Thursday, August 03, 2006

Proust and birds

Now, scarcely a few minutes after the young pianist had begun playing at Mme. Verdurin's, suddenly, after a high note held for a long time through two measures, he saw it approaching, escaping from under that prolonged sonority stretched like a curtain of sound hiding the mystery of its incubation, he recognized it, secret, murmuring, and, divided, the airy and redolent phrase that he loved. And it was so particular, it had a charm so individual, which no other charm could have replaced, that Swann felt as though he had encountered in a friend's drawing room a person whom he had admired in the street and despaired of ever finding again. In the end, diligent, purposeful, it receded through the ramification of its perfume, leaving on Swann's face the reflection of its smile. But now he could ask the name of his stranger (they told him it was the andante from the Sonata for Piano and Violin by Vinteuil), he possessed it, he could have it in his house as often as he liked, try to learn its language and it secret.

Readers of Proust who also wish to possess Swann's "little phrase" in their own house will be disapointed: it does not exist. Several pieces of music have evidently been put forth as inspiration for Vinteuil's sonata, and others have since been composed based on Proust's description. I added Swann in Love to my Netflix list yesterday so that I'll be able to hear one.

And, in homage to Pretty Bird, the starving African grey that has just been set free in Pretty Birds since there is no bird seed to be found in the battleground of Sarajevo, the three wasteful birds of our household, who keep the squirrels and doves outside fat and happy:





  1. I may be completely off the wall here, but I think Proust may have spent some time with DeBussy and perhaps Satie. But I'm dredging this up from the memory vault from almost two decades ago when I took a modern European history course.

  2. I'll watch for his name in my reading--I'm only now starting to read about Proust. A cached page I found about "the little phrase" evidently had a Debussey picture or link on it, so I don't think you're off at all.

  3. Thanks for the tip off on that! I've been putting together a list of music from Proust to listen to. I'll scratch that one off!

  4. A non-Proust reader here...let me comment on your birds! LOL. Leo is quite a handsome birdy, isn't he! He looks quite studly. Trevor looks nice--very down to earth. So nice to see Ezra's feathers all grown back!

  5. Oh, Danielle, trust me, you just don't want to know the sordid details of Leo's studly nature, but you've nailed him precisely. :)

    Trevor is as mellow as they come until he decides it's time for lights out and then he's quite the dictator.

    And Ezra IS looking so much better--she may still be plucking a bit under her wings, and she's scruffy from a moult and from me having to manhandle her to get the meds down--and she acts as if she feels better, too.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.