Monday, October 26, 2009

The orchard and the cupboard

Marcel Proust, "Combray," Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis:
My aunt effectively confined her life to two adjoining rooms, staying in one of them in the afternoon while the other was aired. These were the sorts of provincial rooms which--just as in certain countries entire tracts of air or ocean are illuminated or perfumed by myriad protozoa that we cannot see--enchant us with the thousand smells given off by the virtues, by wisdom, by habits, a whole secret life, invisible, superabundant, and moral, which the atmosphere holds in suspension; smells still natural, certainly, and colored by the weather like those of the neighboring countryside, but already homey, human and enclosed, an exquisite, ingenious, and limpid jelly of all the fruits of the year that have left the orchard for the cupboard; seasonal, but movable and domestic, correcting the piquancy of the hoarfrost with the sweetness of warm bread, as lazy and punctual as a village clock, roving and orderly, heedless and foresightful, linen smells, morning smells, pious smells, happy with a peace that brings only an increase of anxiety and with a prosiness that serves as a great reservoir of poetry for one who passes through it without having lived it.


  1. Hardly light reading, but probably worth pointing out, especially re: the back and forth on different translations:


  2. I'm strongly tempted to do a new trans. of Proust titled "The Hombre from Combray"