In contrast, Primitivist artistic approaches recognized the value of artistic artifacts created by so-called primitives, and found in them a reservoir of forms and inspiration from Gauguin to the Fauves and the Cubists, with Picasso at the helm.
Are they reflected in his novel? In what follows, my first foray into these questions, we will discover, even in an all too summary fashion, a less familiar side of Proust. Du cote de chez Swann appeared in , the same year in which The Rite of Spring unleashed its organic rhythms and pagan dances at the ees, and in which Apollinaire published Alcools. Theatre des Champs-Elys It is difficult to picture in Prousts bedroom the fetishes from Oceania and Guinea6 evoked in the poets chambers at the end of Zone, or to imagine that he could have frequented the Musee dEthnographie du Trocadero as assiduously as Picasso who, in the process of creating the Demoiselles dAvignon, experienced a kind of epiphany looking at African masks.
Several passages in the Recherche attest to it. The heros mother humorously compares the petty social conquests of Madame Swann to trophies brought back from a colonial war I saw Mme Swann in all her war-paint; she must have been embarking on some triumphant offensive against the Massachutoes, or the Singhalese, or the Tromberts; Now that the Tromberts have been subdued, the. Odette, when she was still a cocotte, collected in the Rue La Perouse and here the name of the famous navigator was perhaps not given by accident her animals carved in precious stones, her fetishes 2: , trans.
Instead, a detour through representations of the supposed primitives in the Recherche will allow us to discover the development of a critique albeit incomplete of colonialism and ethnocentrism. Me blackie, he said angrily to Mme Blatin, but you, harpy! The anecdote is attested in a letter, where it concerns a Senegalese man Corr xiv, 45 ; it shows that Proust is perfectly aware of the intellectual sophistication of the so-called inferiors.
Elsewhere, he transposes this racial contempt into social contempt: a royal the Princess of Luxembourg, often followed by a little negro page, dressed in red satin treats two bourgeois namely the hero and his grandmother as she would animals in a zoo: they are loveable beasts, duck[s], or antelope[s], who by a miraculous stride in evolution have somehow attained a level not quite so low in the scale of creation, which is to say, the level of young children 2: ; ii, In a similar fashion, M.
Yet the no less aristocratic Prince of Agrigente is soon, in turn, reduced to a state of inferiority by the hero, who goes as far as to call him a vulgar. I could discern the nature of the beast.
She was a royal personage 3: ; ii, In this system, the dominated effectively turn back such de- or sub-humanizing gestures on the dominators, provoking a reversal of positions, and thus an equalization. The discourse of the novel also humorously casts doubt on the existence of cultural difference between human populations, and therefore on the possibility of encountering genuine alterity.
Any ethnographer exposes himself to deception and disillusion, like the hero who is finally introduced to the Guermantes circle and who believes himself able, in turn, to treat them as natives: After having scaled the inaccessible heights of the name Guermantes, on descending the inner slope of the life of the Duchess, I felt.
The savage reads Voltaire.
- Rahel Varnhagen und die Berliner Salons (German Edition).
- File Under Oblivion: A Horror Story.
- Mehr Lebensqualität durch gelebte Spiritualität (German Edition);
- The Book of Kells;
- ISBN 13: 9782296087682;
- Guide Proust Portrait Peinture (Universités - Domaine littéraire) (French Edition).
- La Damnation de Faust (French Edition).
Cultural competence, taste, refinement these are not functions of geography, nor even of history, since, according to Proust, the same optical illusion distorts our relationship to the past: it is as though we imagined [Homer and Hannibal] to be as remote from ourselves as an animal seen in the zoo 3: ; ii, We find ourselves adopting, with regards to figures of the remote past, the same unjustifiable perspective as the Princess of Luxembourg who, incapable of acknowledging her natural equality with so-called inferior races or classes, transforms them into animals. The choice of great figures like Homer or Hannibal comically underscores the error of her approach.
Yet this gradual refamiliarization of a world where there would exist no inferior or primitive populations appears to come up against clusters of irreducible foreignness. In the Recherche, two social groups are repeatedly compared to primitives, and the term in these cases is used to connote a kind of savagery. First, the inverts: in Sodome et Gomorrhe II we witness an amusing mixup between Charlus and Cottard, as the baron takes the doctors hand and is he not, after all, a royal like the Princess of Luxembourg? The originality of this passage, in relation to others cited above, is less in the mirroring of deprecating points of view that identify the other with an animal or a savage, than in their simultaneity, since each character, occupied as he is with treating his neighbor as an inferior, is blind to the judgment of which he is himself the object at the same moment.
A second social group finds itself, somewhat more unexpectedly, compared with primitive men and savage tribes: the servants. Perhaps it was not a supernatural power, but could have been explained by sources of information that were peculiar to herself: as it may happen that the news which often reaches a savage tribe several days before the post has brought it to the European colony has really been transmitted to them not by telepathy but from hill-top to hill-top by beacon fires. Some readers may be troubled by the dichotomy between the us of the familial clan and the she of the servant, an opposition grounded in the first.
Here again, this double opposition which covers the two types, historical and geographical, of so-called primitive populations is not reversible, contrary to that which marks the encounter between aristocrats and bourgeois, or between natives and Europeans: here, no equalization is possible, places cannot be exchanged. Paradoxically, the dissymmetry is not founded on reciprocal contempt, but rests rather on the recognition of a form of superiority in the other race: the mysterious superiority of the primitive over the civilized, a reversal carrying a seemingly fraught sense of fear.
