune, success, high positions, do not count; what they must have is phantoms.”

“I do not have an observant mind,” Marcel declares in page 473 despite his penetrating and extraordinary observations about life or about otherwise invisible details. But there might be truth in the statement, for I am verily convinced that since Proust is not satisfied in painting images but goes to the extent of making the reader touch and be touched, and be aware of life’s every fibre, it must have been the eyes of his heart that were wide open.

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