Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: Marcel Proust

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

impression-sunrise.jpg!Large

Impression, Sunrise” (1873)

Claude Monet

________

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

much like Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”,
my answer is, I am, George, I am

the subjunctive is an esoteric mood,
even more abstruse in English than
in other languages, where the verb’s
conjugation highlights its presence,
in English, it’s nearly identical to the
indicative, the mood everybody
instinctively speaks in, facts

the subjunctive is about aspiration,
like the conditional, abstract, not
real, but its intention, rather than
the conditional’s inherent
impediment, a condition, shoots
for the stars, isn’t introspective,
but adamant, imperative

it is necessary that one be, it is
urgent that one have, it is
important that one effect, a
particular thing or event, all
subjunctives after the
doorkeeper word, “that”

one finds the subjunctive in
Shakespeare, master of grammar,
perhaps unparalleled in English,
a lot – O, that this too solid flesh
would melt, / Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!
– and follows
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Pardon, o pardon that my soul
should make, / Of all that strong
divineness which I know / For
thine and thee …,
for instance,
who is so profoundly indebted to
Shakespeare for her aesthetics

one wondrous day, I realized that
Proust’s entire À la recherche du
temps perdu
, his “In Search of
Lost Time
“, my Bible, was set in
the, French however, subjunctive,
the mood, there as well, of
possibility, therefore rather than
the definitive recreation of an
earlier time, Proust was
describing a sensibility, a personal
interpretation of a previous reality,
however bolstered by intimate and
apparently precise recollection of
shimmeringly imprecise, though
personally accurate, impressions

note here the similar preoccupations
of Proust’s contemporaries, the, aptly
named, Impressionists

everything, Proust was saying, as
were also the Impressionists, is in
the eye of the beholder

the subjunctive is the mood that
sets this instinct in motion

R ! chard

psst: Somerset Maugham I remember
being noteworthy as well for his
immaculate use, in his South
Pacific tales, of the subjunctive,
extremely elegant in its refined
construction, even with its
English austerities, like making
lace out of mere cloth, impressive
despite its impracticality, or
perhaps even because of it

Advertisements

the indicative

grammar.jpg!Large

        Grammar 

 

              Gentile da Fabriano


                          ____________

 


since I’d only recently vaunted both the 

infinitive and the imperative moods of 

verbs in this venue, you might’ve 

expected that the indicative would 

soon follow

 

and here it is, the indicative, the mood 

of narratives, storytelling, the default 

mode, essentially, where most of our 

communication takes place, be it

oral or written

 

famous first lines of novels will attest

to that, lines you’ve probably heard 

before, however only incidentally, if 

not actually read

 

        It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

 

from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities


and the rest is so good, I can’t, in all 

consciousness, exclude it

 

        it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was 

        the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the 

        season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the 

        spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

 

or

 

        Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 

 

from Daphne du Maurier’s eerily Gothic 

Rebecca“, heiress to not only Charlotte 

Brontë’s Jane Eyre“, but also to her 

sister Emily’s, to my mind, much more 

accomplished work, Wuthering“, and 

indeed wonderful, Heights“, whereupon 

I’ll refrain from continuing to follow the

sentences, however compelling, for 

lack of space and time

 

but

 

        I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

 

from Out of Africa“, Karen Blixen’s

unforgettable novel, however brilliantly

translated to film, must take its place

here among towering introductory

sallies 

 

       Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. 

 

Proust’s answer to Homer, his “À la 

recherche du temps perdu“, his

Remembrance of Things Past  

 

      For a long time, I’d go to bed early.

