Almost an Eden


Everyone knows Proust as, if nothing else, the man who lined his bedroom with cork to keep out the noise of the world. The narrator provides a short treatise on noise, which goes some way towards explaining what that quieted world was like.

True, it sometimes happens that a sick man whose ears have been stopped with cotton-wool ceases to hear the noise of a fire such as was crackling at that moment in Saint-Loup’s fireplace…The withdrawal of sound, its dilution, rob it of all its aggressive power; alarmed a moment ago by hammer-blows which seemed to be shattering the ceiling above our head, we take pleasure now in receiving them, light, caressing, distant, like the murmur of leaves playing by the roadside with the passing breeze. (III,92)

…we have only to thicken the wads which close the aural passages, and they confine to a pianissimo the girl who has been playing a boisterous tune overhead; if we go further, and steep one of these wads  in grease, at once the whole household must obey its despotic rule; it laws extend even beyond our portals. Pianissimo is no longer enough; the wad instantly closes the piano and the music lesson is abruptly ended…(III,93)

To take this to its logical conclusion…

And for this stone-deaf man, since the loss of a sense adds as much beauty to the world as its acquisition, it is with ecstasy that he walks now upon an earth become almost an Eden, in which sound has not yet been created. The highest waterfalls unfold for his eyes alone their sheets of crystal, stiller than the glassy sea, pure as the cascades of Paradise. (III,95)

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