Saturday, April 9, 2011

we love him, with a little dash of irony

Christina Stead didn't like Proust. "Dull Proust," she called him in a letter to her lover Bill Blake, who had written to her about some authors that he liked and didn't like, mentioning Joyce, Stendhal, Proust, and Balzac. "Everyone is mad about that dull Proust. Why? Old Balzac I suppose is one of my masters, I think more or less like him (at times -- though in César Birotteau there are some pages so exactly like yourself, when you are not too serious and a bit careless and this is when Balzac is rushing along -- that I open my eyes in amazement, have to laugh. Just exactly like, word for word.)"

"To love Balzac!" wrote Proust, forty years earlier (translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner). "Sainte-Beauve, who was so fond of defining what it meant to love someone, would have had his work cut out for him here. For with the other novelists, one loves them in submitting oneself to them; one receives the truth from a Tolstoi as from someone of greater scope and stature to oneself. With Balzac, we know all his vulgarities, and at first were often repelled by them; then we began to love him, then we smiled at all those sillinesses which are so typical of him; we love him, with a little dash of irony mixed in our affection; we know his aberrations, his shabby little tricks, and because they are so like him we love them."

A character in Anita Brookner's A Start in Life: "Most women are too young for Balzac."

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