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Marcel Proust

1871 – 1922 CE

Apostle of Ordinary Mind

Apostle of ordinary mind, the “Proustian moment,” and one of the world’s greatest novelists; Proust never worked a job, suffered ill health his entire life, lived with his parents, and spent his last years in bed sleeping all day and writing all night. W. Somerset Maugham called his 3200-page novel, In Search of Lost Time the "greatest fiction to date” and - a huge influence on modern writers - it’s Michael Chabon’s favorite book, in lists of top 10 greatest books of all time, and called "the most respected novel of the twentieth century." Abandoning dramatic action and complicated plot, his novels evoke the sacred in the commonplace, wonder and magic of ordinary experience, and propose art in everyday life as the true meaning of life deeper than all fame, fortune, pleasure, power, or even love.

Eras

Sources

In Search of Lost Time

Unlisted Sources

A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs

Albertine disparue

La Prisonniére

Le Temps retrouvé

Letter to an editor

Letter to his friend André Gide

The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Quotes by Marcel Proust (66 quotes)

“An hour is not just an hour, it is a vase full of perfume, sounds, projects, and moods.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Time Carpe diem

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Travel

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“What we call reality is a certain rapport between our sensations and the memories that encircle us at the same moment.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Reality

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“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Chapters: 73. Heaven’s Net

Themes: Openness

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“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Chapters: 12. This Over That

Themes: Imagination

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“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Chapters: 40. Returning

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“Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees... Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world—our own—we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Art

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“It is always during a passing state of mind that we make lasting resolutions.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“A fashionable milieu is one in which everybody's opinion is made up of the opinion of all the others. Has everybody a different opinion? Then it is a literary milieu.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“The time at our disposal each day is elastic; the passions we feel dilate it, those that inspire us shrink it, and habit fills it.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Change Delusion

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“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Time Confusion

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“Medicine—being a compendium of the successive and contradictory mistakes of medical practitioners—when we summon the wisest of them to our aid, the chances are that we may be relying on a scientific truth the error of which will be recognized n a few years' time.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Medicine

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“It has been said that the higher praise of God consists in the denial of Him by the atheist, who finds creation s perfect that he can dispense with a creator.”

Themes: God

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“In normal life, negligence deadens desire. Our laziness hides and incessantly delays projects, travels, love affairs, studies: our life. But life suddenly seems wonderful if we are threaten with death. We shouldn’t need a cataclysm to love life today. It should be enough to just realize that we are human and therefore death may come this evening.”

Themes: Appreciation

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“We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Travel Wisdom

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“In my most desperate moments, I have never conceived of anything more horrible than a law office.”

Themes: Law and Order

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“When we discover the true lives of other people, the real world beneath the world of appearance, we get as many surprises as on visiting a house of plain exterior which inside is full of hidden treasures, torture-chambers, or skeletons”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life—only an incitement—it can introduce us to it: it does not constitute it”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Love Illusion

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“We cannot be taught wisdom, we have to discover it for ourselves by a journey which no one can undertake fir us, an effort which no one can spare us.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Wisdom

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“To believe in medicine would be the height of folly, if not to believe in it were not a greater folly still.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Paradox Health

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“I adore certain symbols as much as you do. But it would be absurd to sacrifice to the symbol the reality which it symbolizes.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“There is no such thing as a beautiful prison.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Amorous curiosity is like the curiosity aroused in us by the names of places; perpetually disappointed, it revives and remains for ever insatiable.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“a makeshift lie is quickly forgotten... They pain us coming from a person whom we love, and thereby enable us to penetrate a little deeper in our knowledge of human nature instead of being content to play around on its surface”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“The only way to attack language is to attack it... there are no certainties, even grammatical ones... Every writer is obliged to create his own language, as every violinist is obliged to create his own 'tone'... they begin to write well only on condition that they're original, that they create their own language... only that which bears the imprint of our choice, our taste, our uncertainty, our desire and our weakness can be beautiful.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Infirmity alone makes us take notice and learn, and enables us to analyze processes which we would otherwise know nothing about.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Problems

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“Sometimes in the afternoon sky a white moon would creep up like a little cloud, furtive, without display, suggesting an actress who does not have to 'come on' for awhile, and so goes 'in front' in her ordinary clothes to watch the rest of the company but keeps in the background, not wishing to attract attention to herself.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Moon Anonymity

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“Friendship is in the end no more than a lie which seeks to make us believe that we are not irremediably alone”

from In Search of Lost Time

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“Friendship is in the end no more than a lie which seeks to make us believe that we are not irremediably alone”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Friendship

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“A book is the product of another self to the one we display in our habits, in society, in our vices.”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Books

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“Voluntary memory—the memory of the intellect and the eyes—[gives] us only imprecise facsimiles of the past which no more resemble it than pictures of bad painters resemble the spring... So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Memory Forget

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“the great painters initiate us into a knowledge and love of the external world… our eyes are opened… their charm and wisdom coats our most modest moments by initiating us into the life of still life.”

from Letter to an editor

Themes: Sacred World

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“True beauty is indeed the one thing incapable of answering the expectations of an over-romantic imagination... What disappointments has it not caused since it first appeared to the mass of mankind!”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Beauty

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“I believe—contrary to the fashion among our contemporaries—that one can have a very lofty idea of literature, and at the same time have a good-natured laugh at it.”

from Letter to his friend André Gide

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“The names of railway stations in a time table could offer far better value than fine volumes of philosophy. Linked to an order of reveries, one could imagine themselves stepping from the train on an autumn evening, when the trees are already bare and smelling strongly in the keen air”

Themes: Appreciation

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“The one thing more difficult that following a regimen is not imposing it on others.”

