Journal of Romance studies

An occult arithmetic: the ‘Proustian equation’ according to Beckett’s Proust

Journal of Romance studies (2007), 7, (3), 47–58.

Abstract

This article examines the way Beckett transcribes Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu mathematically in Proust (1931), his early essay on the French writer. It argues that the mathematico-scientific register Beckett chooses for his essay, evident from the very beginning in the ‘equation’ with which it opens, is evidence not of the fundamental misreading of À la recherche du temps perdu that Proust has often been claimed to be, but rather a way of bringing Proust’s stylistic and aesthetic concerns, notably in relation to metaphor, to the attention of the reader. In particular, it suggests that Proust’s narrator’s adoption of the language of mathematics as the privileged language of the intellect in fact foregrounds his anti-intellectualism. Far from a violent distortion of the earlier writer’s singularity, Proust thus constitutes an essential point of entry into À la recherche du temps perdu.

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Beckett, Samuel (1999) [1931] Proust and Three Dialogues (with Georges Duthuit) (London: John Calder). Proust and Three Dialogues Google Scholar

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Billy, Robert de (1930) Marcel Proust: lettres et conversations (Paris: Éditions du Portique). Marcel Proust: lettres et conversations Google Scholar

Bowie, Malcolm (1987) Freud, Proust and Lacan: Theory as Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Freud, Proust and Lacan: Theory as Fiction Google Scholar

Brun, Bernard (1984) ‘Sur le Proust de Beckett’, in Beckett avant Beckett: essais sur le jeune Beckett: 1930–1945, ed. Jean-Michel Rabaté (Paris: P. E. N. S.), 79–91. Sur le Proust de Beckett Beckett avant Beckett: essais sur le jeune Beckett: 1930–1945 79 91 Google Scholar

Carter, William (1992) The Proustian Quest (New York and London: New York University Press). The Proustian Quest Google Scholar

Casanova, Pascale (1997) Beckett l’abstracteur: anatomie d’une révolution littéraire (Paris: Éditions du Seuil). Beckett l’abstracteur: anatomie d’une révolution littéraire Google Scholar

Curtius, Ernst R. (1971) [1928] ‘Du relativisme proustien’, in Les Critiques de notre temps et Proust, ed. Jacques Bersani (Paris: Garnier Frères), 36–40. Du relativisme proustien Les Critiques de notre temps et Proust 36 40 Google Scholar

Erickson, John D. (1967) ‘Objects and systems in the novels of Samuel Beckett’, L’Esprit créateur VII.2, 113–22. Objects and systems in the novels of Samuel Beckett L’Esprit créateur VII.2 113 22 Google Scholar

Genette, Gérard (1972) Figures III (Paris: Éditions du Seuil). Figures III Google Scholar

Gontarski, Stanley E. (1985) The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Texts Google Scholar

Harvey, Lawrence E. (1970) Samuel Beckett: Poet and Critic (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press). Samuel Beckett: Poet and Critic Google Scholar

Hill, Leslie (1990) Beckett’s Fiction in Different Words (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Beckett’s Fiction in Different Words Google Scholar

Luckhurst, Nicola (2000) Science and Structure in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (Oxford: Clarendon Press). Science and Structure in Proust’s Google Scholar

Mercier, Vivian (1959) ‘The mathematical limit’, The Nation 188.7 (14 February), 144–5. The mathematical limit The Nation 188.7 144 5 Google Scholar

Milly, Jean (1970) Les Pastiches de Proust (Paris: Armand Colin). Les Pastiches de Proust Google Scholar

Pilling, John (1993) ‘Beckett’s Proust’, in The Beckett Studies Reader, ed. Stanley E. Gontarski (Gainesville: University Press of Florida), 9–28. Beckett’s Proust Proust 9 28 Google Scholar

Proust Marcel (1971) [1954] Contre Sainte-Beuve, ed. Pierre Clarac and Yves Sandre (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade). Contre Sainte-Beuve Google Scholar

Proust Marcel (1987–9) [1913–27] À la recherche du temps perdu, 4 vols, ed. Jean-Yves Tadié et al. (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade). À la recherche du temps perdu Google Scholar

Proust Marcel (1996) [1992] In Search of Lost Time, 6 vols, trans. C. K. Scott-Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin; rev. D. J. Enright (London: Vintage). In Search of Lost Time Google Scholar

Zurbrugg, Nicolas (1988) Beckett and Proust (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe; Totona NJ: Barnes and Noble Books). Beckett and Proust Google Scholar

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Surprenant, Céline