Monday, October 09, 2006

PROUST | Elstir and the Follies of Youth

An excuse to reference Proust, because all things are connected, and everything comes full circle.

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, the narrator finally meets the artist Elstir in Balbec. And Elstir, with regards to himself, offers the narrator some advice that would hopefully benefit the young man:

"There is no such thing," he said, "as a man, however clever he may be, who has never at some time in his youth uttered words, or even led a life, that he would not prefer to see expunged from memory. He should not find this absolutely a matter for regret, as he cannot be sure he would ever have become as wise as he is, if indeed getting wisdom is a possiblility for any of us, had he not traversed all the silly or detestable incarnations that are bound to precede that final one. I know there are young men, sons and grandsons of distinguised men, whose tutors, since their earliest high-school years, have taught them every nobility of soul and excellent precept of morality. The lives of such men may contain nothing they would wish to abolish; they may be happy to endorse every word they have ever uttered. But they are the poor in spirit, the effete descendants of doctrinarians, whose only wisdoms are negative and sterile. Wisdom cannot be inherited―one must discover it for oneself, but only after following a course that no one can follow in our stead; no one can spare us that experience, for wisdom is only a point of view on things. The lives of men you admire, attitudes you think are noble, haven't been laid down by their fathers or tutors―they were preceded by very different beginnings, and were influenced by whatever surrounded them, whther it was good, bad, or indifferent. Each of them is the outcome of a struggle, each of them is a victory..."

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