 

which, as I read on, no less than

changed my life 

 

but that’s another story, however

totally engrossing

 


everywhere above, let me point out, 

the mood has been indicative, to a 

very verb, so unobtrusive you 

probably didn’t even notice 

 

in music, a counterpart for the 

indicative would be the allegro, 

the baseline, not too fast, not 

too slow, the tempo listeners 

would most easily respond to

 

but more about that only later, after

a traipse through the speculative 

conditional, then  the aspirational 

subjunctive

 

meanwhile, check this out, The

Heart of the Matter“, the Eagles, a

ballad, mostly indicatives, but with

here and there an infinitive, and a

peppering of conditionals, however

might these be signal, to utterly break 

your heart

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

on a personal note

roses.jpg!Large

    Roses (c.1886)

 

          John Singer Sargent


                     ____________

 


on a personal note, since I prefer longer 

pieces, something I can sink my teeth 

into – I like them when they’re long, I 

always say – which led me into spending 

33 years with Proustfor instance, page 

by page, so that I could breathe it in, him, 

tend to veer towards music with several 

movements, be they serial, as in sonatas, 

symphonies, concertos, Classically 

speaking, of course, or haphazard, as 

in the more loosely associated suites

 

rather than smelling merely the rose,

as in a simple waltz, nocturne, étude,

I want to revel in the aroma of an

entire garden

 

therefore the three hours of Liszt‘s

Années de pèlerinage“, for example, 

even Wagner‘s daunting five hour 

operas, individual portions of his 

towering, indeed epic, four-part 

“Ring” cycle, enthral me 


these are high masses, and if you 

subscribe to the faith, the experience 

they allow can be transformational,

however such may still be, 

nevertheless, a mere rose, a mere, 

but epiphanic, rose, as is, for 

instance, the exquisite Opus 10, no 3

of Chopin, “Tristesse”, or Sadness, 

inveterately, for me 

 

a rose, a creation as unique as we 

are, in our shared, however unevenly

apportioned, mortality, proud, sturdy,

protected by thorns, even, meanwhile, 

as we are, in our own manner, against 

our own existential vicissitudes 

 

but vibrant, also, ever, drenched in 

any of its several arresting colours, 

fragrant, poised, full of perfect grace, 

as we should be ourselves, I’ve told 

myself, not only with regard to their 

beauty, but to their inspiration, 

whether a deity exists that we 

might be beholden toincidentally, 

or not

 

Shostakovich has something poignant

to say about that, also Beethoven, but 

that’s another story, for later, maybe, 

however, either, powerfully 

consequential

 

until then, l’important, as we sing in

French, c’est la rose

 

or heed, it says, in other, but 

nevertheless ever instructive words,

the wisdom of very nature

 

I live by it

 


R ! chard

Piano Concerto no 2 in G major, opus 44 -Tchaikovsky

beech-grove-i.jpg!Large

    Beech Grove I (1902) 

           Gustav Klimt

                 ________

if a sonata, or any composition for one 
instrument, is a meditation, a rumination,
an introspection, a concerto is its entire
opposite, it’s a declamation, a very 
harangue, the performer is not only 
before an audience, but before an
orchestra, before the conductor of that 
orchestra, that soloist had better be, 
therefore, something

Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto 
hasn’t cut the cultural mustard, you’ve
probably never heard of it, never mind 
heard it, not even in the miasma of our 
collective unconscious 

why

who knows, it’s magnificent

I suspect that Moscow’s distance, 
St Petersburg’s, might’ve had something 
to do with it, Russia would still have been 
a backwater to Europe, regardless of what
Catherine the Great might’ve done for its
intellectual edification, indeed a veritable 
Elizabeth the First, Queen of England
she, in her sponsorship of the arts

something like that happened, but in 
reverse, to Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele 
in art, SchoenbergBerg, Webern, the 
Second Viennese School in music, in 
literature, Robert Musil, his The Man
Without Qualities very rival to 
Proust‘s epic trip down memory lane, 
Remembrance …“, when the centre 
of gravity for the arts moved from 
Vienna to Paris in the late 19th 
Century with the advent of 
Impressionism

France had entered its Fourth
Republic by then, was to finally 
entrench its democracy, and we got 
MonetDebussy, and indeed Proust 
instead, not to mention all of that 
city’s celebrated others

leaving creative Vienna, meanwhile,
the undisputed engine of the Zeitgeist
the spirit of the times, for over three 
quarters of an earlier century, thereby,  
in the dust

