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Marcel Proust: The Poetry of Dozing, Waking and Awaking and Life and Death
An essay on the essence of Marcel Proust’s literary effort in “In Search of Lost Time” (1906-1928), first drafted
on June 12, published on June 14, 2019 -
Part 1 of 2 Parts

    Je me sentis parfaitement heureux, car par toutes les études qui étaient autour de moi, je sentais la possibilité de m’
    élever à une connaissance poétique, féconde en joies de maintes formes que je n’avais pas isolées jusque-là du
    spectacle total de la réalite.
    Marcel Proust À l’ombre des jeunes Filles en fleurs, Éditions Gallimards, 1987, p.398

When faced with the enormity of Marcel Proust’s seven volume masterpiece “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu
the question clearly poses itself when the time can possibly be right to venture into a soon to be published
comment about the essence of his work. Is it when all seven volumes of his masterpiece have been diligently
processed by the attentive reader? Is it when one has taken equal note of his other writings, including his
equally vast personal correspondence? Or is it when one has duly studied the considerable amount of
academic publications written about Marcel Proust and his work?

Noah denkt™ has done only a fraction of this. We have with great pleasure and focus read the first two
volumes of his masterpiece. We have taken a cursory look at the Proust-related pronouncements that are
readily available to the general public on the Internet. And we have run what we understood from our reading of
the first two volumes against the general philosophical, poetic and cultural knowledge which we have acquired
over the years. So, just like any good Skipper sailing the High Seas would not wait until he has reached the
final destination of his  journey before trying to figure out where he is at a given point and into which direction
he is going from here, we have also felt obliged and justified to go essential right from the early stages of our

It is hence with a sense of dedication and urgency that we have explored a series of hypothesis in the hope of
uncovering what “À la Recherche du Temps perdu“ is first and foremost about. These possible theories which
we have entertained for a while and then discarded later on are as follows (
The reason why we have discarded them
is added on each count in brackets

Is his Masterpiece best understood as:

  • A) an effort to record the massive social changes which the advent of mass society brought about at
    the turn of the 20th century? (Clearly it is more than this)

  • B) a “Magic Mountain”- like effort to explore the depths and limits of antagonistic  civilizational and
    socio-cultural value-systems/mindsets? In the Proust-case it would obviously not be the Eastern
    Authoritarian Thought vs Western Liberalism- juxtaposition Thomas Mann wrote about but the
    contrasting of Aristocratic Identity and Refinement vs the less self-complacent, yet often times vulgar,
    can-do approach of the Bourgeoisie instead. (Michel Houellebecq in his latest book “Serotonine”
    (Flammarion 2019) kind of floats the idea of a certain degree of symmetry between the two
    masterpieces.  Proust’s focus however is less theoretical and cerebral than that of Thomas Mann, - at
    least in our mind )

  • C)  a Heidegger-like attempt to bring the ontological question of Being and Perception back into the
    center of enlightened debate which otherwise seems to be in danger of getting high-jacked entirely by
    the warranted-assertibility-logic of the empirical-scientific school of thought?  Is Proust’s work
    consequently a sort of anti-anti-A-Priori-philosophy and campaign?  (Kind of, but he is not
    campaigning; in fact he does not seem too care all that much for contributing  to an academic,
    philosophical or even epistemological debate; his style isn't precise enough for this)

  • E) an effort to revive the earlier Etienne Bonnot de Condillac-approach which is decidedly
    empirical, sensual and "pre-intelligent"-driven and which aims at harvesting the powerful and intense
    sensitivities of early infancy instead of venturing into difficult to prove transcendence legitimizing
    theories? (No, Proust’s "pre-intelligence"- references are not geared towards early infancy; in fact they
    show quite an interest in pointing towards the mystical/mysterious sources and depths of our
    perceptions, see Prof. Cottard’s healing wisdom)   

  • F) an Ubermensch-style (Nietzsche) attempt to break the spell of human ambiguity and ambivalence  
    by comprehensively and intensively recording its different manifestations? (Nietzsche’s decidedly non-
    metaphysical nihilism is probably too harsh for the Bergotte/Anatole France in Proust)

  • H) a launch of a new Impressionist, Anti-realism Poetic Manifesto? (Hard to believe, given the
    seven-volume- explanation which that supposed Manifesto would then have. Manifestos are usually
    concise and to the point.)

