Friday, November 18, 2022

In Search of that Madeleine - 100th Anniversary of Marcel Proust's Passing

Marcel Proust - July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922

 November 18, 2022 - 

One Hundred Years Since the Death of Marcel Proust

And what about that madeleine and lime flower tea . . . .


I gave a lecture on Zoom this past week, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust's death.   The topic was "Proust and Art," so I invited a few art historian friends to zoom on in, if they had the time and inclination.  

One fellow, a snarky character by nature, responded to my Zoom invitation with the sad news "You know that madeleine thing is inauthentic. Proust didn't write about a madeleine in the first draft. His character Marcel remembers dipping dry toast smeared with something - honey, jam?  Anyway, the whole madeleine thing was hardly the point of that part of the novel.  Now it seems to be the only part most people know about  A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and Proust.  And don't get me started about the 'lime flower tea' in the English translation.  It's linden tea, to calm the nerves. Oh, and by the way, I can't attend your lecture.  Merde - break a leg."

"Oy!," I answered.  "And now you are going to tell me there's no Santa Claus?"

Alas, Mr. Killjoy was right:  I found three articles in a Google minute: NPR, The Guardian, Penguin Publishers, and Fine Dining Lovers.  Okay - I am "woke."  It was supposed to be dry toast crumbs floating around in linden tea.

But who cares!  The significance of the editor's choice, and in my opinion improvement, points to an underappreciated reality: editors do improve their writers' prose, plot sequences, grammar, tone, and overabundance of words (save Proust's case, apparently).  Editors are the unsung heroes of great novels, uncredited collaborators whose talents can, in fact, create the appearance of "genius."

Perhaps, we should rethink this so-called "Proustian Moment" as less Bergsonian "triggering pure memory," and more the nature of artmaking itself, often accomplished through the participation of many, rather than the sole inspired artist toiling at his/her/their craft.  Through this particular meeting of minds, a great trope was hatched, which transcended either participant's individual aspirations.

Oh, and about that tea: the word in Proust's novel is tilleul, linden tea, aka lime flower tea (a sacred tree associated with myth and legends).  The tea may act as a natural anti-inflammatory, often taken for relaxation, to calm anxiety, or to ward off palpitations of the heart. That little Marcel (the fictional first-person Narrator) tasted Aunt Léonie's tilleul still laced with crumbs from the dry toast/madeleine, hints at Aunt Léonie's condition at the time, foreshadowing the Narrator's description of her bedridden life and withdrawal from social engagements outside her home.  Linden tea for "le confinement" by choice.  Why hasn't that caught on, I wonder . . ..

Here's to madeleines dipped in tea - any flavor will do (tea or madeleines). 
Above, you see white pomegranate tea and traditional buttery madeleines, both purchased from Trader Joe's.

Cheers!


 


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In Search of that Madeleine - 100th Anniversary of Marcel Proust's Passing

Marcel Proust - July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922  November 18, 2022 -  One Hundred Years Since the Death of Marcel Proust And what about th...