Bergotte’s Organ


When the narrator gives an aesthetic judgement, its total lack of irony signals that this view is also that of the author. Here Bergotte is redeemed and in a way that may be read as Proust’s apologia for his writing style. At first Bergotte’s speech seems annoyingly mannered.

 I understood then the impression that M. de Norpois had formed of him. He had indeed a peculiar “organ”; there is nothing that so alters the material qualities of the voice as the presence of thought behind what is being said: the resonance of the diphthongs, the energy of the labials are profoundly affected, as is the diction. (II,169)

More than intelligence, Marcel hears in his speech something of the brilliance of his writing.

So it is with all real writers: the beauty of their sentences is as unforeseeable as is that of a woman whom we have never seen; it is creative, because it is applied to an external object which they have thought of–as opposed to thinking about themselves–and to which they have not yet given expression….Moreover the quality, always rare and new, of what he wrote was expressed in his conversation by so subtle a manner of approaching a question, ignoring every aspect of it that was already familiar, that he appeared to be seizing hold of an unimportant detail, to be off the point, to be indulging in paradox, so that his ideas seemed as often as not to be confused, for each of us sees clarity only in those ideas which have the same degree of confusion as his own. Besides, as all novelty depends upon the prior elimination of the stereotyped attitude to which we had grown accustomed, and which seemed to us to be reality itself, any new form of conversation, like all original painting and music, must always appear complicated and exhausting. It is based on figures of speech with which we are not familiar, the speaker appears to us to be talking entirely in metaphors; and this wearies us, and gives us the impression of a want of truth. (II,171)

Another fine characterization of reading Proust.

 

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