New York would take over in the 
1950s, similarly, for a time, Andy
Warhol and The Factory, eclipsing 
any other town

in other words, location, location, 
location, in tandem with historical 
events


R ! chard

Piano Sonata in C# minor, opus 80 – Tchaikovsky

the-sonata-1.jpg!Large

The Sonata 

              Childe Hassam

                     ___________

                            for Sarah and Rachel, the daughters
                              of the son of a dear cousin, after a 
                                belated lunch recently, two young 
                                  girls14, 16, in bloom, as Proust 
                                    would say, who speak not only 
                                      music, but French and English,
                                        fluently, I checked – perhaps   
                                          even German, their Oma  
                                            lives with them – they also  
                                              play the flute, the piano,    
                                                and sing, what could be
                                                  I ask you, more beautiful,  
                                                   two young girls ibloom, 
                                                     indeed in very blossom   
                                        
                               or am I being too French
 
the form of the sonata had been established 
decisively during the Classical Period, out 
of the rudiments of Bach’s own such pieces
Mozart and Haydn had given the concept its 
final shape, its structure, three or four 
contrasting movements, by definition all 
entertainments

Beethoven kicked the entertainment part 
right out of the ball park, made his show 
into a veritable transcendental meditation, 
rather than to merely applaud, audiences 
gasped, were meant to be awed, as I still 
ever am by his musical speculations

but by definition as well, a sonata is a 
piece for a single instrument, therefore
inherently introspective, whether the 
player has an audience or not, soloists, 
note, play easily on their own

even an accompanied sonata, as violin
sonatas often are, for instance, or this 
one for two pianos, would lose the 
intimacy of a solo piece, for having 
someone playing, however compatibly, 
over one’s shoulder  

in other words, a piano sonata is, by
definition, a monologue, a soliloquy,
where notes tell the story that words 
would intimately, even confessionally,
in poetry, convey

the emotions that are elicited from 
a piece are as real as they would 
be from any literary alternative, 
except that they’re quickened, like 
aromas, through the senses, rather 
than through divisiveby definition 
confrontational, logic

rosemary reminds me always, for 
instance, of one of my departed 
aunts, like the taste of a madeleine 
dipped in tea opened the door for 
Proust to an entire earlier epoch, 
the seed, the subject, of his 
disquisition on Time, À la 
recherche du temps perdu“, An 
Exploration into Elapsed Time“, 
my own translation, none of the 
published proffered titles   
having rendered the subtlety  
of the shimmering original
  
rosemary, in other words, speaks,
if even only to me

listen to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano
Sonata, in C# minor, opus 80, one
of only two of his, what do you 
hear, think, feel


R ! chard

String Quartet Opus 59, no 1 – Beethoven

blue-moby-dick(1).jpg!Large

     “Blue (Moby Dick) (1943) 

            Jackson Pollock

                  _________

                                                            for Gail

my story is nearly incredible, as Herman
Melville would say around his Moby-Dick,
but there you have it, today, I levitated

I’d been leery about broaching the
“Razumovsky” Quartets, their never having
been my favourites, for being both too 
groundbreaking, and not enough, strident
passages with insufficient philosophical 
exploration, and opted all but instinctively   
for the more probing stuff, Beethoven’s  
later transcendental revelations

but how could I talk about string quartets,
I reasoned, the actual focus of my, however, 
apparently peripheral, subject, here, without
tackling, and decidedly, the very best example
of Beethoven’s Middle Period, his Opus 59

there are three works in the “Razumovsky”s,
but after a veritable epiphanyI chose 
the First

my housekeeper had arrived, Proust’s
Françoise, in my poetic imagination, 
a lady who knows my most intimate 
secrets, but tends merely, and 
respectfully, and dutifully, indeed 
blessedly, but to her mission, though 
I entrust her, by extension, I guess,
with aspects, even unconsciously,  
of my very soul

