Proust’s Lilacs

I’m going to visit my parents for a few days, so I might not be around much. Here is Proust going on about lilacs in Swann’s Way (Lydia Davis translation) as I can’t find the poem I’d thought of posting.

… we would leave town by the lane that ran along the white gate of M. Swann’s park. Before reaching it, we would meet the smell of his lilacs, coming out to greet the strangers. From among the fresh green little hearts of their leaves, the flowers would curiously lift above the gate of the park their tufts of mauve or white feathers, glazed, even in the shade, by the sun in which they had bathed. A few, half hidden by the little tiled lodge called the Archers’ House, where the caretaker lived, overtopped its Gothic gable with their pink minarets. The Nymphs of Spring would have seemed vulgar compared to these young houris, which preserved within this French garden the pure and vivid tones of Persian miniatures. Despite my desire to entwine their supple waists and draw down to me the starry curls of their fragrant heads, we would pass by without stopping because my parents had ceased to visit Tansonville since Swann’s marriage…

We stopped for a moment in front of the gate. Lilac time was nearly over; a few, still, poured forth in tall mauve chandeliers the delicate bubbles of their flowers, but in many places among the leaves where only a week before they had still been breaking in waves of fragrant foam, a hollow scum now withered, shrunken and dark, dry and odorless.

8 thoughts on “Proust’s Lilacs

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks Claire! I’m always trying to smell the lilacs when they’re out, so sometimes I feel a little silly, walking down the street and stopping every few moments to grab a branch and sniff deeply!

    • Carolyn says:

      Thank you, Nicola. I found Proust to be very beautiful and thoughtful, it’s not incomprehensible like James Joyce, but to begin I found it best to retreat from everything for a bit. Just give it time and sink gently into it, I think it’s very rewarding!

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