Anne Carson writes in the appendix to this chapbook: “Habit, suffering, boredom, memory, tea drinking, tea biscuits and the inscrutable banality of existence are topics Beckett and Proust have in Common. They anatomize them differently. What is located in the head, the mouth or the mind for Proust moves lower down the body in Beckett.” Carson uses this theory to help us better understand one of Proust’s most elusive characters.
Carson ironically and brilliant writes a small pamphlet on a woman named Albertine who is present or mentioned on 807 pages of Proust’s novel. Albertine is oftentimes asleep and her main problems from the narrator’s perspective are lying, lesbianism and being imprisoned in the narrator’s house. Since Albertine is not a common name among females in France, many critics have speculated that she is a disguised version of Proust’s chauffeur, Alfred, with whom he had a secret affair. Carson examines fascinating details about Proust’s book and his life in order to explore this transposition theory.
Carson also provides an illuminating commentary of sexuality in Proust via Albertine. The narrator insists that Albertine is a lesbian, all of her friends are lesbians, but she vehemently denies this. He doesn’t understand how two women can be in love with one another and he can’t figure out what they do together so he is repulsed by what he cannot grasp. The narrator never actually uses the term “lesbian,” with Albertine, but instead he says “the kind of woman I object to.”
Finally, the appendix, which I quoted above, is just as intriguing as the main body of Carson’s text. In addition to exploring the similarities and differences in Proust and Beckett she also writes about the use of adjectives in a language, capture myopathy, the second paradox of Zeno, and my favorite, the difference between metaphor and metonymy.
I found Carson’s thoughts and writing engrossing and I am looking forward to diving in to more of her works.
Which Carson books would you recommend?