Apocalypse Soon


Proust is no Tolstoy; everything he wants to tell you about the state of European civilization he will tell you through the experiences of his protagonist, never through embedded essays. But he, like Tolstoy or Mann, will feel compelled to express his unease at the world to be. Still at the theatre…

…while an effort as painstaking as it must have been costly to imitate the clothes and style of the  Duchess de Guermantes only made Mme de Cambremer look like some provincial schoolgirl, mounted on wires, rigid, erect, desiccated, angular,with a  plume of raven’s feathers stuck vertically in her hair. Perhaps this lady was out of place in a theatre in which it was only with the brightest stars of the season that the boxes (even those in the highest tier, which from below seemed like great hampers studded with human flowers and attached to the ceiling of the auditorium by the red cords of their plush-covered partititions) composed an ephemeral panorama which deaths, scandals, illnesses, quarrels would soon alter, but which this evening was held motionless by attentiveness, heat, dizziness, dust, elegance and boredom, in the sort of eternal tragic instant of unconscious expectancy and calm torpor which, in retrospect, seems always to have preceded the explosion of a bomb or the first flicker of a fire. (III,64)

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