Newspaper clipping found in a Proust biography. (Click the image to make it larger.)
Theirs is a ritualized society in which everything has a character of its own and everyone is both a monster and a virtuoso of manners. Their language is a musical instrument of nuance, their world a series of encrustations of attention. Their guiding principle is the opposite of streamlining.
Though some of their distinctions are absurd, they are bulwarks against chaos and indifference, and they add up to more sheer presence, more palpability, than a modern apartment or a modern life decorated mostly with absences, with perceptual or psychological economies.
This year marks the centennial of the publication of Swann’s Way, the first volume in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past). There’s still time to pick it up before the year’s end. Read it as you watch the snow fall. Read it with some hot tea. Just read it.