Proust and Signs: The Complete Text (Theory Out of Bounds, Volume 17)
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What is the nature of the search in A la recherche du temps perdu? It is not quite so simple as the English rendering of the title of Proust's masterpiece: In Search of Lost Time. In a remarkable instance of literary and philosophical interpretation, the incomparable Gilles Deleuze reads Proust's work as a narrative of an apprenticeship -- more precisely, the apprenticeship of man of letters. Considering the search as one directed by an experience of signs, in which the protagonist learns to interpret and decode the kinds and types of symbols that surround him, Deleuze conducts us on a corollary search -- one that leads to a new and deeper understanding of the signs that constitute A la recherche du temps perdu.Deleuze traces the network of signs laid by Proust (those of love, art, or worldliness) and moves toward an aesthetics that culminates in a meditation on the literary work as a sign-producing "machine" -- an operation that reveals the superiority of "signs of art" in a world of signs.In Richard Howard's graceful translation, augmented with an essay that Deleuze added to a later French edition, Proust and Signs appears here for the first time in its entirety in English. Admired in its original appearance as an imaginative and innovative study of Proust and as one of Deleuze's more accessible works, Proust and Signs stands as the writer's most sustained attempt to understand and explain the work of art. For what it reveals about both Deleuze and his subject, it remains a source of literary and philosophical insight, inspiration, and surpassing interest.
Essences can therefore be incarnated in the signs of love, precisely as the general laws of the lie, and in the worldly signs, as the general laws of the void. An original difference presides over our loves. Perhaps this is the image of the Mother — or that of the Father for a woman, for Mlle Vinteuil. More profoundly, it is a remote image beyond our experience, a Theme that transcends us, a kind of archetype. Image, idea, or essence rich enough to be diversified in the beings we love and even in
order to preserve our future loves. But as the series approaches its own law, and as our capacity to love approaches its own end, we realize the existence of the original theme or idea, which transcends our subjective states no less than the objects in which it is incarnated. 70 - Series and Group There is not only a series of successive loves; each love itself assumes a serial form. The minor differences and contrasting relations that we find from one love to another we already encounter in
nothing gives more food for thought than what goes on in the head of a fool. Those who are like parrots, in a group, are also “prophetic birds”: their chatter indicates the presence of a law (II, 236). And if the groups still afford a rich substance for interpretation, it is because they possess concealed affinities, a strictly unconscious content. The true families, the true milieus, the true groups are “intellectual.” Which is to say, one always belongs to the society that emits the ideas and
little madeleine had reminded me of Combray. But why had the images of Combray and of Venice, at the one moment and at the other, given such a certainty of joy, adequate, with no further proofs, to make death itself a matter of indifference to me?” (III, 867). At the end of the Search, the interpreter understands what had escaped him in the case of the madeleine or even of the steeples: that the material meaning is nothing without an ideal essence that it incarnates. The mistake is to suppose
perpetually fragmenting and fragmented. What then is this very special mode of unity irreducible to any “unification,” this very special unity that appears afterwards, that assures the exchange of viewpoints as it does the communication of essences, and that appears according to the law of essence, itself a fragment alongside others, a final brushstroke or a localized part? 168 - Style The answer is as follows: in a world reduced to a multiplicity of chaos, it is only the formal structure of