I’d delighted in the second movement
of Beethoven’s 7th String Quartet, the
Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando“,
was even singing along, told her I’d get 
the notes right next time, even did a
second turn that she thought better
than the first 

then I realized, after a break, for 
refreshments, that the adagio was about 
to come up, the Adagio molto e mesto“, 
not to mention its unanticipated attacca 

o my god/dess, I cried, you’re not going
to be ready for this, though I remembered 
nothing of this particular, however 
miraculous, eventually, movement

she remained throughout composed, 
continued diligently her purposes, 
while I, progressively, levitated, left, 
I tell you, the sofa, transcended

wow, I kept exclaiming, as I held on, 
however enthralled, to my seat, Gail,
I screeched, I’m not even touching 
the sofa

she kept on, imperturbably, steadily, 
and conscientiously passing the 
vacuum, while I up and soared


the last glorious movement, the 
“Allegro”, carried me comfortably 
to a satisfying conclusion, 
enough 
to settle me down enough to touch
the ground in order to pay her
 
which she, ever as graciously and 
discreetly as Françoise might’ve
done, acknowledged

I’ll send you the transcript of my
impressionsI said to her, you’ll 
want to listen, you’ll love it 

listen, you’ll love it


R ! chard

me, in C# major – program notes

the-journey-of-the-stone-unicorn-2005

         “The Journey of the Stone Unicorn (2005) 

               Stefan Caltia

                     ______

                                     for my Uncle Al, who put 
                                     me up to this challenge


an uncle of mine recently, who’d only 
undertaken, just as recently, his own 

“memoir”, he called it, urged me to 
write my own autobiography on the 
strength of what he perceived to be 
my writing ability, I knew that would 
be a daunting venture, one that he’d 
shown me already in several internet 
correspondences how daunting it 
had been for his own eventually 
abandoned effort, it had been 
chronological, a death blow since at 
least Proust, Joyceand the advent 
of stream of consciousnesstime is 
no longer considered linear, watch 
any program on television

indeed I tried at one point, a few 
months back to start from the 
beginning, it was a disaster, where
I was born, when, in a manger, for
your information, for there was no 
room at the inn, but from there it 
was perfunctory, like watching the
hands on a clock turn

in the meantime, I thought I’d try 
something else, a recent inspiration,
just sit by the fire and tell your story,
my story, which is not at all, I think, 
as I would, of course, uninteresting,
but you’ll be the gauge of that, 
should you keep on reading  

and I think I can do that


R ! chard

on Billy Collins – “Safe Travels”

Photo on 2016-05-24 at 6.31 PM.jpg

          me, May 24, 2016

               __________

I save all the New Yorker poems  
to read after I’ve been through
everything else in the issue, 
like dessert after a meal, icing 
on the cake, sometimes too 
heavy, sometimes too light,
sometimes too rich, sometimes
just right

today, I found my favourite poem,
period, this year, stepped right 
into its shoes, like old slippers, 
the only difference being my 
walls are painted a variety of
contrasting colours, studded 
with memorabilia, treasured 
artefacts, see above

also, no one’s translating my 
poems, though even our metre
is the same, try it, sing us out 
loud, you’ll dance 

R ! chard

_____________

Safe Travels

Every time Gulliver travels
into another chapter of “Gulliver’s Travels” 
I marvel at how well travelled he is
despite his incurable gullibility.

I don’t enjoy travelling anymore
because, for instance,
I still don’t know the difference
between a “bloke” and a “chap.”

And I’m embarrassed
whenever I have to hold out a palm
of loose coins to a cashier
as if I were feeding a pigeon in a park.

Like Proust, I see only trouble
in store if I leave my room,
which is not lined with cork,
only sheets of wallpaper

featuring orange flowers
and little green vines.
Of course, anytime I want
I can travel in my imagination

but only as far as Toronto,
where some graduate students
with goatees and snoods
are translating my poems into Canadian.

Billy Collins

__________

psst: I said just recently to a poet 
          acquaintance that what poetry 
          needed in the 21st Century is 
          humour, the only art form not 
          catching up with the rest,
          otherwise it’ll die of, indeed
          succumb to, its own 
          lugubriousness

          thank you again, Billy Collins

“La traviata” – Guiseppe Verdi

La_Dame_aux_camélias_d'après_Charles_Chaplin

             La Dame aux camélias

       Charles Chaplin (1825 – 1891)

                       _________

this version of La traviata has no
subtitles, but it should be remembered
that only a few years ago none of them
had, 
not even in opera houses