  • I)  an argument in favor of liberalization and freedom from mind- and value sets entrenched in the
    philosophies of materialism and realism which prevent the poet from developing its full creative potential?
    Such reasoning would at a later stage in the civilizational process lead to Aldous Huxley’s and Timothy
    Leary’s experiments with LSD and other mind enhancing drugs which all aimed at the physical
    improvement of cerebral activity and offering an alternative healing avenue. (Yes, but Proust is much
    softer and subtler than any can-do drug therapy approach can even fathom)

  • J) an elaborate defense of individualism, and an implicit call for the respect of LGBTT rights and the
    need for a theoretically well-defined Psychology that understands the importance of the individual’s
    fear of rejection for that individual’s evolution?  (Okay, but what about the elaborate reflections on art
    literature and poetry then?)  

So there is quite a bit to be said in favor of almost each of the points mentioned above. But in the humble
opinion of Noah denkt™ none of these hypothesis go straight to the heart of Marcel Proust’s literary effort and
capture the essence of what his work it ultimately about.  


It only became clear to us what Marcel Proust is really conveying here when we stumbled on the following
account of C.G. Jung’s near-death experience.  Here is the key part of the pertaining text:

    During his heart attack in 1944, C.G. Jung suffered repeated states of unconsciousness during which he experienced
    visions of unbelievable intensity and beauty. These images that occurred to him were so powerful that he felt close to
    death. (...) Similar to the descriptions of Hampe, Jung's experiences were completely real. (...) In his Memoirs  he
    explains:  "I had the feeling as if all previous things would be stripped off of me ... But something remained: because it was
    as if I had everything that I had ever lived and done, everything that had happened to me, now with me ... I consisted of my
    story  and had the feeling that it was me. "  […. ]

    “The Afterworld, or the initial impression of it which recovering near-death patients later report, is very different from what
    we usually imagine it to be. It is the deepest peace, the most sublime beauty and the most rewarding meaning; returning
    to this earthly life is a painful sacrifice… “ (C.G. Jung  in a letter to L Frey-Rohn)
    translated by us from : Aniela Jaffé, Liliane Frey-Rohn, Marie-Lousie von Franz: Im Umkreis des Todes, Zuerich 1984, p.
    50f  (for the original text in German, please see footnote *)

Now compare this account of Jung’s near-death reflections to the Proust quote made in the context of the
narrator’s first Elstir-meeting; - a quote which we have given you above and whose translation into English
would read something llke this:  

    I felt perfectly happy, because of all the art work that was around me, I felt the possibility of rising to a
    poetic knowledge, fertile in joys of many forms that I had not isolated until then of the total spectacle of
    reality.(À l’ombre des jeunes Filles en fleurs, Éditions Gallimards, 1987, p.398 )

It seems quite likely to us that
the poetic resource/knowledge to which Proust is alluding here and which is
féconde en joies de maintes formes” is not all that different from “the deepest peace, the most sublime beauty
and the most rewarding meaning
” that Jung invokes when talking about the Afterworld as envisioned in near-
death experiences.

In fact, we would like to submit that the core of Marcel Proust’s “Recherche” is a rigorous literary effort to
communicate and articulate the depth of visionary reviews of his life he experienced either during wake
triggered lucid dreaming or in more serious near-death, out-of-body situations, all of which he was prone to
have due to his lifelong battle with severe asthma
. Or to put it differently, Noah denkt™ believes that “À la
Recherche du Temps Perdu” is first and foremost a post-near-death, artistic expression of the
healing and enlightening effect which Mr. Proust's mind experienced while his physical body was in
some sort of a transitory state between life and death
; because, in these instances, Mr. Proust, i.e. the
narrator, “
had everything that he had ever lived and done, everything that had happened to him now with him,…
so that he consisted of his story and had the feeling that it was him
”( see: C.G. Jung’s words above).   
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Keywords:  Essence of "À la Recherche du Temps Perdu", Essence of Marcel Proust's Literature,
Meaning of Proust, Interpretation of Marcel Proust, Interpretation of "In Search of Lost Time"