He told himself that, in associating the thought of Odette with his dreams of happiness, he had not been resigning himself to a second best as imperfect as he had believed until now, since she satisfied his most refined artistic tastes. He forgot that this did not make Odette any more the sort of woman he desied, since in fact his desire had always been oriented in a direction opposite to his aesthetic tastes. The words “Florentine painting” did Swann a great service. They allowed him, like a title, to bring the image of Odette into a world of dreams to which it had not had accesss until now and where it was steeped in nobility. And, while the simple view he had had of this woman in the flesh, by perpetually renewing his doubts about the quality of her face, her body, her whole beauty, had weakened his love, these doubts were vanquished, that love confirmed when he had instead, for a foundation, the principles of an unquestionable aesthetic, while the kiss and the possession that would seem natural and ordinary if they had been granted him by damaged flesh, coming as they did to crown the adoration of a museum piece appeared to him necessarily supernatural and delicious.
~ Swann’s Way, pp 232~233
Proust makes it clear that to appreciate art is an active endeavour, to work at and to cultivate. Gentlemen, like M. Swann set out to work on studying the masters, like Vemeer. Ironically, love by Swann’s way is similarly an active endeavour. One categorizes, classify and then learn to love, like M. Swann who learns to love Odette after he learns to identify and admire her beauty as a Florentine painting.
And this is the part that bites me about the world of the Proustian epic – even love itself is an artifice. One does not just fall in love, but love is itself an imagination, a performance, a study.
Why am I reading this?! The world they live it goes against everything I stand for!