Friday, 8 April 2011
Proust in Boots
Yesterday evening I went along to the Institut Francais for the long-awaited conversation between a man who is never introduced (the lit. ed. of the Independent, I think) and Edmund de Waal (author of The Hare with Amber Eyes) on Proust. The Hare with Amber Eyes as I am sure you know, is a memoir in many ways reminiscent of, and inspired by, A La Recherche de Temps Perdu. Not only that: one of the main protagonists in de Waal's memoir is his great uncle Charles, aesthete and collector who was almost certainly the model for Proust's Swann - so we are in world of mirrors and reflections. The talk made me quite dizzy not least because towards the end, de Waal - a very mild-mannered and cautious speaker, pausing long and thinking hard before opening his mouth suddenly said angrily that he could not bear the thought of Proust on TV with Jeremy Irons. This was odd and I called for the microphone and said that I wished to alert de W to a Proustian circumstance ie that having dined at the Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly on Tuesday evening, I was waiting at the door while my companion fetched her coat when who should walk past me but the self-same Jeremy Irons. 'So - be warned', I said to de Waal, 'he's in the area - he may even be in the room'. The audience for this series of English writers talking about French writers - (I have been to two) is a curious one. We left in silence, no sense of a shared experience, everyone locked into themselves, in striking contrast to such an event in, say, Moffat where one would have made some friendly remark to whoever one found oneself alongside on the way out. I am engaged in a strange thread on my Facebook page with my friend Barty Hotchkiss about D H Lawrence and Boots the Chemist. The conversation - as you will see - started when Barty spotted a pair of vipers basking in spring sunshine as he walked through the royal park of Drottingholm near his home in Sweden, outside Stockholm.