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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Perfume Quote: When All our Tears Have Run Dry...

Élisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe, one of Proust's models for the Duchesse de Guermantes


"[Perfume is] that last and best reserve of the past, the one which when all our tears have run dry, can make us cry again.” ~ Marcel Proust

Especially poignant and funny when one considers that Proust had acute asthma and suffered from life-threatening allergies to pollen, mildew, smoke, dust and (yes) perfume...

And yet the constant reference to Proust in "perfume related writing" goes on. Avery Gilbert has a good post on why it might not be such a good idea to reference him and his madeleine so idly all the time after all.

But Marcel was a literary genius with no writer's block in sight. Here's how he describes asparagus giving pee its distinctive aroma:

"“... asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamberpot into a bower of aromatic perfume.” ~M.Proust, Swann's Way

quote source

2 comments:

  1. Elena:

    Thanks for the kind acknowledgement and for posting this literary pearl. The image of Proust lovingly sniffing his asparagus-infused urine all night long is worth the annoyance of reading his purple (or should I say "mauve and azure"?) prose.

    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Avery,

    you're welcome.
    It's always very fun deconstructing what has passed down as "internet lore" to go at the roots of historical truth (such as with many of the Chanel quotes we see here and there and everywhere...) and Proust is game.
    He's certainly wordy, paragraphs full of minutiae details, which shows a most observant mind, and this one about elevating the (atrocious IMHO) smell of asparagus in pee into a nugget of pure Frenchiness just begged for that particular treatment. :-P

    Happy new year to you too!

    ReplyDelete

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