Monday, 9 June 2014

The smell of coffee and milk

If we see again a thing which we looked at formerly it brings back to us, together with our past vision, all the imagery with which it was instinct.

This is because objects — a book bound like others in its red cover — as soon as they have been perceived by us become something immaterial within us, partake of the same nature as our preoccupations or our feelings at that time and combine, indissolubly with them. A name read in a book of former; days contains within its syllables the swift wind and the brilliant sun of the moment when we read it.

In the slightest sensation conveyed by the humblest aliment, the smell of coffee and milk, we recover that vague hope of fine weather which enticed us when the day was dawning and the morning sky uncertain; a sun-ray is a vase filled with perfumes, with sounds, with moments, with various humours, with climates. It is that essence which art worthy of the name must express and if it fails, one can yet derive a lesson from its failure (while one can never derive anything from the successes of realism) namely that that essence is in a measure subjective and incommunicable.
Marcel Proust - À la recherche du temps perdu

We’ve neutralised much of this haven’t we? By bringing into the realm of scientific study the vast complexity of mental associations, we have tried to sidestep the compelling reality of subjective life.

Not only in popular psychology, but in a whole plethora of explanatory terms we use to cast a false aura of objectivity over our most implacable biases.

Yet Proust was right - as great writers so often are.


James Higham said...

a false aura of objectivity over our most implacable biases

That deserves to be framed on the wall behind glass.

Sam Vega said...

Agreed, James. It is a superb phrase.

Demetrius said...

First dunk your biscuit.

A K Haart said...

James and Sam - many thanks.

Demetrius - we're on fig biscuits at the moment which aren't the perfect dunker. Very cheap from Aldi though.