Swann’s death had been a great shock to me at the time. Swann’s death! The word Swann’s, in this phrase, is not a simple genitive. I mean by it the particular death, the death sent by fate to release Swann. For we say ‘death’ for the sake of simplicity, but there are almost as many deaths as there are people. We lack the sense which would allow us to see them passing with great speed, flying in all directions, the various deaths, the active deaths sent by destiny after this man or that. Sometimes they are deaths which will not have fully accomplished their task until two or three years later. They fly to implant a cancer in the side of someone like Swann, then go off and do other work, and only return when, after the surgeon has operated, the cancer needs to be put back into position.
Marcel Proust, The Prisoner, translated by Carol Clark, p. 180.
2) Someone messaged me asking how Swann died. I don’t really know or care; if you haven’t noticed, I’m quite impressionistic and rarely deal with the details of the narrative. But here it is, maybe? A cancer in his side?
‘I say, Cottard, does it seem to you that neurasthenia can have a harmful influence on philology, and philology a calming influence on neurasthenia, and that the cure for neurasthenia can lead to rheumatism?’
Brichot, to Cottard.
Neurasthenia is still in the ICD-10. Since it’s not in the DSM-IV, I’ve never had the chance to treat anyone suffering from it by recommending philology.
Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, translated by John Sturrock, p. 284.
Certainly, with this face from which, under the effect of his illness, whole segments had disappeared, as from a block of ice that is melting and from which entire slabs have fallen away, he was much changed.
Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, translated by John Spurrock, p. 92.
When my attacks had forced me to remain for several days and several night on end not merely without sleeping but without lying down, and without drinking or eating, at the moment when my exhaustion and suffering had become such that I thought I would never re-emerge from them, I would think of some traveler cast up on the shore, poisoned by unwholesome plants, shivering with fever in clothes drenched in seawater, yet who felt better after a day or two and resumed his journey at random, in search of some inhabitants or other, who would perhaps be cannibals. Their example braced me, and gave me some hope.
Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, translated by John Spurrock, p. 10
I was throbbing with the same anguish I had felt before, in the distant past, when, as a small child, I lost her one day in a crowd, an anguish that was less connected to not finding her than to the thought that she was searching for me and telling herself that I was searching for her, an anguish not unlike the feeling I was to have later, on the day when we speak to those who are no longer able to reply, and when we are anxious for them at least to hear all the things we have unsaid to them, and our assurance that we are not unhappy.
Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, translated by Mark Treharne, p. 130
(Swann’s illness was the same one that carried off his mother, who had been struck down by it at exactly the age he now was. In fact, heredity makes our lives as full of cabalistic ciphers and horoscopic forecasts as if sorcerers really existed. And just as there is a given life expectancy for humanity in general, so there is one for families in particular — that is, in any one family, for those members of it who resemble one another.)
Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, translated by Mark Treharne, p. 576
But in her pale face, now pacified and utterly motionless, I saw her beautiful eyes, wide open, luminous, and calm as they once used to be (perhaps even more brimming with intelligence than they had been before her illness, since, being unable to speak and forbidden to move, she entrusted to her eyes alone her thought, the thought that holds such immense sway inside us and offers us unexpected treasures, or which can seem reduced to nothing and then be reborn, as if by spontaneous generation, thanks to the removal of a dew drops of blood), her eyes, soft and liquid as oil, in which she rekindled fire which was nor burning, lit up for the sick woman the recaptured universe. Her calm was no longer the wisdom of despair but of hope.
Pain is largely a kind of need felt by the organism to acquaint itself with an unfamiliar state that is troubling it, to adjust its responses to that state. The origin of pain can be seen in the case of the sort of discomfort that affects only certain people. Two men come into a room filled with acrid smoke and go about their business, impervious to it; a third, with a more sensitive constitution, betrays constant discomfort. His nostrils never stop anxiously sniffing the smell, which he ought, it seems, to try not to notice, and which he will keep on seeking to assimilate, through closer acquaintance, to his troubled sense of smell. Hence the fact no doubt that deep preoccupation will prevent people from complaining of toothache.