I learned to love La traviata on CD,
couldn’t 
either see the performance
then, 
now the internet supplies us,
gratis, with complete operas, from
very 
Gluck‘s to very Philip Glass
with the text 
translated throughout


a synopsis 

Violetta is a courtesan, a traviata, a
f
allen woman, who’s fallen all the way
to the top of Parisian 
society, she has
just recovered from malaise and is 
hosting a celebration, her salon 
entertains many who’ve been 
instrumental in securing her not 
unsullied reputation, it is the world 
of Marcel Proust

a new suitor arrives, Alfredo Germont, 
who pledges his love undying, she is 
eventually seduced, by his, no doubt,
impressive arias, croce e delizia, he
sings, she counters, agony and 
ecstasy, indeed

the ups and downs of love ensue,
Germont’s father objects to the match,
claiming Alfredo’s sister’s chances
at marriage would falter should her 
name, their name, be defiled, he 
convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo
for the sake of his family, whereupon 
everyone feels betrayed

Alfredo, Alfredo, she cries, di questo 
core non puoi comprendere tutto 
l’amore, Alfredo, Alfredo, you cannot 
understand fully the love I have in 
my heart, she moans, begrudges
 
but love conquers all in the end, 
though not life, as it turns out, Violetta 
succumbs to her malaise, which had 
all along been consumption, 
tuberculosis nowadays

you’ll see Spanish dancers, gypsies,
they are part of Violetta’s entertainment,
have nothing to do with the story,
otherwise the music itself tells all

the camellia, note, which you’ll see 
highlighted here and there, is a 
reference to Violetta’s inspiration,  
the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, 
or junior,  his La Dame aux camélias“, 
which the same author shortly 
thereafter made into an equally 
successful play, Camille” in English, 
the lady of the camellias, incidentally, 

Renée Fleming has taken over the role,
from Maria Callas in the Fifties, then 
from Joan Sutherland in the Eighties, 
she is the traviata for this generation

she is perfect, her arpeggios will 
shoot up your spine 

listen


Richard

up my idiosyncrasies – Albertine‏

wing-seller-2006.jpg!Large

            Wing Seller (2006)

               Stefan Caltia

 

                        _______ 

 
what are you doing, a friend of mine
asked when he called 
 
I’m reading my Proust, I answered,
comfy enough with my textafter 
years waking up side by side, to 
use the possessive adjective 
 
what’s going on, he inquired
 
Albertine is lying on his bed, 
recounted, asleep, she’s been there 
for the past ten pages, and she’s 
just now turned onto her stomach
 
 
there is not so much story as 
paintings, in Proustdetailed 
descriptions applied like strokes of 
colour to a canvas, that of recovered 
time, colours that are specific to a 
place and a period, like photographs 
showing in their very fabric their 
ancestry, their lineage
 
but in the elucidation of what he 
sees, or, more accurately, of what
he remembers, Proust delivers 
a work of the very highest art, a 
mixture of poetry and philosophy,
Beethoven did as much, see his
 
 
Proust’s French is essentially 
immaculate, his tone, however 
intimate, always erudite, aristocratic, 
perspicacious, wise, penetrating,
embracing, which is to say, French,
though German can be also
incidentally, pretty cerebral, English 
is narrative, just the facts, please, 
though often, I think, hilarious
 
 
Albertine had been one of the “young
girls in bloom” he’d met at Balbec, a 
seaside resort, with whom he’d 
undertaken an illicit affair, but 
whose faithfulness he doubted
 
as she lay on his bed at his Paris
apartmenthe replays all the 
speculations his imagination could 
provide, an endless set of variations
on his anguish, which is to say, his
jealousy, worthy of a very Othello
 
for ten pages he paints a picture of 
infidelities completely of his making,
which, of course, becomes the world 
he will respond to
 
it is all in our little heads, I surmise, 
however informed, intelligent, that 
we create our little realities, they 
have never been nearly enough, 
though, indeed, our lives depend 
on themhowever dutifully
considered, however unconsciously,
and ever convincingly, contrived   
 
make them, I submit, good ones
  
I imagine myself a poet, for instance,
how’s that for a shot in the improbable 
dark
 
 
Richard