Anguish, suffering, deception, separation: This is Proust.

I am supposed to be studying for my Proust midterm that starts in 45 minutes, but I was instead wasting time on Pinterest (totally legitimate precursor to studying). I came across this and I love it:

However, I am skeptical that it actually came from Proust. It is kind of the big thing these days to take quotes, rewrite them until they don’t resemble the original (think, The Message) and then cite them with the original author (see here, for more rants on this issue). Add to that the problem of Proust writing in super convoluted French and it is a wonder any quotes made it through.

The real problem is that this quote is so…. happy.  Well, I guess not exactly happy, but positive. And Proust just isn’t.  To prove it, and because I am supposed to be studying, here is a smattering of quotes taken directly from my notes (and thus, from my Proust-loving prof) and translated for your enjoyment.

  • “There is no hope, nor beauty, except that which we find in art.”
  • “This then is Proust’s Thesis: all relationships with reality are actually in our minds.”
  • “Love is a disease that kills its host slowly.”
  • “All human anguish comes down to separation from that which we love.”
  • “Life goes on… this is the greatest sadness.”
  • “Lying is part of being human—love is born of jealousy.”
  • “The human experience is one of anguish.”
  • “This then is Proust’s Thesis: we will lose all we possess. Loss is inevitable.”
  • “We must live so we can continue to suffer.”
  • “Proust is writing the death of the novel.”
  • “Why did he marry her – she’s a dumb ugly prostitute?”
  • “This then is Proust’s Thesis: reality will always deceive us…. We will always say ‘is this really all there is?’”
  • “Nothing has meaning.”
  • “Proust creates a character…. And then he kills them. Slowly.”
  • “To suffer, or not to suffer?”
  • “Art must begin in nothingness, only art can surge forward from forgetfulness.”
  • “Since the beginning of modernity, the poet is alone against the world. We have replaced God with men.”
  • “Man is despicable…. But he is still human, just like you and I.”

If, after reading these, you still think that the above optimistic quote is by Proust, I invite you to plunge into the 3000 pages of anguish, sadness, frustration and deception that is In Search of Lost Time, and let me know when you find it. It may indeed be there, but I can pretty much guarantee that it is followed by a phrase that – after taking up 6 pages and using 18 commas, 4 semi-colons, 12 dashes and 3 colons – goes something like this: “Unfortunately I could never go to new lands because I was a paranoid invalid who stayed home and pined for love I would never had.”

(Image credit:

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8 Responses to Anguish, suffering, deception, separation: This is Proust.

  1. Henry says:

    Proust and Hannah seem pretty incompatible from what I know. Hope you make it through the bleakness. And I agree about the ridiculously inaccurate quoting. I can’t even estimate how many suspicious Churchill, Lincoln, and Jefferson quotes I’ve read in the past few months that seem to apply to exactly what is in the news. Even checked up on a few of them and they tend to be blatant forgeries.

    • Hannah says:

      See, we should be incompatible since I am all sunshine and bubbles, but I kind of love him. There is just something about his sad grim little world that is endearing to me, plus he describes feelings of being let down so poetically!

      But yes… Is nothing sacred when it comes to quoting people???

  2. kgunders says:

    Well said! To your plethora of Proust notes, I would like to add my own:

    Writing happens only through the anguish of death.
    The feeling of being in love never truly begins until one is jealous.
    Every relationship is, at its core, sado-masichistic.
    Metaphors of impotence
    Man is nothing.
    Love is a sickness.
    Love destroys all who experience it.
    An unhappy, melancholy, sick sexuality full of sadness.
    NO happiness
    Life is nothing (“nothing” is underlined three times)
    Separation is the anguish of the human being.
    Obsession and possession are intrinsic to human nature. The only escape from obsession is death.

    I think it’s time for more youtube videos of baby bunnies….

    • Hannah says:

      I basically feel like we could compile a list entitled “Phrases from Proust to ruin your day.” I’m sure it would be really popular.

      Almost as popular as videos of baby bunnies, which totally helped me on the midterm.

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