Ibsen, Henrik (1828-1906)

Norwegian playwright, who wrote dramas of philosophical and social significance. See A Proust Dictionary by Maxine Arnold Vogely.

Proust uses the plays of Ibsen to illustrate the duchesse de Guermantes's budding taste for works considered avant-garde and also for a bit of humor to illustrate how ignorant the duc and members of high society are in general about cultural or intellectual matters. The setup for the scene is that Ibsen had given the manuscripts of three of his plays to Mme Timoléon d'Amoncourt, who, in turn, offers two of them to Oriane de Guermantes:

The Duc de Guermantes was not overpleased by these offers. Uncertain whether Ibsen or D'Annunzio were dead or alive, he could see in his mind's eye a tribe of authors and playwrights coming to call upon his wife and putting her in their works. People in society are too apt to think of a book as a sort of cube one side of which has been removed, so that the author can at once "put in" the people he meets. This is obviously rather underhand, and writers are a pretty low class. True, it's not a bad thing to meet them once in a way, for thanks to them, when one reads a book or an article, one "gets to know the inside story," one "sees people in their true colours." On the whole, though, the wisest thing is to stick to dead authors.
Sodom and Gomorrah 4: 90
Le duc de Guermantes n'était pas enchanté de ces offres. Incertain si Ibsen ou d'Annunzio étaient morts ou vivants, il voyait déjà des écrivains, des dramaturges allant faire visite à sa femme et la mettant dans leurs ouvrages. Les gens du monde se représentent volontiers les livres comme une espèce de cube dont une face est enlevée, si bien que l'auteur se dépêche de «faire entrer» dedans les personnes qu'il rencontre. C'est déloyal évidemment, et ce ne sont que des gens de peu. Certes, ce ne serait pas ennuyeux de les voir «en passant», car grâce à eux, si on lit un livre ou un article, on connaît «le dessous des cartes», on peut «lever les masques». Malgré tout, le plus sage est de s'en tenir aux auteurs morts.
Sodome et Gomorrhe 3: 66


Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861-1942), the painter who created the famous color portrait of Proust and who also wrote memoirs and articles about his contemporaries, says that "Swann is a book about insomnia." Here is the exact quote: "Le livre de l'insomnie, de la pensée qui veille dans le silence et les ténèbres."

From his review of Swann, April 15, 1914, L'Écho de Paris.


In Greek mythology, Ixion insulted the goddess Hera and was punishing by being bound to a fiery wheel that revolves forever in Hades. The Narrator, who is frustrated by his fruitless attempts to learn whether or not Albertine has been unfaithful to him, uses Ixion as a example of the endless, pointless suffering caused by jealousy.

Jealousy, which is blindfold, is not merely powerless to discover anything in the darkness that enshrouds it; it is also one of those tortures where the task must be incessantly repeated, like that of the Danaïds, or of Ixion.
The Captive 5: 195
La jalousie qui a un bandeau sur les yeux n'est pas seulement impuissante à rien découvrir dans les ténèbres qui l'enveloppent, elle est encore un de ces supplices où la tâche est à recommencer sans cesse, comme celle des Danaïdes, comme celle d'Ixion.
La Prisonnière 3: 657
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