I just finished Eric Miller’s excellent biography of Christopher Lasch “Hope in a Scattering Time.” I’ll have more to write about it later — Lasch’s worldview seems highly relevant today and his view of cultural change bears some resemblance to Montaigne.
In the meantime, I want to share a paragraph from Walter Benjamin’s incredible essay collection “Illuminations.” Here’s Benjamin’s take on Proust … an amazing paragraph:
We know that in his work Proust did not describe a life as it actually was, but a life as it was remembered by the one who had lived it. And yet even this statement is imprecise and far too crude. For the important thing for the remembering author is not what he experienced, but the weaving of his memory, the Penelope work of recollection. Or should one call it, rather, a Penelope work of forgetting? Is not the involuntary recollection, Proust’s mémoire involontaire, much closer to forgetting than what is usually called memory? And is not this work of spontaneous recollection, in which remembrance is the woof and forgetting the warf, a counterpart to Penelope’s work rather than its likeness? For here the day unravels what the night was woven. When we awake each morning, we hold in our hands, usually weakly and loosely, but a few fringes of the tapestry of lived life, as loomed for us by forgetting. However, with our purposeful activity and, even more, our purposive remembering each day unravels the web and the ornaments of forgetting. This is why Proust finally turned his days into nights, devoting all his hours to undisturbed work in his darkened room with artificial illumination, so that none of those intricate arabesques might escape him.