Themes: Fanaticism

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“The great quality of true art is that it rediscovers, grasps and reveals to us that reality far from which we live, from which we get farther and farther away as the conventional knowledge we substitute for it becomes thicker an more impermeable”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“The great quality of true art is that it rediscovers, grasps and reveals to us that reality far from which we live—from which we get farther and farther away as the conventional knowledge we substitute for it becomes thicker and more impermeable”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“The mind can be influenced like a plant, like a cell, like a chemical element; one has only to introduce it into a series of new circumstances or a new setting.

from In Search of Lost Time

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“The only paradise is paradise lost”

from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Shambhala

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“We know that our dreams are not realizable; but it is useful to have dreams in order to see them come to naught and to learn by their failure.”

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“We imagine the future as a reflection of the present projected into empty space, whereas it is the result—often the imminent result—of causes which for the most part escape us.”

from La Prisonniére

Themes: Karma

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“Unconsecrated unions produce relationships that are just as numerous and as complicated as those created by a marriage, but more solid.”

from La Prisonniére

Themes: Marriage

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“...the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment.”

Themes: Memory

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“For every malady that doctors cure with medicine, they produce ten in healthy people by inoculating them with that virus which is a thousand time more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill.”

Themes: Medicine Health

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“Our habits cling to us even when they no longer serve any purpose... The constancy of a habit is generally in direct ratio to its absurdity.”

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“To the bad habit of talking about oneself and one's faults must be added the related habit of criticizing the same faults in others. This is only a hidden manner of talking about oneself which combines the pleasure of absolution with that of confession.”

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“Poverty—more generous than wealth—gives women much more than the clothes they cannot buy: that is the desire for those clothes, which leads to the only true, detailed, and profound knowledge of them.”

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“Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces. Never will the world know all it owes to them nor all that they have suffered to enrich us.”

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“Our virtues are not something free and independent that we can always call upon... if a new situation arises, it takes us off our guard and we haven't the slightest idea that those same virtues could be called into play.”

from Albertine disparue

Themes: Virtue

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“adolescence is the only period during which we really leaned anything... later we see things from a more practical point of view in conformity with the rest of society”

from A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs

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“When we have gone beyond a certain age, the soul of the child we were and the souls of the dead from whom we descend come and shower upon us their riches and their evil spells.”

from La Prisonniére

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“Old age is like death in that some face it with indifference, not because they have more courage than others, but because they have less imagination.”

from Le Temps retrouvé

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“Simplicity delights only when others know that you can well afford not to be simple.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Simplicity

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“We soon forget whatever we have not thought about deeply, whatever is inspired by imitation or the passions of the moment which change and thereby modify our memory... society people remember almost nothing.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Forget

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“The practice of solitude engenders the love of solitude. Like anything important that we at first fear because we know it to be incompatible with lesser things we're attached to—pleasures which cease to please as soon as we have known solitude.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“Snobbery is a disease of the soul which, though serious, is localized and hence does not destroy in utterly.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“We say indeed that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we imagine that hour in a vague and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any relation the day already begun.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Death and Dying

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“In its ealy stage, love is shaped by desire; later on it is kept alive only by anxiety... It is born and it thrives only if something remains to be won. We love only what we do not completely possess.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Desire

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“It is not the joy of the present moment but the wise reflections of the past that help us to preserve the future.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“Just as the spectrum exteriorizes for us the composition of light, so the color of a Monet makes it possible for us to know the qualitative essence of another person's sensations.”

from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

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“If prostitutes themselves attract us so little, it is not because they are less beautiful than other women, but because they are ready and waiting; because they already offer us precisely what we seek to attain; it is because they are not conquests.”

Themes: Prostitution

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“Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments.”

from In Search of Lost Time

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Quotes about Marcel Proust (4 quotes)

“Like Proust, be an old teahead of time.”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE

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“If what Proust says is true, that happiness is the absence of fever, then I will never know happiness. For I am possessed by a fever for knowledge, experience, and creation.”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

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Maxims of Marcel Proust (1948)

"The best of Marcel Proust" according to translator Justin O'Brien who collected and translated short and provocative quotes from 17 volumes of Proust's writings.

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“a man who had spent the last 14 years lying in a narrow bed under a pile of thinly woven woolen blankets writing an unusually long novel without an adequate bedside lamp…. his friends were almost unanimous in suggesting that Proust had been a paragon of companionship, an embodiment of friendship’s every virtue.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life, 1997

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