To support this hypothesis, let us examine, as it appears in a notebook, Cahier 60, the following unpublished passage, which was written to complete the text of Sodome et Gomorrhe II. Des valets de pied du prince, dune epoque plus recente passaient silencieusement dans les portes, sans vous froler. De plus anciens se tenaient perches, loeil percant, sans remuer. The princes footmen, from a more recent era, passed silently through the doors without even brushing against you.
More ancient ones stood perched above, with piercing eyes, without moving. All belonged to a people as little known as the. Sublime bursts traverse their obscure mentality incapable of sustained reflections, applied only to limited crafts, and to occult divinations. The servants primitiveness is ambivalent.
Macno (detebe) (German Edition)
On the one hand, its extreme character is the basis of a certain ontological superiority: their nature is, paradoxically, aristocratic, even divine. According to contemporary guidebooks, a collection of terracotta statuettes and masks representing various major gods in the primitive Mexican pantheon were on display at the Musee dEthnographie. The reference to Mesoamerican pottery, in any case, did not make it into the definitive version of the text.
Proust rewrites the passage in the same Cahier He places it in a different context, that of the Grand-Hotel de Balbec, the director having engaged a staff belonging in part to that same ancient race that served at the Hotel de Guermantes. Mais M. Mais les chambres etaient eclairees. But M. Nissim Bernard took no notice of Aime, nor of the other members of the Etruscan race, not that they, themselves, wouldnt have pleased him.
But the chambers were all lit up. In this passage, we find inverts and servants, the two groups of irreducible strangeness unsurprisingly, perhaps mixing together and understanding each other, neighboring races of savages and of primitives. In the published version of the novel, Proust combines the two passages from Cahier 60 in a condensed form: Like all the chefs detage of the Balbec hotel, like several of the Prince de Guermantess footmen, Aime belonged to a race more ancient than that of the Prince, and therefore more noble.
When one asked for a private room, one thought at first that one was alone. But presently, in the pantry, one caught sight of a sculptural waiter, of that ruddy Etruscan kind of which Aime was the epitome, slightly aged by excessive consumption of champagne and seeing the inevitable hour for mineral water approach. Not all the guests asked them merely to wait upon them. The ruddy Etruscan kind typified by the chef detage Aime condenses antiquity and exoticism, since ruddy evokes the color of Mesoamerican pottery, through the coppery tones mentioned in the preceding passage.
Despite the work of condensation over the course of these rewritings, the definitive version preserves what I would argue is the key aspect of the original passage: the servant, that most familiar and well-known figure in a word, the domestic paradoxically contains a superlative strangeness. It is tempting to relate this presence of the most foreign at the heart of the most familiar to a Freudian category a concept being elaborated during the same period, it is worth noting : the Unheimlich ,18 in English, the uncanny.
The figure of the servant would then be, in a certain sense, the Proustian figuration of the uncanny, allegorized through either the prehistoric or the exotic primitive. To put it differently, if Proust did not decorate his room, like Apollinaire, with fetishes from Oceania and Guinea, it is because he did not need them: he knew that the primitive is already there, at home, without the necessity of resorting to the mediation of artistic artifacts in order to approach it. Lodged in the closest of proximities under the guise of the social figure of the servant and of the invert , that irreducible strangeness is shown to already inhabit the self.
In order to accede to the power of the imaginary contained within this intimate primitive dimension, the Proustian world bypasses a detour through the fetish, and contents itself with the transformation the metaphor produced by the gaze. Consequently, the transmutation of the servants into statues or into animals: immobile birds of prey in this example, greyhounds in Un amour de Swann stems less from a process of aestheticization or idolatrous perversion, as it is too often claimed than from an apotropaic gesture, an attempt at imaginary conjuration and domination. Art regains its magic function.
Let us reexamine the end of the grandmothers agony: My grandmother too tried to lift up her face to Mammas. It was so altered that probably, had she been strong enough to go out, she would have been recognised only by the feather in her hat. Her features, as though during a modeling session, seemed to be straining, with an effort which distracted her from everything else, to conform to some particular model which we failed to identify. The work of the sculptor was nearing its end, and if my grandmothers face had shrunk in the process, it had at the same time hardened. The veins that traversed it seemed those not of marble, but of some more rugged stone.
Permanently thrust forward by the difficulty that she found in breathing, and as permanently withdrawn into itself by exhaustion, her face, worn, diminished, terrifyingly expressive, seemed as in a primitive, almost prehistoric sculpture like the rude, purplish, russet, desperate face of some savage guardian of a tomb.
Guide Proust Portrait Peinture (Universités - Domaine littéraire) (French Edition)
The grandmothers terrifying metamorphosis into a primitive sculpture and this metamorphosis is a late addition, like the passage from Cahier 60, which appeared in in the successive galleys and proofs of Le Cote. The narrator, necessarily, is one of them, to use a favorite expression of his 5: ; iii, : he is subject to these same Primitivist paradigms.
This would explain why Francoise herself who is compared, as we have seen, to primitive men and to a member of some savage tribe ultimately assists him in his work of creation. Let us also note that the author of the work in question, like so many primitive works, remains anonymous. From the opening of the novel, in a passage added in to the galleys of Du cote de chez Swann, the narrator, disoriented by his nocturnal awakenings, presents himself as inferior and anterior to even a prehistoric humanity: when I awoke in the middle of the night, not knowing where I was, I could not even be sure at first who I was; I had only the most rudimentary sense of existence, such as may lurk and flicker in the depths of an animals consciousness; I was more destitute than the cave-dweller.
Related Proust Portrait Peinture (Universités - Domaine littéraire) (French Edition)
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